Emma’s story | Domestic abuse

As part of the 16 days of action against domestic abuse campaign, our customer Emma shares her story about domestic abuse. You can watch the video or also read Emma’s story below.

*Please note the customer has been anonymised for the purpose of sharing this story and it could potentially be distressing for viewers to watch.

When did abuse begin?

I had been with my ex-partner for nineteen and a half years, I had two children when I met him. I had just ended the relationship with my children’s father. He was very nice when I met him, he complimented me and made me feel special.

I first noticed a change in his behaviour about three to four months into relationship. He was on the phone to the benefit agency; he lost his temper and began to hit himself with the phone in temper. He was never physically abusive towards me, but he had a gambling addiction and had credit card debts that I was not aware off immediately.

In the past he had worked as a doorman and could be intimidating.  He was financially abusive towards me and was very controlling. He would order maximum TV packages and when the bills came I was forced to pay them. We both received Employment Support Allowance, it was a joint claim and it was paid to him, and he would refuse to give me any money. I often found myself without money and was forced to use a food bank. I still had access to Child Tax Credit, but with this I had to pay for everything, this included all the children’s clothes, food, school trips, rent and anything else.

He often controlled what the children and me could do, he would prevent me mixing with people, he would prevent me from meeting his family. He was very private, and we were never allowed to discuss our home life with anybody. We lived in fear that we would always say the wrong thing. This caused me to become withdrawn the children were not allowed to have friends over, this caused the children to lose friends, this isolated the children. He would open my mail, but he would hide his mail. He would keep the children up late at night to reprimand any bad behaviour from that day, this could go on for hours, the children and I would often be sleep deprived the next day. I was not allowed to hug the children when they were upset.

He would often pick arguments and would not allow me to leave a room until I listened to him, he would stand in doorways and prevent me leaving. He would puff up his chest and he intimidated me.  He would often make threats and implied that if I left something horrible would happen to me. I was always in fear of trying to leave the relationship.

When did you realise you needed help and support?

I became aware that my ex-partner was having an affair. He was in lots of debt and the bills were continuing to come that I was forced to pay. I was struggling financially. We had rent debt and lived in constant fear of not meeting all the demands, I just realised the relationship needed to end.

Did you experience any obstacles?

For me ending the relationship was not straight forward.  The Police downplayed the abuse, they invalidated my claims and said this was normal behaviour and because it wasn’t physical it wasn’t taken seriously. I felt like I was not been listened too and I doubted myself as to whether I was suffering abuse.

What help and support did you receive?

I reported the abuse to Onward and I worked with the Safer Neighbourhoods team at Onward homes. I was allocated a Safer Neighbourhood Specialist. They really listened to me and took my complaint serious; it was the first time I had really been listened too and he made a domestic abuse referral. I received support from the domestic abuse service. The specialist also made a referral to tenancy support.

The Tenancy Support specialist helped me access the housing register and gave me advice on how to update my application. They also made a financial inclusion referral to check my income was correct. I also accepted support from the Social Investment team who provided me with food parcels and babies nappies when I had no money.

I have worked with Step Change to help with debt and outstanding bills owed. I had always been financially deprived due to the abuse, and I am trying hard to reduce debt. I am working with my Income Officer at Onward to reduce arrears on my rent account.  I also realise from speaking to Tenancy Support that I could also be eligible for PIP which could maximise my income.  I am working with the Women’s Centre and I am receiving domestic abuse counselling.

My ex-partner has now left the property and he assigned the property to me, My Neighbourhood Specialist at Onward completed all the necessary paperwork for this to happen.

I have also worked with the benefit service who have also helped with my benefit claims.

I am now in full control of my own life. I know I have some debts and arrears to pay off, but my children and I no longer live in fear of further debt or emotional abuse.