The following has emotional and raw content including domestic abuse discussed. This may affect some people; if so please remember you can contact Samaritans from any phone on 116 123. Or the National Domestic abuse helpline 08082 000247.
Earlier this year I wrote a blog called “A blind leap” https://nathanconstable.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/a-blind-leap/
At the time I remained anonymous and Nathan Constable kindly published it on my behalf.
The case has now concluded and my blind leap completed. I now feel in a position to write about it freely. I am not ashamed, I believe the only shame is having shame. It’s the things that happen to us in life, that we don’t talk about, that can control us.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who have been supporting me, I don’t think I could have got through this without you all. In particular on Twitter the lovely Peter Kirkham, Bosco and Knacker, thank you to the three of you, I will never forget your kindness.
I am writing this, hoping I can somehow prevent anyone else going through this, maybe even change things for the future.
Shortly after The Blind Leap was published, things got a lot worse. My ex then did some awful, horrendous things, which left me with no choice but to report everything to the police.
The police were brilliant, they were so understanding and I was treated so kindly. No-one ever made me feel stupid, like how could a police officer ever get herself in this position. This was something I was very worried about prior to reporting.
The Court Case
My experience of going through financial divorce proceedings as a survivor of domestic abuse-
I explained in my previous blog A Blind Leap. The financial proceedings were instigated by my ex. I already had obtained the Decree Absolute for his unreasonable behavior. I did not want anything from him financially, the only thing I wanted was for him to leave me alone.
The year before the Court case due to the abuse he was putting me through, my mental health began to decline rapidly. Each time he would do something awful, I would struggle and have to go sick; I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. Each time I felt strong enough to go back to work, he would do something else awful; causing me to go sick again. He was breaking me down slowly, I felt weaker and weaker.
Throughout this I was trying to build my case for court, remember I had no solicitor, I could no longer afford it due to taking on all his debts. I was trying to do this myself.
You might be thinking that must be easy? you are a police officer?
No! Really not easy. Let me try and explain what it is like when you are suffering from depression. Actually, I will take an abstract out of my “I am still a Detective, not Defective” blog.
“I was overwhelmed with thoughts of being a failure and being weak. I couldn’t concentrate; I was unable to read anything; written words would dance up and down on the paper. I couldn’t complete the slightest task; I would have to keep walking away every few minutes. My memory and concentration were shot to pieces”.
I was unable to present my case to the best of my ability due to the state of my mental health. I had no energy, no concentration. Each day I would go into the study to work on the divorce. The words would start jumping up and down on the paper, my heart would started beating fast and within a very short time I feel completely exhausted and would have to go to sleep.
I was trying to build a Court Case in this frame of mind, trying to defend my future. I couldn’t read a newspaper headline, I couldn’t go on social media, I could not think, let alone build a case. So, I did the best I could, unfortunately it was in no way good enough.
A few weeks before I had to face him in Court for the first time, he did something truly horrific. It is my belief this was one of his final acts of control over me a last attempt to draw me back in. The days following this he made some horrific threats, wanted me to die. Calling me horrendous names to our son. Our son was doing his A level exams that week and was completely traumatised, walking around white faced and in shock. I could not sleep, I thought he was going to break in and kill me. When I did sleep I had dreams he was going to murder me.
I asked for screens to minimise the stress and fear of seeing him, unfortunately this did not occur and I had to see him in Court at the preliminary hearing. I found this extremely frightening, bearing in mind what had happened, only a few weeks previous.
The day of the final hearing
I was still being told I could not have screens. I was asked this question…
“You are a Police Officer, why would you need screens?”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, at that moment I actually wanted to shout out “This is my life! I am a human, not just a police officer!”
It hit me at that moment, what I was actually up against; the Court were not going to get it, they will not understand. They still see domestic abuse as only being beaten to a pulp. They don’t get the mental cruelty, the coercive control element.
I was reluctantly allowed screens, when I explained I was representing myself and wanted to be given the opportunity to be able to do this to the best of my ability. Seeing him face to face after all the abuse and intimidation was too much. His barrister asked me questions, I though; had to directly ask my ex questions and not get emotional, intimidated or upset when I was doing this. I would like to say I didn’t get upset, I did though! It was just too much. When we stopped for a break, I went out the court room very distressed, bumped into my ex and his friend, who both started laughing at me and high-fiving each other.
The day continued, my case around his lack of contribution and his vile conduct throughout our relationship were both dismissed. Neither was bad enough, apparently.
I now have to give him a huge lump sum by the beginning of January or the Court will put my home on the market. He has also been given 28.9 percent of my police pension, this is a pension sharing order which has already now been transferred over to his pension.
28.9 percent of my pension, everything I have worked for nearly thirty years, all the nightmares I have had, the child abuse cases I have dealt, the horrific images I will never get out of my head. 28.9 percent of my pension has now gone to someone who hates the police and hates everything I stand for. I will need a lot of help and support to get over the physiological effect of this. I can’t get my head around it! Am I that worthless? Do I not matter?
In these particular circumstances why should any person be entitled to the other’s pension? I understand if one gives up their career to look after the children. However when you are both working full time? How can that happen?
As it stands, I cannot see how I can now afford to send my son to University, I can no longer afford the future I wanted for him. All because I wanted to leave an abusive relationship.
For personal conduct to become a relevant factor it must be “both obvious and gross, so much so that to order one party to support another whose conduct falls into this category is repugnant to anyone’s sense of justice” (Watchel v Watchel 1973)
The Court didn’t think it was, I will leave you to be the Judge of that.
It takes a lot of courage for any man or woman to stand up and leave their abuser. As a society we should be able to tell them that they will have a safe place to go. That they will have resources to help them and finally they will get justice.
Do I think I have been treated differently by the system because I am a Police Officer? Yes at times. Do my experiences of taking action against coercive control, the stress, the uncertainty and the unfairness give us all an insight into how far we have to go as a society before survivors of this hidden form of domestic abuse can feel confident to speak up? Yes. By sharing my experience I hope to do what I can to improve the situation.
I still keep asking myself, if I could go back 18 months to that final incident, the day when he put his hands around my neck, pinned me up against the kitchen cabinet and went to punch me in the face; would I still have left him, knowing what I know now, knowing what I have lost by just trying to escape an abusive relationship.
Still yes! The answer is still yes, despite everything. The peace of mind I now have is priceless.
The one thing I do know is everything he has taken away from me, my health, my money, my future, my dreams. I will find a way to rebuild and I will have a bright future. I guarantee you that!