We have produced this section on women’s experiences of domestic violence and abuse as a resource for women who are in an abusive relationship or have been in the past. It will also be a resource for friends, family members and professionals who think someone may be in an abusive relationship and want to find out about how best to help.
During 2015 our team of two researchers travelled around the UK interviewing 39 women who had experienced domestic violence or abuse. They were aged between 20 and 62 years and were from a range of cultural backgrounds including some first-generation immigrants.
The women had experienced between one and 33 years in an abusive relationship, 11 years on average. Half of them had experienced abuse from more than one person, either previous partners or a family member, sometimes in childhood. Most of the women were free of abuse at the time of their interview and they talked about how they got help and, over time, took back control of their lives from their abusive partners. For their own safety, three women decided not to include their interviews on the website, and many others preferred to remain anonymous, so some of their words are read by actors and some are in audio format.
Women’s accounts reveal that domestic abuse is not just about being ‘battered’ but is about being subjected to coercive and controlling behaviour, threats to harm the women or their families if they do not comply with their abusive partner’s demands, as well as physical, financial, sexual and verbal abuse. All forms of abuse are described in detail by our participants and some people may find the content distressing.
Dame Jennifer “Jenni” Susan Murray, journalist and broadcaster, is best known for presenting BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. She is a supporter of Women’s Aid, and here she introduces this section of the website. Jenni makes reference to a radio ‘soap opera’ which included a female character experiencing domestic abuse.
Jacqui, a survivor of domestic violence and abuse, gives us a clear picture of her marriage to an abusive husband. She describes how she got help to leave and how she now has a new life of her own.