I woke up one day to find him spitting in my face: Victim speaks out as Staffordshire police launch coercive control campaign
A woman has spoken out about the abuse she was subjected to by her partner as part of a police campaign to tackle ‘coercive control’.
Officers want to highlight the problem of abuse within relationships, in which victims are abused both physically and emotionally.
One of the victims of coercive control agreed to speak about her husband, saying: “I thought it was normal, but it isn’t.”
Police say the story of Sarah – whose name has been changed to maintain her anonymity – will make uncomfortable reading for some who may recognise similarities to their own relationships.
She said: “He knocked me out twice. He cut all the phone lines. He made me wear his clothes. I woke to find his hands around my throat. This was my life. I thought it was normal. It isn’t.
“I met my husband when I was 19 and the first 10 years were OK. I had my first child when I was 26. He said I didn’t need to go to work anymore. He smashed all of my make-up. My second child was born two years later.
“The problems really began after I’d had my third child. He began to get more aggressive, isolating me more and more.
“My doctor advised me against having any more children as each pregnancy had made me more ill. Being pregnant and having children was just another way to isolate and control me. By the time I was 37, I had five children under 11.
“It was like walking on eggshells. He wouldn’t let me go anywhere apart from walking the children to school and back, but if I was more than five minutes late he would accuse me of sleeping with other men.
“He did not help with the children and if I wanted to nip to the shop for a loaf of bread I would have to take all five children with me. Another way to control me.
“No-one knew what was going on. I was frightened of telling anyone because of the repercussions.
“He constantly threatened that social services would take the children away. He smashed everything of sentimental value to me. I was allowed to have a Facebook account but I couldn’t be friends with any men and he would check it constantly.
“The last two years were the worst. He was increasingly violent. I woke up one day to him spitting in my face. I slept with my children for my own safety and I felt trapped upstairs. He threatened to kill me, to have me run over and to kill my parents.
“One day, he shouted at me for being five minutes late back. That was the final straw. I left with my children. I lost everything else. He would not let me have my birth certificate and I had no form of identification. He got three months’ imprisonment and a full non-contact order. I got to rebuild my life.”
DCI Simon Brownsword is helping to raise awareness of the issue as part of the campaign driven by Staffordshire Police.
He said: “Often abuse goes on over long periods of time. It is not about a single incident but involves systematic abusive behaviour.
“While not all of this abuse is violent the result is often that the victim will live in fear. We know this as research shows victims will often endure abuse on many occasions before asking for help and we are recognising and recording this more often.
“We continue to take a victim-focused approach and officers have been trained to take the time to understand what is really going on, listen to victims and look for signs of coercion or control. We recognise the effect, not only on the victim, but the wider families of those involved, such as children who grow up within violent or controlling environments.” Sarah Hammond, senior district crown prosecutor, CPS West Midlands, said: “The police and CPS now work together to gather evidence and build robust cases which focus on the wider pattern of behaviour.
“Certain behaviours can sometimes be dismissed as insignificant by complainants themselves, friends and family so it is essential that the cumulative impact on a person is considered.
“Controlling or coercive behaviour can incorporate acts which amount to criminal offences in their own right, or acts which fall short of criminal proceedings but nevertheless have a ‘serious effect’ on someone.”