November 30, 2020
Breaking the cycle of abuse, Scarlett’s story, #16Days
Scarlett* was in a very happy relationship for three weeks times until things ‘turned sour very quickly’. ‘He seemed to be a nice guy, nicer than the others.’ It was at the point when Scarlett spent one night away from him that things changed. She had gone to meet up with her son who had been adopted whilst she was in another abusive relationship. Scarlett had been so excited for the visit, particularly as direct contact had been allowed for the first time. Returning home, feeling contented from this opportunity, her glow was sharply faded by Liam’s* attack. ‘I was met by a barrage of abuse,’ she says. Overwhelmed with feelings of paranoia, Liam had raided her cupboards, her drawers, and torn apart her home in a drug-induced rage. This was where the physical abuse started.
Scarlett had been in abusive relationships in the past and there were warning signs of abuse. Her first relationship at 16-years-old was with an abusive man who is now in prison. This resulted in the removal of her son by social services.
‘Unfortunately, my first relationship was abusive, this didn’t help. I ended up in a string of domestically abusive relationships because that’s the way I believed I should be treated. It made me feel as if that’s all I’m worth’.
Liam would make constant phone calls, he never wanted to be away from her, he didn’t want her to see her friends. The fact he lived so close by didn’t help the situation. He had a constant control over her from the beginning. Even the way they formed the relationship was built on control. Scarlett talks about how she met Liam through a mutual friend. She had met him in passing before and he found out her address and turned up one day unannounced. She invited him inside, feeling like she had to, and from this point it was as if he, ‘never left’, she says. He made it almost impossible for her to say no and, looking back, she feels that she never had any choice from the start. He was always controlling.
When Liam had ‘ransacked’ her home he had found pictures of exes in her drawers. Whilst she had been away he demanded addresses of where she was to be given to him. She didn’t feel comfortable doing this because it was her son, she wanted to protect him. Because of Liam’s heavy cocaine abuse this would often lead to delusional thoughts and, during the time that Scarlett was away, he had lost control of his thoughts and his anger. He was violent towards Scarlett and a neighbour thankfully saw this happening and contacted the police. This resulted in Scarlett’s arrest but she was safe for now.
Why did you stay in an abusive relationship?
‘I couldn’t answer why I stayed in that relationship after this’, Scarlett says…’It all feels very different the next morning and it almost felt like it hadn’t happened how you imagined it.’… ‘You get all the apologies and it’s hard especially when you’ve not seen that side before.’ ‘He blamed the drugs and I expected things to go back to normal if he stopped’. Scarlett explains how she was intimidated by Liam too. He was older, a large man and, ‘quite scary’, as she puts it. Liam was involved in organised crime and knew people who could hurt Scarlett and her family. She was terrified to unleash this into her life. She later found out that Liam had an extensive history of abuse against women and she definitely wasn’t the first person he so savagely taken from.
How did the domestic abuse grow?
After the first instance of abuse, things seemed to get rapidly worse and worse. ‘He would turn up at my property 24-25 times a day…threatening to kill me…I didn’t get a break’. And he lived so close to her that it was hard to escape. Liam carried on abusing Scarlett physically and then sexually. She was sexually assaulted and raped by Liam. This was something she had never experienced before and she things it incredibly difficult thinking back to this. This isn’t where the relationship ended completely but things really hit home at this point. ‘I felt completely numb’. ‘The time I was with him is a complete blur…I didn’t know who I was any more’.
Signs of domestic abuse
Scarlett found out about Ruby after she got a police caution. She went to our Women’s Turnaround service for support and it was at this point that staff noticed she was showing signs of domestic abuse and that Liam was waiting outside for her. He wouldn’t let her out of his sight. The person she met with could see this was an issue and gave her the number for Ruby @ Turnaround.
Scarlett is proud to say that she made this decision to call herself. ‘It was probably the best decision I ever made’, she says. The support started before she left Liam. Even after they split up he insisted he would pick her up, he would see her, he would be a part of her life. He always knew were Scarlett was, he was there constantly. It took him going to prison for him to be out of her life. ‘It would either be jail or I would have been dead’. He would say this outright that he would kill her if she ever tried to leave him.
Scarlett was incredibly lucky to survive her relationship. Her family used to hide in cars on her street knowing the extreme danger she was in. He took her phone from her so that she was unable to contact anyone and seek help. Scarlett managed to get access to a phone whilst she was away in hospital. She discharged herself and got a phone to protect herself in the future. This was the only way she was able to contact anyone including the Ruby team. Liam had seized control of everything in her life. Liam was eventually imprisoned after seriously assaulting Scarlett, resulting in her being hospitalised. She had predicted this and unfortunately was right.
Practical domestic abuse support
Before this incident, Scarlett had been making a plan of exit to get out but felt that she couldn’t do this. ‘I was that petrified that I had to lead him to believe I was still in a relationship with him’. Shelley supported her to find her a property and get her to a safe space. After years or supporting women experiencing domestic abuse, Shelley was shocked by Scarlett’s situation. She was being drugged, locked in the house and her home was under constant threat of being attacked. Shelley arranged a refuge for Scarlett but she felt too controlled to take this step. She was worried that he would threaten my family, ‘I knew what he was capable of…I was protecting my family by staying where I was’. It was arranged for cameras to be added to Scarlett’s property for protection and fire safety measures. The team understood Scarlett’s concerns and made plans that fit her needs.
Scarlett’s support mostly happened over the phone because lockdown started. She was due to begin sessions face-to-face with Shelley but, on the day her appointment was happening, the serious incident happened. Scarlett says she still feels supported over the phone and has been able to go to sessions safely during lockdown. This support is so needed for her as she struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health struggles.
Even after Liam has been arrested Scarlett says, ‘I don’t feel like I’m getting my justice’…’His sentence won’t be enough’. She can’t control this but says that support really helps. Scarlett says she never thought this would be the case. She feels she’s been let down by services in the past and, chatting to her as everything is still so raw, you can really see that she’s so passionate about getting this message to other people as she is still in fear now. Shelley made her aware of practical services she could access like Clare’s Law. This is officially known as Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme and allows survivors of domestic abuse to access information about a partner if they feel at risk from domestic abuse. She’s also put Scarlett in contact with solicitors and supported her through the legal process, being available to attend court and explaining to her what she can expect from it. I’ve been referred to counselling and know there are so many options available to me now.
‘It’s helped me in a million ways…It’s got me back as a person’. ‘It’s very open, I can talk to Shelley about anything I want. I don’t think I would have got to this point without her’.
In the future Scarlett plans to come to groups at Ruby @ Turnaround and continue getting support. She is comforted by knowing that there is ‘just someone at the end of the phone’.
For domestic abuse support you can contact our Ruby @ Turnaround team on 0800 688 9990. Monday to Friday: 9.00am- 10.00pm and Saturday and Sunday 11.00am – 5.00pm.