Alice – Manchester
Domestic violence, mental health, keeping perspective
(Names in this divorce story have been changed to protect privacy)
Alice was a professional woman in her 20s when her husband’s domestic violence began. She says:
My husband developed an anxiety disorder, which slowly progressed into a schizoid break. He became someone unrecognisable to me but I loved him dearly and believed he would get better.
When he started to hurt me, it was because I was preventing him doing harm to himself. But this escalated, and after several months it came to the point where he nearly killed me and he did kill the baby I was carrying. To this day I find it hard to forgive myself for not leaving him before that could happen.
His parents threatened me not to go to the police but my GP gave me an ultimatum – go to the police, she said, or I will.
One thing I realised later is that it’s impossible to think clearly in the midst of a divorce or court case. However much I turned the situation over in my mind, I never came to any conclusions and tended to go around in circles. I put this down to the constant emotional pressure, the intense need to retain normality as much as possible and the feeling of having no control over the outcome of the case. It made me unbearable even to myself, because it felt like there would never be an end.
This is what makes it vital to have someone on the outside to give you perspective, or just to reassure you that you’re doing the right thing. This is what Diana provided at the points where I felt I wanted to give up, or stop working or leave my home. It’s so important to have a calm voice at the end of the phone; and the reassurance that the hardest thing was the right thing.
Above all, Diana helped me to make decisions myself rather than suggesting solutions which is what most people try to do when you are very distressed. Diana helped me to change my thinking around the situation, which helped me to regain a sense of control.
I was very nervous before the trial and I was told that many men often plead not guilty (or are advised to do so) because women are too scared to go to court. But once he knew I was there and determined to go ahead, my ex-husband changed his plea so I did not have to give evidence. He was given a suspended sentence and I was granted a lifelong restraining order, for which I am very grateful.
Diana continued to be a support for me following the divorce and criminal court case. I have managed to carve out a life for myself which is not dictated by the divorce; and when I think back to how impossible that felt at times, it makes me realise how far I have come.
You might also be interested in reading the ‘Legal Structure of Divorce’ a two-minute guide to divorce proceedings.