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Molly, 38 from London
“When I was 38, I was raped and beaten by my boyfriend. He turned my life upside down and it took me a long time to stop blaming myself.
“My husband and I had been through a messy divorce five years ago, we had two children in their teens and I hadn’t been in a relationship since.
“One night whilst I was out with a friend, we ran into someone she knew called Richard*. He was kind and polite and asked me to go for dinner with him. After refusing several invitations for a date, I finally said yes to a drink; I thought it would be good for me.
“At first everything was great and I introduced him to my children and family. He was charming, thoughtful, attentive and kind. Everyone liked him, except my children, but I thought this was a normal reaction as Richard was my first real boyfriend since their father.
“After about six months he began to stay over and it was at this point that our relationship started to change. He started texting me all the time to find out where I was, who I was with, and when I would be home. He didn’t seem to trust me, but I put this behaviour down to him caring about me so much. When we talked about it, he would just say that he was worried about me and wanted to protect me.
“Then he started to follow me to and from work, spying on me wherever I went; to the supermarket, to see relatives and friends, his obsessive behaviour was starting to tear us apart.
“One afternoon, he followed me to the supermarket and saw me talking to a male shop assistant. He confronted me about the ‘affair’ I was having with this man and started yelling and swearing at me. I’d never seen anyone act so irrationally. He dragged me out of the shop, pushed me to the floor and started kicking and punching me. The police arrived and Richard was arrested. That day I ended the relationship.
“The police referred me to a domestic violence service, but I was reluctant to take the case further and just wanted to forget about the whole thing. At my request, the police took no further action.
“Richard continued to ring me, write to me and send me presents and flowers. I tried to ignore him. Richard was making my life a living nightmare; my relationship with my children had deteriorated and I was afraid to leave the house out of fear that he would follow me and attack me again. One evening he knocked on my door when the children were at their father’s house. He begged me to let him in to apologise. Not wanting to make a scene on my doorstop, I let him in. That was a big mistake.
“I told him the relationship was over and that I didn’t want to see him anymore. He became very angry and violent and raped me. He beat me and kicked me in the face; he fractured my wrist and forearm and I needed stitches to my cheek and eye. I was bruised all over.
“He smashed up the house and left me on the floor in a pool of my own blood. I managed to call a friend who came round immediately and phoned the police. When they arrived, they advised me to go to the Haven, a Sexual Assault Referral Centre so that I could be examined.
“I was then referred to the sexual violence service at Eaves’ Scarlet Centre; I was in a bad place and blaming myself for what happened and didn’t know how to move forward. My support worker helped me get through the police investigation, gave me access to counselling and also helped me move to an area where I felt safe. She accompanied me to appointments and to court where I gave evidence behind a screen in Richard’s court case. By having that support I also felt strong enough to stay working during that difficult time and not take a leave of absence. Now that I have accessed the services at Eaves and Richard is out of my life, I feel that I can move forward. My relationship with my children has improved and I’m beginning to trust people again. I now see that Richard didn’t have the right to hurt me and that what happened wasn’t my fault.”
*These are not their real names.
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