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To ask what else I could have done to help this woman?

(26 Posts)
toboldlygo Mon 17-Oct-11 01:09:28

On my way back from work tonight (I work in a pub/hotel in a small rural town, had just locked up and had 2 minute walk home) a woman ran past me, gasping and crying her eyes out. I stopped to ask what was wrong; her partner had hit her, she said, he'd hit her before but tonight he'd really scared her and she was on the way to the police station. The station is tiny and only manned a couple of days a week, so I got my phone out and called the police for her. She managed to give them the details of what had happened then I took over to give them my address, saying I'd take her to mine and the police could meet us there.

We had to wait about 20 minutes for them to arrive and in that time she told me everything that had happened that evening as well as previous incidences; basically he beat her up frequently, had burnt her clothes, had strung up her dog by a choke chain to scare her, frequently drove drunk etc. She had been raised by her grandparents, had lived rough for several years, was by her own admission an alcoholic (she had a can of beer on her and I, for my shame, gave her another while we talked) and had basically had the shittiest life you can imagine.

When the police arrived they were extremely brusque with her to the point that I was about to object and say hang on a minute, this woman's just been abused, go easy on her! However, it soon emerged that this was common ground for them, they were familiar with both her and the partner and both had previously been charged with assault and similar.

The next part astonished me - she refused to press charges, claiming that she was afraid for his business. Obviously there's not a damn thing the officers can do in that situation, they co-own the flat, unless he's arrested they can't turf him out of his own house and she had nowhere else to go. Basically all they could do was take her home, talk to both parties and leave her there again. This had happened many times before and was obviously going to happen all over again.

AIBU to wonder how the hell the woman is supposed to get out of this cycle? I feel so totally inadequate and shit that I know she's just going back there to go through this over and over again. One officer stopped to thank me for looking out for her but basically implied that I was a bit of a mug, that she had a history and that they were as bad as each other. I'm sure they are, I only heard half the story, but come on - as an alcoholic, previously homeless, no family, abusive relationship, isn't there some sort of refuge or program or something to help?

She was most upset about what he'd done to her dog, despite being covered in bruises herself. sad I told her she could bring the dog to me if there was ever another problem, I can easily help the dog but what on earth is there for her?

Can't bloody sleep now for thinking about it.

HerScaryness Mon 17-Oct-11 01:14:54

She has to want to leave. there is nothing more you can do.

You helped her when she needed help, let's hope she realises that she doesn't have to go through this.

I'm sure the police were short with her, I know WA were short with me when I rang them 10 years ago.

Because I wasn't ready. Its so frustrating for those on the outside. To her it's just normal.

doinmummy Mon 17-Oct-11 01:19:50

Totally agree with Herscaryness... this will be a totally normal situation for this woman. She is a willing participant/co dependant in a very unhealthy relationship. She does need help but is obviously not ready for it. It is sad but situations like this are common. You wont be able to help her because she isn't ready for it...maybe she never will be.

gethelp Mon 17-Oct-11 06:04:58

Just wanted to say how nice you are, you did everything you could and a lot more than most.

snailoon Mon 17-Oct-11 06:13:44

Agree with gethelp.

You sound wonderful

Andrewofgg Mon 17-Oct-11 06:59:46

OP: My experience in this line is on the legal side. And I know how many women go back - and not always for financial reasons - to the same bloody man. Sometimes after she has been rehoused and he has gone down and been released.

Or to another similar man.

Police, courts, lawyers, WA, you name it; there is only so much they can do for anyone.

Andrewofgg Mon 17-Oct-11 07:00:28

Hit SEND too soon.

You are indeed wonderful, if there were more people around like you the world would be better.

toboldlygo Mon 17-Oct-11 09:09:32

I just - I'm frustrated, and angry, that there isn't more in the way of active intervention to help women like her get out of that situation. She views it as totally normal because, basically, she's had a fucked up upbringing and doesn't know any different - how is it fair to keep subjecting her to that? It's not a real choice to go back at all, just complete lack of availability and awareness of other options because she's never had any other option.

Before anyone says it I wasn't in any danger, DP was home as well as a pack of large dogs and I'd hope someone would do the same for me or someone in my family in that situation. Working in a pub I feel an odd sense of duty in making sure people get home safely, even if this woman was nearly the same age as my own mother (I'm fairly young).

Peachy Mon 17-Oct-11 09:17:00

IKWYM. Years ago walking back from an evening thing with my Mum and kids we came across a group and the man was holding his GF over the docks; saying he wanted to kill her. Mum called police whilst I talked to her but she walked of; police came and took a description then said they knew exactly who it was- has happened before. I offered to give evidence, they went off and took a statement. Got a call saying he'd admitted it. Then a few months later another one saying sadly she'd withdrawn all her statements before trial and was back with him. Boy I swore at the phone after that phone call!

All you can do is be there for those who are ready to accept it. Hopefully just sometimes the fact someone else is horrified will be enough to allow someone to see it's not all in their heads.

HerScaryness Mon 17-Oct-11 09:18:48

Love, I was in an abusive relationship.

I can tell you that at the end of the day the only one really subjecting herself to that is actually HERSELF.

WHEN she one day realises that this is wrong, then and only then can she try to find the bravery she will need to get out. The support is there, the law is there (mostly) but she has to be the one to want it.

I too should have said how bloody marvellous you are, most people don't bother to get involved. Maybe somehow your kindness may help her to find the truth amid all the FOG created by this abusive man she's with.

GHAHSTLYGHOULYpants Mon 17-Oct-11 09:22:02

You are a very kind and thoughtful person, but like the others have said, there is not much more you could have done. The police, ss etc in cases like this have their hands tied as neither party are willing to engage in breaking the cycle of abuse. If there were children involved it would be different though.

If you are fearful for the dog, perhaps call the RSPCA?

Poor you, it sounds like a massive shock for you. Oh, and I think giving her another beer was kind, not ill thought at all.

Theas18 Mon 17-Oct-11 09:25:32

You can't do more than you did and you did so much more than may would have done .

I suspect the police were a "bit off" because she is well known to them and they know exactly what would happen.

Dawndonna Mon 17-Oct-11 09:29:46

You did the right thing. You are a kind person. However, everybody else is right, until she is ready, it can't be sorted.

Fixture Mon 17-Oct-11 09:31:46

Give her the freephone number for Women's Aid 0808 2000 247 She can then call them any time - may be easier for her to chat to someone when there is no crisis. Stress to her that it's free to call so she shouldn't hesitate.

To contact the RSPCA about the dog, go here or phone 0300 1234 999

hester Mon 17-Oct-11 09:34:52

You have reminded her that there is possibility, hope, and people who ARE willing to help. That may be more helpful to her than you will ever know.

purplemurple Mon 17-Oct-11 09:35:55

OP you sound lovely, my mum was in an abusive relationship for 26 yrs. The police do tend to take that approach were there have been repeated call outs.

You did all you could, and more IMO. Help is available for those that want it but only when they are ready to leave, and in my experience that cycle of leaving and going back tends to continue for a while.

toboldlygo Mon 17-Oct-11 13:57:46

Thanks for the numbers Fix, I'm just not sure how I could use them - I know where she lives now (mentioned it to a work colleague this morning, his mum lives next door to them and they are on the verge of losing their HA home due to complaints about anti-social behaviour) but I can't really go knocking on the door proffering leaflets, I don't know her, the bloke sounds totally unhinged and unless she makes the call herself it won't do a bit of good.

I wouldn't trust the RSPCA to organise a piss-up in a brewery, I volunteer for dog rescue and made her promise that if she feared for the dog's safety that she could drop her off with me and I'd take care of her. That said, our training venue is at an RSPCA centre so I will ask one of the staff there if they would recommend intervention based on what I've heard. No prizes for guessing the breed of dog.

FunnyHaHaPeculiar Mon 17-Oct-11 14:04:57

you cant help her unless she wants help.

thats it.

chemiseblair Mon 17-Oct-11 14:05:19

The officers are wrong that they couldn't do anything; violent domestic abuse is common assault, which is a criminal offense and doesn't require the woman to press charges (in fact, they can't stop charges being pressed)

Andrewofgg Mon 17-Oct-11 14:19:14

chemise That is fine in theory but if there is no evidence on the day there is no trial and no conviction. And that happens time, and time, and time again. She just does not show.

chemiseblair Mon 17-Oct-11 14:47:00

Andrew the officers should still have pressed charges and arrested him. I worked within law enforcement/the courts for some time and know the difficulties of getting convictions on this. That doesn't mean it isn't a crime, the more seriously police take it more often the more likely a conviction and that the person who's being abused believes that what has happened to them is criminal.

Andrewofgg Mon 17-Oct-11 15:47:44

Chemise That is an abuse of process. Arresting someone to teach the complainant a lesson! If it is clear that the charge will go nowhere that is the end of it. In fact if she says on the spot that she doesn't want to go on it may well be actionable in the civil courts to arrest and hold him. The fact that he is unlikely to sue does not justify the police - of all people - in doing something unlawful.

I think you've been great OP but as you know, you can only do so much if she won't help herself.

Just to offer a bit of cautionary advice, while it's great you want to help her, please be wary about putting yourself at risk.

It might not be a good idea to go to their house or to send any leaflets etc. It's lovely that you want to help, but you have to take care that you are not putting yourself in a position where you could be harmed or taken advantage of by either or both of them. Or put her at risk if he finds the leaflets. I just get the feeling that he won't like the fact that she has told someone else what is happening and will lash out at her or you.

I think it's really good that you have offered a safe place for the dog too. But I would also be cautious because the dog has been abused and will need careful handling, for it's own welfare and yours.

You sound lovely and it's wonderful that you want to do more, but I think you have done the best that anyone can reasonably expect of you, especially as this seems to be the normal thing for this woman and she refused the help she might have had from the police.

unpa1dcar3r Mon 17-Oct-11 17:58:11

Apparently women are abused an average of 35 times before pressing charges.
There are about 250 women's refuges across the UK (compare this to 25,000 animal shelters and it kinda shows where societies priorities lay)
Also the police don't want the paperwork and put it down as a domestic, both parties as bad as each other (which may or may not be the case)

Nice of you to help her. If there is any way you can let her know there is help available without putting yourself in the firing line (either from her partner or from her relying on you and dragging you into it all only to return again) then go for it, but otherwise not much you can do really.

toboldlygo Mon 17-Oct-11 19:27:35

Yeah don't worry, I have no intention of going banging on the door! Just using it as an example of why the Women's Aid type approach won't work, I have no way of contacting her without putting her or myself in potential danger and there's just no indication that she'd make the call or follow through on any of it anyway.

No worries on the dog front, I've fostered and handled problem dogs on behalf of the rescue (and, let's face it, she's not going to give the dog up). It's only a seven month old pup, poor mite.

Still very frustrated at the whole situation. It's as if she doesn't have a choice at all, this is just normal to her. sad

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