Professionals treat you differently depending on the crime
I used to be a Legal Secretary before I met my now ex deceased abusers and life back then was very different to when I was a victim of domestic abuse.
Always suited and booted, I loved work and the people I worked with. I was part of a team, people spoke to me with respect and they liked me for who I was. Deadlines were a huge part of my job and I loved nothing more than beating the clock to get my work done.
Solicitors, Fee Earners and Paralegals would talk to me as if I were one of them, not as if I were beneath them.
From an early age I knew that I wanted to work in an office but not sure in which capacity. I soon found my feet as Conveyancing Secretary, answering the phone, relaying messages and typing up important documents really were my thing, I loved the whole package.
As a young 19 year old, I was a bubbly and confident person, full of smiles and passion in all that I d did. Nothing faxed me and more importantly I loved life and all that it had to offer.
So many professionals crossed my path as I lived with my abuser; housing, police, legal, judges and I had never felt so judged in all my life.
I desperately wanted to leave and move from the matrimonial home I had once shared with my ex but at the same time I wanted to be near my family for moral support. With low self esteem, I went to my local housing office and explained my situation. At this point, I was looking for a flat in the local town centre, after telling the adviser I wanted this location because I had family living there, my reply was quite shocking and completely unnecessary. She blatantly laughed at me, telling me there was no way I would ever get a council house and my only option was to move into a woman’s refuge for at least 6 months and then after that time, I might be considered for a council house.
When I first got with my partner, I moved into his flat, I did move into a refuge once but he found me and persuaded me to go back home with him, which I did. After I had my Tegan, I stayed with my parents for a short time and then saved for a deposit and then moved into a privately rented house, which was in my name – to help keep me safe and if anything happened, I could kick him our if needed but at least Tegan and I would still have a roof over our head.
The tears pricked my eyes and the water trickled down my face as this professional sat in front of me, laughing. It wasn’t just the fact that this woman was telling me I couldn’t move or get a council house – which in fact, I had never even asked for – what hurt more was she knew my situation, that I had experienced domestic abuse, I was a mother to a newborn and how I was petrified of the man that I once loved, her laughter was simply mocking my life.
It hurt, the fact I finally had the confidence not only to speak out but to ask for help too, only to be ridiculed. I didn’t ask the council for help again as a victim of domestic abuse.
My next experience with my local council was quite a few years later when our home had been broken into. I had been split up from my ex part for about 8 years or so at this point and Tegan and I were living in a Housing Association house in a deprived area. We were staying at my parents that weekend, it was my birthday and I had a voicemail on my phone from WMP explaining what had happened.
They had ransacked Tegan’s bedroom and taken most of her electrical goods – probably for quick cash – the break in effected Tegan quite badly and I knew we had to move but I wasn’t sure how. I couldn’t afford another deposit for a private tenancy and there was no way the council would give us a house.
A Chief Superintendant came to see me when our home was broken into, he stayed a while, asking me questions and reassuring me all would be done to catch those who had done this to us, although he had a good idea who the criminal was who had committed this crime.
The Superintendant told me all the precautions that would be put in place for my daughter and I, including a door chain to help keep us safe. He told me that Tegan and I were classed as vulnerable because it was just us two living together. This planted a seed and it made me think about visiting the local council but without really getting my hope us.
The woman I met couldn’t have been nicer to me; she was so nice and helpful. Before I knew it, I was registered with the local council and I could bit on properties. Less than a month later I had a council house.
I couldn’t believe the difference in how I was treated, depending on which crime I was a victim of. Even though the Police were well aware of whom my abuser was, his background and capability, they never offered to put safety precautions in place for me. Nor was I classed as vulnerable but instead judged on whom I was and why I stayed rather than being helped to leave. Police suggesting I move or leave but no steps taken to put me near family to support me.
As a victim of domestic abuse I was judged and when I really needed help, there was no one to hand.