It is thirty years this month since I started working as a Lawyer. For most of that time, I have been involved with Family Law assisting clients with divorces, injunctions, issues relating to their children and of course the financial issues that crop up when a couple separate or divorce. I have seen and heard it all. I used to become very distressed, listening to some of the tales my clients told me. Now, thankfully, less so. This is actually good news for my clients as it means that I can concentrate on the legal issues at hand and guide them to the end of their case. I can pinpoint the areas where they are likely to become most distressed during the lifetime of their case.
At the start of my career, I dealt with a rather vulnerable lady who had been subject to years of physical and sexual violence from her husband. She had no idea that she was being abused. She said to me that she just felt worn out. She was quite stoic given the terrible conditions in which she and her children lived. Even after all these years, I still think about her and the sheer levels of abuse that she suffered. Eventually, she broke down in my office. The floodgates had opened. It was a lesson for me, and one that I point out to clients. You must be prepared for a big emotional reaction somewhere along the line. It might be when you realise that your relationship must end. Or it could be when your partner first tells you that they wish to end your relationship.
The other thing I learned from this lady was that not everyone realises when they are in an abusive relationship. When you hear the words Domestic Violence, you probably imagine a bruised and battered face. But it’s not always like that. Using some examples below, you can see how things can build up. For the sake of my past clients, I have changed names and some minor details.
In one case a lovely client had been asked to come and see me by the police. Their ex-partner had been jailed for attacking them following lots of emotional abuse. A probation officer had contacted the domestic violence unit as it was clear that my client was still in love with their ex and was about to take them back into the home upon release from prison. The police wanted my client to seek an injunction to protect themselves and to keep the attacker away. This case was quite difficult as my client still had a lot invested in the relationship. That was until they found correspondence in the house, hidden away. It was clear that their partner had been having an affair. The third party had wanted them to leave my client, and when they said no, the third party would seek to end their relationship. Another letter would arrive, that’s it, it’s over as you won’t leave and come and live with me.
It dawned on my client that every time this happened, their spouse would attack again. The final, and, life-threatening attack occurred on the day of the final letter from the third party. It was knowing what was really going on that made them see things in a different light. The discovery of those letters was the end of the matter.
In another case involving hidden correspondence, a client was cleaning a chest of drawers when the bottom fell off. Keen to fix the situation, my client went to put the unit back together again. Her world fell apart in an instant. Hidden were piles of bills showing payment by her husband for a mortgage, gas electricity etc. This was in relation to a property she had no knowledge of. Of course, it transpired that her husband was in a relationship with someone else. That person was living in the other property. It was necessary for me to issue divorce proceedings and an application to freeze the husband’s financial assets until such time as a final financial settlement could be reached in court.
Other cases are less obvious. You may have heard of the term Gaslighting. Gaslight was a play written in 1940 in which one character seeks to trick the other into thinking they are going mad. You might be living with someone who tells you one thing then tries to persuade you that they said something else. Yes, let’s go on holiday together, book these dates from work. Then later when you have done so, they deny ever saying this. But imagine that this happens to you regularly. You constantly have to second guess what is going on. You begin to think that you are not a worthy person. You are probably dealing with a narcissist or a sociopath. Look it up online. It won’t ever get better, for the sake of your own sanity you probably need to walk away. These people don’t have empathy; they can’t understand how they are making you feel. And they often have an addiction as well, perhaps gambling, alcohol or drugs. This means lying to you and everyone else on a regular basis.
All of the examples I have outlined are forms of abuse. As is keeping you from your family and friends, keeping you short of money, dictating when you should return home from any outings, checking all the time, by use of your phone, where you are. This abuse can be directed at anyone male, female, transgender. I see it regularly in same-sex relationships.
The point is you need to recognise that it’s happening to you. Then you need to start planning your escape. Knowledge can be a very powerful thing. It’s for that reason that I offer an initial Next Steps appointment. This is designed to outline all of your options and to help you plan ahead for you and your children.If you require any help, then don’t hesitate to contact us on 0191 284 6989.
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