I am publishing this on behalf of a friend who wishes to remain anonymous; as does her friend she is writing about:
Anna, my friend since university, told me about a year ago that her marriage was going through a rough patch. She made light of it on the phone, in her upbeat way, but wanted me to come and visit. For lots of reasons, I wasn’t able to manage it, and feel dreadful about this. She told me later that he had violently attacked her. I am not even bothering to qualify this statement with an explanation of how they got to this stage or belittle it by adding that it was a petty argument. He violently attacked her. She managed to get him to back off, and she went to her bedroom armed with her mobile phone and a chair to blockade the door. She said that she almost stepped outside herself and saw herself as this woman whose spirit was finally knocked out of her and she was a shadow of her former self. From confident woman having lots of warm artistic friends living in a great studio in New York and doing work she enjoyed to this frightened-to-go-downstairs woman.
She called the police who responded within a few minutes. Her husband was found barely conscious on the couch, and deemed not to be in any fit state to do much of anything. She went to a hotel that night, and the next morning, he was full of apologies.
The violence didn’t stop. And here was the dilemma for Anna; some of it was so covert that it made her wonder whether she was imagining it. For instance, they entertained quite a bit, and he would do the cooking, mainly as he was a control freak and didn’t trust her to do it ‘properly.’ She would be carrying a plate of food and he would ‘accidently’ trip her. Usually it was in front of other people who would all jump to his defence that it was an accident.
In his more sober moments, he would articulate how unhappy he had become, and wanted out of the marriage. While she didn’t disagree, they had decided to discuss it when their youngest started university. It seemed tolerable and finite; they had separate bedrooms, their own cars, friends and their paths would barely cross.
He started posting on a singles website, initially in Anna’s words, ‘discretely’ as if she didn’t mind as long as he didn’t flaunt it. And then he started being more and more disrespectful, including inviting girlfriends to their house.
And then around this time last year, he attacked her again violently. She called the police and this time he spent a night in the cells. He was charged with assault and battery. He claims not to remember any of it. He wasn’t allowed to return to the family home.
Several months later the case was due to be heard at Magistrate’s Court. She had visited the courtroom and explained how the process worked. She opted to give her evidence via a video link so she wouldn’t have to be in the same courtroom as her husband and his family. She was understandably nervous and scared. And then the case was adjourned. In total the case has been adjourned 3 times for administrative reasons such as previous cases running over, lawyers having other cases.
Last week, the case was due to be heard again, or rather for the first time since he attacked her a year ago. Since this time, she and her husband via their lawyers reached an out of court financial settlement to finalize the divorce, their children are starting to be less traumatized and time has moved forward, although the scars run deep. Her youngest son who witnessed the violence declined his offer at university as he didn’t want to leave his mother vulnerable. Despite her assurances that she would be fine, he has taken a year out, suffers panic attacks and is not sure that he wants to study medicine as he can’t concentrate.
Anna told me that the reason she initially wanted to tell her story in court was so that the, ‘legal position’ reflected what was done to her. After a year however she just wanted to put it all behind her and was exhausted physically and mentally.
The legal system really let her down. It shouldn’t take over a year to hear a case of domestic violence, keeping in mind that this was a case the CPS were actually willing to prosecute. Maybe domestic violence cases should be fast tracked, or somehow highlighted for special attention.
I don’t know the answer, but Anna’s ex husband apparently was seen celebrating at a local pub drinking champagne in the evening after the case was dismissed.