Almost 20,000 people in Suffolk suffer domestic abuse every year without reporting it to police
PUBLISHED: 20:26 20 February 2017 | UPDATED: 20:26 20 February 2017
A domestic violence survivor from Suffolk has told how family and friends intervened to help her flee a 13-year abusive relationship that left her "completely beaten".
Shocking figures have revealed almost 20,000 people in this county endure harm by a former or current partner or family member each year without reporting it to police.
Sarah, not her real name, suffered in silence at the hands of her then-husband for more than a decade.
During one attack, the mother was knocked unconscious after her perpetrator head-butted her and broke her nose.
It was only when her daughter and a friend hatched an “escape plan” and set up a new home for Sarah to move into that she managed to leave.
Otherwise, Sarah, 53, said there was “no doubt” that she would have been killed.
It started as verbal abuse and controlling behaviour; she was not allowed to see friends or relatives and was accused of having affairs.
Then it became physical, sparked by drinking alcohol.
“It was usually in the kitchen for some reason, the kitchen seemed to be his favourite place for it,” Sarah said.
“I would be slammed up against work tops, and by this point we’d got a little girl.
“People would say to me ‘is everything OK?’ and I would say everything is fine, and lie about how I got the bruises.
“It got to the point where he didn’t actually have to be drinking to cause a fight, he ruined so many Christmases, New Years and things like that just by his general behaviour, he would get drunk and get angry and shout.”
According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, domestic abuse was more prevalent in Suffolk between April 2013 and March 2016 than any other police force area.
The findings show 8.1% of the county’s population between the ages of 16 and 59 experienced at least one incident of domestic abuse in that period - 27,400 victims per year.
Yet in the 12 months ending March 2016, just 8,774 domestic abuse-related incidents and offences were reported to Suffolk Constabulary, suggesting a huge disparity between the number of people who are becoming victim of this crime and the number going to police.
Sarah still remembers the exact date in 2013 that she left her perpetrator, saying it was “engraved on my heart”.
When asked how it feels to be free of that life, Sarah said: “I feel massive relief, but I also feel upset when I think about all the years I wasted, all the time I wasted, all the people I wasted, the people I lost through that.
“I have had a lot of people come to me saying: ‘we are so pleased to see you back’.
“Sometimes it’s hard for people to understand why you pushed them out of your life.
“For some of them it was for their own good because of the violence that was involved, I was frightened for their welfare, friends who I didn’t dare tell anything to.”
The dangerous relationship has had a lasting impact on Sarah.
She still has nightmares about it and is taking anti-depressants and having counselling to cope.
“I think it’s done more damage looking back than I ever realised at the time,” she said.
“I’ve got no confidence, it’s coming back but it’s taking a very, very long time.
“He always told me that I wasn’t good enough for anybody else and no one else will want me.
“The main thing you feel is you are ashamed that you were that stupid for that long.
“It’s made me a very frightened person, but in some ways it’s made me tougher because I now look back on it and think I would never, ever allow myself to be trodden down like that again.”
Detective Superintendent David Cutler said Suffolk Constabulary had recently trained more than 800 staff in better recognising and dealing with domestic abuse, and in particular coercive control.
“The figures would suggest that more victims suffer domestic abuse in Suffolk than report to police and this is something we are greatly concerned about,” he added.
“We continually strive to build confidence in victims of this abuse to come forward and report so that we can, with our partners, ensure they get the right help and support and that those responsible are held to account.
“Our own data shows us that more victims of domestic abuse are reporting to us than before and we would really encourage any person who is suffering from abuse to come and speak to us and let us help them.”