Ipswich: Long journey out of the abyss of abuse and back to freedom

JODIE’S life changed forever when she found herself in an abusive relationship where her partner ruled with an iron rod. She speaks to James Marston as the government reveals changes to domestic violence laws.

In the beginning things were fine. Jodie, then 32, met a younger man, then 27, and they began a relationship. “We were introduced by a mutual friend,” she said. “Things moved very quickly. We moved in together into my house within six months.”

At the time both were working and for the first year or so things were fine – then he flipped. “It was Christmas and he wasn’t able to see his older children. I wrapped up presents for them and put them to one side. When I got home he had trashed the house. He blamed me. He said I had been winding him up.”

As far as Jodie was concerned the relationship was over and the couple parted.

But after a few months they were back together. “I let myself go back to him as I was prepared to give him another chance. I thought he had been punished enough for what had happened.”

For the next two years life went on as normal. The couple had a child of their own and moved into a bigger house.

Jodie said: “I went back to work part-time and within a month of moving into the house he lost his job. So I had to go full-time.”

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Always a cannabis smoker, Jodie’s partner began to smoke more heavily with time on his hands.

She said: “From then he went downhill. I had to get a full-time job and leave the children in his care. The money for his drugs had to be given to him and I had to get it for him. He wasn’t signing on and he took all the money that I had. He said he was ill and depressed and blamed not working on his illness.”

Jodie was walking on eggshells. Her partner had, bit by bit, begun to control her life. He manipulated her emotions, he checked her every move and he took her money. Jodie, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, said: “Everything he wanted I had to get for him. We couldn’t survive on my wages.”

Occasionally physically violent towards Jodie and regularly verbally aggressive to her and the children, life was difficult.

Jodie had to find around �250 a week to fund her partner’s drug habit. Money that was needed elsewhere. Jodie stayed with him for four years. “There were some good times too. He would go a few weeks and things would be fine and you’d think it was worth carrying on. I couldn’t see a way out. I had a house, children, debts and nowhere to go.”

So life went on for Jodie with physical and emotional abuse.

“He spat at me, he tried to strangle me, then pushed me across the kitchen floor, he pushed me into the cupboard under the stairs and smashed it to pieces and then he threw the bits of wood at me, he hit me over the head with a plastic container and perforated my eardrum, he pulled my hair, he controlled my life, he constantly checked where I was, he would text me all the time and if I didn’t reply within a certain time he would accuse me of having an affair.”

Jodie’s life reached tipping point when she went to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau for help with her debts. She said: “I was �40,000 in debt on credit cards and I couldn’t pay. Someone there told me my relationship was abusive, I didn’t realise it was.”

Jodie began to think about telling the police when he became physically violent.

She said: “I heard you could log the incidents so when it happened I told the police.

“They arrested him and that’s when I had to leave.”

Initially Jodie stayed with friends away from Ipswich. Court cases followed and it took six months to get Jodie’s partner out of the house.

That was three years ago. Today life is very different – but the emotional scars remain.

And Jodie has sought help and support at the Ormiston Children’s Centre in Felixstowe Road, Ipswich, which offers a wide range of services and support groups to families. Jodie has been having group counselling as well as one-to-one counselling and confidence-building sessions.

She said: “It has taken time and there are still things I am coming to terms with but I have been free of him for three years now.

“I can do what I want. I don’t have to think about how he might react before I do or say something.

“I still look over my shoulder sometimes. I still sometimes wonder what I did wrong and I still ask myself questions – but I am learning I don’t have to.”

Ormiston Children & Families Trust is a charity for children and young people in the East of England. It provides services to support children and young people from disadvantaged communities who face social exclusion.

The charity offers a wide range of support and services to families including support for parents, support for families affected by imprisonment, children’s centres, and support for gypsy and traveller families as well as services and support for people affected by domestic abuse.

To find out more about the support and services available at Ormiston Children’s Centre, or to speak to someone about domestic abuse, call 01473 724517 or e-mail enquiries@ormiston.org or visit www.ormiston.org