It’s not you, it’s them.
Each year more than 100,000 people in the UK are at high and imminent risk of being murdered or seriously injured as a result of domestic abuse.
I feel it needs to be acknowledged that I will never make another memory with Maddie again. These are words taken from my Victim Support Statement, a document I have provided for a judge to consider in the murder trial of my lifelong friend Maddie. My life was robbed of Maddie because of domestic abuse.
It was June 2018, Maddie had been missing for a few days, and I’d seen her face so many times on social media in the hope of finding her. During those days all we had was hope, and it felt surreal; this was the stuff happening all of the time, all over the world, but never in my world. Just a few days later, my brother sent me a text to say how sorry he was. I didn’t need to finish reading the text to know that Maddie had died.
To be honest, as such a free spirit, in the days Maddie was missing I genuinely believed she’d taken a spontaneous camping trip or even eloped. Maddie was wild; she was the wind, she moved freely and softly in whichever direction she desired, calm in her nature, a breath of fresh air. Nothing held her back and fear wasn’t a word in her vocabulary.
Fairly soon after the police had found Maddie, we were told that her boyfriend was to blame. He took her life. Futures and dreams had been shattered, possibilities removed, and emptiness left where she once was. I’d known Maddie all my life and just like that our moments together became memories.
October is Domestic Abuse Awareness Month and I am hoping by sharing Maddie’s story, it may be able to help someone to break the abuse cycle or even save a life.
But what warrants Domestic Abuse? Traditionally known as physical assaults which can go unnoticed or unreported for quite some time. Abuse however, is more complex than being defined as just one thing; abuse can be sexual, financial, digital, emotional, and honour-based. Abuse can be coercive control, forcing people in to marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM). It is actually stated that nearly 90% of high-risk victims report experiencing emotional abuse and/or coercive control (jealous and controlling behaviours) which exposes the depths and levels of abuse and how it may manifest within a relationship.
Save Lives UK have listed some key statistics of Domestic Abuse within England and Wales which highlights the extent its severity:
- Each year nearly 2 million people in the UK suffer some form of domestic abuse – 1.3 million female victims (8.2% of the population) and 600,000 male victims (4%)
- Women are much more likely than men to be the victims of high risk or severe domestic abuse
- On average victims at high risk of serious harm or murder live with domestic abuse for 2-3 years before getting help
- 85% of victims sought help five times on average from professionals in the year before they got effective help to stop the abuse
One of the saddest parts of losing Maddie is that she was trying to leave her relationship, and he took that option away from her. As someone that works in the field of Domestic Abuse, I am well aware that the first year of leaving an abusive relationship is deemed the most dangerous. I have worked with women who have fled to the other side of the country without telling a soul in fear of what will happen if she was to be found, some have had to devise safety plans and routes with police present due to the high level of risk to life. Many have left family and friends knowing they can never return because if they did they may never have the opportunity to leave again. Seven women a month are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales. Let that sink in.
So when people say ‘why don’t they just leave?’ I think they should understand that many have tried yet were unable to do so. For so many, leaving is just not that easy. I’m sure many thought about why Maddie didn’t leave, but the real question here is why somebody else felt they had the right to take her away.
Instead of shaming victims for not leaving, let’s start to spot the signs of their abuse to enable them to take the steps they so desperately need. Look out for your friend who is becoming withdrawn, who suddenly doesn’t have their own social media accounts, who doesn’t go out without their partner. By spotting domestic abuse early, we can prevent it, we can change lives and we can save lives. Domestic abuse doesn’t just happen to people on the news, it’s happening all around us.
Edited and co-written by Alexandra Tracey