Women's Aid East & Midlothian
Women’s Aid East and Midlothian (WAEML) is the main provider of domestic abuse support across East Lothian and Midlothian. It offers a range of services for women and children affected by domestic abuse including a telephone help line, safety planning, one to one support (1 to 1) and group work. From July 2018-June 2019, WAEML provided emotional and practical support to 749 women and 291 children and young people.
Ms S contacted the service in July 2015 for emotional support and because she wanted information about her legal rights to seek a divorce. As is often the case when women first approach WAEML, Ms S was struggling to fully describe what she had experienced in her relationship as domestic abuse. She had been married for 23 years to Mr B, they had two children AB (now a grown up and living away) and CB (10 years old). She said violence had occurred in the relationship and her partner could be controlling towards her including emotional and psychological abuse, stalking, financial abuse, physical and sexual violence. He would check her handbag, and wouldn’t allow her to have a phone. And he would call her names and make fun of her in front of visitors. As his behaviours had been witnessed by family members, friends and their children, incidents had been reported to Police Scotland leading to him subsequently appearing in court on several occasions.
Ms S had developed significant stress as a result of Mr B’s behaviour and struggled with anxiety, low mood and sleeplessness. Her relationship with her children, specifically CB, has been undermined repeatedly by Mr B, and his continued efforts to control her via the children: he refused to contribute financially to his daughter’s care, but would buy her expensive gifts. And he would undermine her decision making and threaten to report her for bad parenting.
Ms. S has also experienced financial difficulties due to Mr B’s behaviour: post-divorce he would only engage with her around contact decisions for their children through a solicitor, which she has to pay for, meaning she depleted her income from her own business.
After assessing her needs, Ms S and her youngest child were offered a support plan which included a one-to-one emotional support for Ms S to build her confidence and self-esteem and the opportunity to attend the Freedom Progamme (a group work programme for women experiencing domestic abuse to enable them to understand and describe their situation as abusive). She was also assigned a key worker to accompany her to numerous solicitor appointments and the family court for hearings. Ms S was also signposted to specialist support through the East Lothian Sexual Abuse Service as she had experienced rape and sexual assault during her marriage. One-to-one support was also arranged for Ms S’s child to help them make sense of their experiences.
Ms S was exited from 1:1 support in November 2018 but continues to access the organisation for ad hoc emotional support at times of crisis, as Mr. B’s emotional and psychological abuse is on-going. WAEML has committed to providing her with this service as long as she needs it.
In WAEML’s last communication with Ms S, it would appear that Mr B still continues to control Ms S through contact arrangements with CB. Due to no previous convictions the charges of rape and threats against him were dropped through plea bargaining, and an assault charge was downgraded and he was released. This left Ms S feeling discredited and helpless that the years of abuse she had suffered were not taken into account during the court process.
But Ms S’ emotional health and wellbeing have improved significantly. She has said that understanding his behaviour as abusive and recognising this helps her to deal with the impact. Through engaging with 1 to 1 support and the Freedom Programme she was able to identify Mr B had engaged in a pattern of coercive control. She has formed good friendships from attending group work and having contact with others who have had the same experience is incredibly important to her. Due to increased confidence Ms S has been able to re-build her business and is very successful. She has recently become a grandmother and is looking forward to the new experiences that will bring to her life. Her new grandchild is giving a new focus in which to continue repairing relationships with her own children.
“Domestic abuse can continue to have a long lasting impact on survivors for many years after they have left the situation and this case clearly demonstrates the impact of coercive and controlling behaviour and the resilience required of survivors. The survivor continues to be the one that needs to navigate her way through systems and processes due to a failure of addressing and identifying the pattern of power and control, impact and intent of the perpetrator’s behaviour or holding him to account for his behaviour.”
Women’s Aid East and Midlothian