ACROSS the Upper Calder Valley there are many women - of all ages - living in fear of an abusive or violent partner.
Latest police figures reveal that more than 500 incidents were reported in this area alone last year, equating to about 10 each week.
In 2011 a total of 542 incidents was reported, a rise of 60 on the previous year.
The Hebden Bridge Times and Todmorden News are backing the national White Ribbon Campaign, which is against male violence towards women, and is based in Burnley Road, Mytholmroyd. Founder Chris Green said he was delighted to be working with the newspapers to get 500 readers to back the “Speak up, sign up” campaign.
Mr Green said: “People don’t like to admit they are, or were, victims of domestic violence or perpetrators of it, but hopefully this campaign will lead to more people coming forward.
“We want to bring to an end the attitude of ‘it’s nothing to do with me’.”
Police believe there are a number of factors that act as a trigger to domestic violence and pledge to investigate all reports in a “professional and timely manner”.
Detective Chief Inspector Terry Long, for Calderdale Police, said: “We use everything in our power to safeguard victims of domestic abuse and use partner agencies and third sector organisations to support victims and families.”
One of the first groups to sign up to our joint campaign was the Hebden Bridge Rats Motorcycle Club.
Club member Gez Greenwood said she and the rest of the club were happy to back the campaign. She said: “Violence doesn’t solve a problem, it only creates a bigger one and ends up breaking people’s spirits. In my 12 years of being a Bridge Rat I have never personally seen any violence and I know it wouldn’t be accepted because we are one big family.”
Members of Walsden Cricket Club are also backing the campaign.
Today we report the harrowing story of one woman, now living in the upper valley, who finally escaped the clutches of her abuser- but not until she had suffered significant physical, financial and psychological cost. She has agreed to share her story in the hope others will be spared the pain and terror of an abusive relationship. Pauline Hawkins reports.
SITTING in her comfortable lounge, looking back over the past two years, Lucy can’t believe how quickly her life was ripped apart at the hands of her abusive partner.
Mother-of-two Lucy – not her real name – was browbeaten, punched, bullied and threatened by a manipulative man who told her a tissue of lies before stealing not only her money but her self confidence and self respect.
Blackened with bruises, she even called her parents and told them she was ill and couldn’t have Christmas dinner with them to spare them the hurt of seeing their daughter caught in a violent relationship.
Her fear turned to anger, embarrassment and disgust at herself for being, in her own words, so “gullible and stupid” as to let this man control her life, her finances – and even her movements.
In her late 30s, attractive and eloquent, Lucy seems the kind of self-assured woman who would never allow herself to be dragged into such a pit of despair.
“I am such a strong woman,” she says. “When anything came on TV about domestic violence I used to think, why don’t you just leave or ring the police?’ But when you are that position – even when the perpetrator is locked up – you still have a massive fear. Have you done the right thing? But it gets easier. I wish I had done it months and months ago but I’d had all the strength knocked out of me.
“I had got to the point where I had been beaten down so much I didn’t care any more. There were times when he was hitting me and I thought, ‘do your worst. You can’t do any more to hurt me than you have already done.’
“I don’t know what attracts men like him to independent women like me. It must be the challenge to be in absolute control.”
When Lucy met her abuser, she was divorced, working as a nurse, and with her own house and car. Her two children, in their late teens, were living with their father. Into her life walked a man who appeared to make her world complete. He said he’d been serving in the armed forces and he had his own flat.
Lucy takes up the story: “Within a matter of nine weeks he had moved himself, his things and his dog into my house while I was at work, without discussing it with me.
“The first time he hit me was three weeks after he moved in. It was over something and nothing – about him walking his dog. He slapped me in the face.
“I slapped him back because I thought ‘how dare you?’ and I thought that was an end to it.
“Then three or four days later he’d got quite drunk. He came home and that’s when he started to punch. I asked him to leave but he came back the next day, full of apologies. And then it just got worse from there. It was every other day, then almost every day – over nothing.”
One day, while Lucy was at work, her abuser rifled through her papers, forged her signature and signed over her car to himself. “So I didn’t have my car any more,” she says. “He took my bank card and I wouldn’t give him the PIN number. Eventually he beat me that hard I gave him the number and he withdrew £4,000 from my account.”
In the run-up to Christmas 2010, he got drunk again and dragged her across the floor by her hair and kicked her, breaking three of her ribs.
Covered in bruises, Lucy told her employers that she had suffered a car accident to cover up for her aggressor.
Finally, she plucked up courage to call in the police and the man was taken away – but as Lucy was too frightened to press charges, he was released from custody and he returned to her house.
The Domestic Violence Unit installed a panic alarm but, as Lucy says: “He wasn’t fazed by it because he thought he could bully me into not using it.
“He smashed the phone socket and my phone. I wasn’t allowed out on my own, only with him.”
Matters came to a head a week later, at the beginning of March last year, when he returned home after a night drinking. Running up and down stairs, shouting and screaming unintelligibly, he kicked Lucy so hard in the back that the tread of his trainer could be seen on her skin.
Then he chillingly told her: “Press that panic button and I will kill you.”
Somehow summoning the mental strength to disobey him, she pushed the alarm which triggered the police racing to her door. Within minutes they had rescued her and her attacker was taken away, where he spent almost six months on remand – with privileges not afforded to convicted criminals – before finally pleading guilty and being sentenced to 18 months’ probation. He was also banned for life from contacting Lucy or her family.
But in the meantime, the final piece of her life had fallen apart. Having had so much time off work, she lost her job and, as a result, her house. She spent time in a hostel for victims of domestic violence before being rehoused away from the district where the abuse took place.
She found out her abuser, far from being a valiant member of the armed forces, was a thug who had previously been jailed for assaulting men and other women.
Lucy would like to see the rolling-out of Clare’s Law, now in operation in four counties on a year-long trial basis, to allow people to have greater rights to know about the violent past of partners.
She has nothing but praise for the Calderdale and Kirklees WomenCentre who supported her through some of her darkest days. Even after the man was out of her life, she suffered panic attacks.
Months on, Lucy seems to have turned the corner and life is looking a whole lot brighter now. Living in a cosy house on the outskirts of Hebden Bridge, she hopes to return to her nursing career and is facing the future with optimism. “I am in the zone where I am not going to let him beat me any more,” she says. “A lot of women cannot face that and it will ruin their lives.
“I am always looking over my shoulder – but I will not be beaten.”
You can support the campaign by texting WRC to 78866. Alternatively pick up your copy of the Hebden Bridge Times from your newsagent or local supermarket and cut out and post the coupon within the feature.
The White Ribbon Campaign has provided the following information:
l Almost half of all women in the UK experience domestic violence, sexual assault or beating
l Violence against women causes more deaths and disability among women aged 15 to 44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war
l Only 5 per cent of young women questioned feel safe in Britain today and 73 per cent of those worry about being raped
l Men can work to change behaviour that is both emotionally and physically violent to create a world that is based on gender equality
Where you can go for help
Calderdale WomenCentre in Silver Street, Halifax, offers a wide range of services and support to women and children, including emotional and practical support on issues such as debt, benefits, mental or physical health, domestic violence, counselling, training and development and much more.
There is a specific contact number for its Domestic Violence team: 01422 323339 or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org