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Stories of change in domestic abuse

If you want to stop being violent and change your abusive behaviour, it can help to know more about how others chosen to do the same. Here are some of stories of change in domestic abusive. You can also find out more about how you can change here.


Joseph, 41, called the Respect Phoneline to get help for his abusive behaviour. This was part of the child protection plan put together to safeguard Joseph’s children so that he can have contact with them again. He would like “to get the ball rolling as soon as possible” as he’s missed his children.

The Advisor acknowledged how upset Joseph must be, not seeing his children and asked for details about the situation. Joseph said he and his partner Leila have two children, a son aged 2 and half and a 3-month-old daughter. After the first pregnancy, which was difficult, he noticed that Leila had not been the same. He felt that she had become distant and that his only role was that of the bread-winner. Joseph was critical about Leila not fulfilling her responsibilities. The Advisor asked what he meant by that and Joseph said that the house was always untidy, and dinner was not prepared on time. He insisted that throughout the relationship he was very clear with Leila about things that he was not happy with. He said that he thinks of himself as a very honest person and believes that problems should be discussed, rather than ignored. Joseph added that he often became verbally abusive when he thought that Leila was not listening to him. There had also been times when he grabbed her. He said he thought he reacted like that out of frustration.

The Advisor asked Joseph if he would like to discuss what he thought was the worst incident. Joseph said that he recently argued with Leila about their son being awake when he came back from work. He shouted at her and each time she tried to say something, he became more aggressive. Leila raised her voice, attempting to finally say something. That was when Joseph grabbed her by her chin and slammed her against the wall while verbally abusing her. Their son was present throughout this incident and he started crying when he heard his mother screaming in pain. Joseph left, saying he would spend the night at his mother’s house. A few hours later he was arrested for common assault.

The Advisor acknowledged that it must have been difficult for Joseph to share details about his family life and thanked him for his honesty. The Advisor then asked Joseph to think about his expectations from Leila and the pressure he put her under by defining their relationship roles. Joseph stayed silent for a few seconds and then said that he probably had expectations that he never negotiated with Leila and he always thought that it was up to him to define the relationship roles. He was starting to realise that this was unfair and the behaviours he had used were not ok. He had avoided thinking honestly about his behaviour, justifying it by how frustrated he was when things were not going the way he wanted and blaming Leila. The Advisor told him that his reflections were very important as he was honest with himself and could now think about taking steps to stop being abusive. Joseph was also advised to think what Leila and the children might have felt every time he behaved in this way.

Joseph said that, although painful for him, the call had been very useful and was thankful that the Advisor didn’t judge him. He got contact details for a domestic abuse prevention programme and made a note to read materials on the Respect Phoneline website that can support him become non-abusive.

Adam, 22, called the Respect Phoneline after his father suggested it. He recently moved in with his girlfriend Sara, who is his first serious relationship.

Adam has kicked his girlfriend a couple of times in arguments. He said that he did this out of frustration. Sara had decided to get a cat and Adam disagreed with this. Adam told the Advisor that he resented the fact that his wishes hadn’t been considered. He said that he felt the cat got more attention than him now. One of the recent arguments began when the cat jumped up where Adam was eating. Adam, Sara and Adam’s parents wanted him to get help to stop behaving this way again. They all agreed that Adam should temporarily stay with his parents while he sought help and information.

Adam said that Sara wants him to get help before he could move back in, and the relationship and their plans could continue.

The Advisor to think about whether disagreements in relationships are normal. The Advisor asked Adam to remember how he had behaved when he had felt frustrated with other people. Adam said that he often felt frustrated with his boss, but he couldn’t lash out as he would lose his job. He could see that there was a difference between how he acts with Sara and with other people. The Advisor said that disagreements are a normal part of relationships and that Adam will have to find ways to manage without resorting to violence and abuse.

Adam said he would call back if he wanted further support. He agreed that he should keep talking with his parents about things and that it was best to wait for Sara to indicate when she was ready for him to move back in. Adam said he would consider joining a domestic abuse prevention programme.

Rajeev, 35, grew up in India in what he describes a wealthy family. He discovered his sexuality at 16 years old and had a few short-lived relationships at the boarding school he attended. As an adult, life became harder: his family didn’t accept the fact he was gay. Nevertheless, he was successful at his job and had a nice apartment.

In 2016 he met Jeff, who was visiting from England for business. He describes their encounter as love at first sight and not long after, they got married. Rajeev left his life in India and moved to the UK. He describes the first year of marriage as bliss, but in 2018 things started to change. Rajeev says this was due to him struggling to find work and becoming low in mood. He says Jeff was always working and hardly came home before midnight. This led to many arguments and Rajeev started drinking. He doesn’t think he has a problem with alcohol, but he also says he cannot stop as he is so unhappy.

Rajeev said he is calling the Respect Phoneline because he is feeling out of control and ashamed of who he is becoming. He said he was picking fights, shouting and pushing Jeff. Also, checking Jeff’s phone, suspecting him of cheating.

The Advisor encouraged him to explore his relationship with alcohol by contacting a drug and alcohol service and gave him details of a domestic abuse prevention service.

Simone, 36, called in distress. She was crying and struggling to speak. The Respect Phoneline Advisor helped Simone feel okay about crying on the phone and gave her time to breathe, become calmer and explain the situation.

Simone said that she had a fight with her girlfriend, Katie, the night before. They were both drunk and, as usual, Simone became angry and beat Katie up. Simone said the violence was becoming more serious and more frequent. She was unsure if there was any hope for her. Her girlfriend was okay and wanted to continue seeing her, but Simone had decided to leave the relationship if she couldn’t find a way to prevent this from happening again. Simone also said her violence had been the cause for all her previous relationships ending.

The Advisor explained that with commitment and specialist support, behaviour change is possible so that Simone becomes able to manage difficult emotions without being violent. The Advisor told her about a domestic abuse prevention service that can help, and Simone made a note of the contact details. The Advisor also suggested that Simone can read materials on the Respect Phoneline website to help her manage her behaviour. Simone left feeling hopeful about herself and her relationship and made a note to call the domestic abuse prevention service as soon as possible.

Jan, 32, contacts the Respect Phoneline following a recent incident where she was arrested and charged with Actual Bodily Harm. Jan sounds very anxious whilst speaking. The Advisor asks if it would be easier to ask questions to get information, which Jan accepts as she explains she is feeling “jumbled” in her head.

Jan has been with Roger for 2 years and they met whilst at university. Both were having casual relationships at the start of their relationship but as Jan was struggling with this, they agreed to become exclusive. Jan has experienced partners being unfaithful in previous relationships and says she struggles with feeling jealous about Roger. During the relationship, Jan has checked Roger’s phone, monitored his movements and if things don’t add up for her, she has used violence. This includes scratching Roger in the face, punching him and smashing things in their flat. More recently Jan threatened him with a knife and assaulted him during the same incident with a stick, causing injury for which she has been charged with ABH. Jan tells the Advisor that she is feeling out of control, but sorry for what she has done.

Throughout the conversation Jan asks if she will lose Roger and expresses that she cannot cope if their relationship ends.

The Advisor highlights the escalation in types of violence and abuse being used and this becoming worse with time – which Jan agrees with. The Advisor asks Jan if she has behaved the same in previous relationships which she says yes to and therefore this is a pattern of behavior in relationships which is not exclusive to what is happening with Roger. Jan recognises this and admits that she feels very emotional and unable to control her emotions.

The Advisor suggests that the current situation could be an opportunity for Jan to look at how she is appearing in relationships and do something different, which she feels open to and welcomes. The Advisor talks through behaviour-change programmes and directs Jan to the Respect Phoneline website to read about managing jealousy. The Advisor looks for the nearest domestic abuse prevention programme for women, but it’s quite far from where Jan lives. Initially she is disappointed, but the Advisor suggests that the travel may be a worthwhile investment with long-term gains that she should consider. Jan accepts this and agrees to contact the service. She thanks the Advisor for listening and not judging her and says that she has been asking for help for many years with no success.

Carmen called the Respect Phoneline unsure it was the right service for her. She wanted to talk about her son, who has been extremely jealous and controlling towards his girlfriend.
The Advisor confirmed that concerned friends and family members are welcome to call the Respect Phoneline.

Carmen was feeling upset and helpless. She said that she could read the signs of the abuse, as she had been a victim when her son was a young child and she had lived with his abusive father. Carmen had spoken to her son, who recognised that he had a problem. Carmen feared that if the police or social services were called, her son would end up losing his girlfriend and his son.

The Advisor acknowledged Carmen’s concerns and agreed the situation was alarming. Neither her son or his girlfriend seemed to be doing anything to get any support that could make the situation safer. The Advisor asked Carmen if she would continue talking about this with her son. Carmen said that he had started confiding more in her and accepting her advice. Her son did not want to continue behaving like this but did not know where to find support. He had spoken to a counsellor about the abuse that he witnessed as a young boy, but that seemed to have made matters worse.

The Advisor told Carmen about the domestic abuse prevention programmes and she felt that this could be a way for him to change his behaviour and keep his partner and their child safe. Carmen planned to talk to her son about these programmes and took the number for the programme closest to him. Carmen felt she had been understood and left the conversation feeling positive about the situation for her son and his family.

Helen, a relationship counsellor has been supporting Samuel and Alicia to explore if they can save their marriage or if they need to begin the process of separation. Alicia feels that separation would minimise the rows between the couple that the children are living with. Samuel feels strongly that he does not want to lose family life and things would improve if Alicia was more committed to it.

In exploring more about the rows, Helen started to notice how Samuel appears to want to have the ‘final say’ on a lot of matters. At the latest session, Samuel seemed agitated when he was telling his side of the story about a recent argument with Alicia. At the same session, Helen noticed that Alicia was getting withdrawn and her body language gave her concern: almost like she was trying to shield herself from Samuel.

Helen was aware that she needed to think about safety implications. She discussed with her Clinical Supervisor who advised Helen to call the Respect Phoneline as an additional resource. Helen called and spoke about her concerns. The Helpline Advisor suggested that Helen could see Samuel and Alicia separately, as it will be easier to get disclosures about any abuse or intimidation. Helen also asked about domestic abuse prevention programmes and found out about the importance of parallel support for Alicia, should Samuel decide to refer himself to one. Helen found the call very useful as it gave her the opportunity to think through with the Advisor how best to manage the potentially risky time of separation and the risk of continuing seeing the couples together.

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