A safe, just and equal world for women

Sonia’s Story

Sonia* was referred to one of our specialist workers called an Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA) based in A&E, by a Doctor from the Trauma Ward at St Mary’s hospital after trying to harm herself; she had sustained extensive injuries

Sonia disclosed to the IDVA that she was experiencing emotional abuse from her partner, who did not try to stop her from harming herself and was telling her that she would not be able to do it and that she would be too scared. It was also said that Sonia previously fled violence overseas from her parents. During her conversation with the A&E IDVA, Sonia confirmed what the Doctor had said, but she was also adamant that her relationship was not an abusive one and that her boyfriend was a “good guy”. She said she was missing him.

The IDVA explored what is an abusive/healthy relationship, discussing the dynamics of power and control, the techniques use by perpetrators. During the conversation with the IDVA Sonia started to get upset; she told the A&E IDVA that she could relate to nearly everything being described. Through conversation with the IDVA Sonia said that she never recognised it as domestic abuse. She began to disclose more and more information about the relationship. She said her partner was calling her names, undermining her and making her feel bad about herself. She also said that her partner was controlling; controlling everywhere she went, what she was did, who she met, who she spoke to on the phone and on Facebook. He stopped her from seeing her friends and from having her own phone – she had to use his when she needed one. Sonia explained that she was also doing all the cleaning and cooking and was buying him clothes to keep him happy and avoid arguments. Sexual intercourse occurred only when he wanted and the way he wanted – and he would make her feel bad when she didn’t want to have intercourse. The IDVA also discovered that Sonia was also at risk from her family; there were concerns that Sonia faced Honour-based Violence (HBV) and Forced marriage (FM) as her parents had discovered that she had a partner, lived with him and had a sexual relationship with him.

Advance completed a risk assessment; Sonia scored medium risk but the A&E IDVA used professional judgement and decided to treat the case as high risk due to multiple high risk factors in Sonia’s case. The IDVA liaised with the nurses in the ward to inform them about Sonia’s situation and raise their awareness around the risks and safety issues and asked them to monitor visitors. The A&E IDVA also worked with the Homeless discharge worker from St Mary’s hospital on housing options for Sonia. In addition, the A&E IDVA did extensive safety planning with Sonia around contact with her now ex-partner, as well as providing emotional support to Sonia throughout the process. As a result, Sonia’s level of safety increased. She got safe accommodation unknown to her family or ex-partner, gained a better understanding of her rights and options and of domestic abuse/ abusive relationships. She went on to receive ongoing support from local agencies to help get her back into work.

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