Hair appointment allowed escape from life of torture

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The Independent Online

Doreen told her husband she had an appointment at the hairdressers then walked out of the house and never went back.

Doreen told her husband she had an appointment at the hairdressers then walked out of the house and never went back.

Her escape from a domineering husband who had subjected her to 30 years of appalling physical, verbal and emotional abuse had been weeks in the planning.

The couple were both in their sixties, with children who had long since left home and a husband-and-wife business that meant they were rarely out of each other's sight.

For years Doreen, 64, had borne the attacks believing - like many other women of her generation - that it was her duty to maintain her relationship at any cost. On one occasion she was kicked along the hall until her legs were covered in bruises. Another time she was thrown from one side of the living room to the other.

Only when the violence became so severe that she felt her life was in danger did she seek help, contacting her local Victim Support office.

Clare Winter, of Great Yarmouth and District Victim Support, said: "We helped her to get out of the relationship and into safe housing. It was a very gradual process. She was completely demoralised and had lost her self-respect."

Ms Winter said that at least once a month a domestic violence victim arrived on the office doorstep carrying nothing more than a plastic bag of belongings. Two or three new cases were reported every day.

Ms Winter encourages women to contact her via e-mail, which is often more discreet than a telephone call, and has established a website with advice on how to escape an abusive relationship. She is also setting up an outreach service for victims in villages who are unable to persuade their partners to allow them to journey into town. Basing herself in the surgeries of village GPs, she hopes that victims can seek help from her under the cloak of a doctor's appointment.

PC Claire Palmer, of Norfolk police, said 100 incidents were reported in Great Yarmouth every month. Women victims often suffered emotional abuse, ranging from the withholding of money and serial pregnancy to isolation brought about by their partner's hostility towards their friends and relatives.