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Adviser tells shocking stories of domestic abuse

By Emma Grove

One of the most common things about domestic abuse - whether it is mental bullying or physical violence - is that there will always be a pattern to it.

In the three months since Liza Thompson became an independent domestic violence adviser for Swale Domestic Violence Forum, which is run by Home Start, every person she has seen has been through the same cycle.

Liza works with victims of domestic abuse and her job is to help people leave an abusive relationship and with the aftermath of being in one.

She starts off by getting to know the victim's situation - most importantly whether the abuser is still living at home and how often they will be able to meet - and then she begins to work through the problems within the relationship.

Since Liza started in the role she has seen 55 different people, three of whom were men.

She said every single one of them blamed themselves for the abuse.

Liza said: "With more than half the people I see, there hasn't actually been any physical violence - it's just emotional, like withdrawing affection, ignoring them, talking to the children but not them, using the children against them, taking the kids out and leaving the mum in the house, withholding money."

Liza recalls one woman from Sheerness who was forced to live in one room of the house with her three children while her husband had the rest of the house.

She had to go to the church for food because he would not give her money and she had to take the children out and walk around the streets because he did not want them there.

At the other end of the spectrum is physical violence, with victims being threatened with knives and household items being thrown around.

Liza said she saw one woman who had her front teeth knocked out by a mobile phone because somebody phoned her.

She did not recognise the number and her partner got in a jealous rage.

Jealousy, Liza said, is one of the most common factors in abusive relationships, and many people lose their friends and family over it by playing right into the abuser's hands. Another woman Liza has been working with, from Sittingbourne, has been the victim of an abuser for 16 years.

She and her partner have two sons, and much of the violence happened in front of them.

The first time Liza met the woman, she had a black eye from when her partner had punched her in the face.

From that day Liza supported her weekly, and over time she learned that in the past he had strangled her and repeatedly hit her head against a mirror in front of the children.

The woman had adapted her behaviour to fit in with his abusive behaviour and bad moods in order to survive - she would take the children out when he flared up - but she realised one of her children was starting to show nervous characteristics and the other was becoming aggressive.

Liza said: "She slowly came round to fact there wasn't much left in their relationship. Her whole life had been about him. Before she was not accepting the situation and was blaming herself.

"Now to see her realise she is worth something on her own without needing to have him around - it makes the very hard job I have very worthwhile. It's amazing to see that turnaround."

Liza said she believes there will always be a point when victims are ready to get help, and she said when that time comes they are there to make it as easy as possible.

For help or information, call Liza on 01795 474525 or 07903 291004.

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