On 12th February 2017, I told my former partner that I had cheated on him while abroad. On 14th February, I spent five hours in a police station, after being persuaded to go there by my parents, giving a statement in which I alleged that, in response, he had subjected me to a two hour assault in which he beat me repeatedly and broke my phone and car stereo. I told the police that he had caused cuts to my upper lip, a large split along my lower lip, bruising around my mouth, a suspected fracture to my nose and bruising and swelling to my arm and groin. I also described how he had squeezed my eyes with his thumbs, pulled my hair and repeatedly spat on my face and in my mouth.
I explained that I had thought he was going to kill me but, while I had made attempts to get away from him, blaming myself for his violence had led me to come back each time and continue apologising. At one point, I had even tried to climb into a tree to escape him but slipped out, falling one metre and bruising my lower back. I told them how he had helped me to my feet, only to lock me in his grip and punch me again.
The police officer photographed me and collected other evidence and my former partner was arrested and charged for assault and criminal damage.
Seven long months ensued, in which my former partner tried frequently to intimidate me and to convince my friends and family that I was crazy, telling them that all my injuries had come from me deliberately throwing myself seven metres out of a tree and that I had broken my own phone and car stereo. He even messaged my father multiple times to say he was concerned for my mental well-being and that I needed help. I suffered badly with PTSD, panic attacks, depression and intense anxiety and had to put my PhD on hold. I tried hard to get on with my life and went abroad to escape for a while but could never get it all out of my head. Counselling helped but I struggled on many days to achieve even simple tasks.
Finally, the case was heard at Huntingdon Magistrates’ Court on 14th September 2017. I am not including details of the trial or what has happened since in this post, but I thought it would be useful to add just a few comments for clarification in response to questions that people have asked me. (I have since published a separate article covering the trial in more detail.)
In England a victim cannot get their own lawyer in the criminal courts. They have to rely on the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) as the trial is technically the Crown vs the Defendant. The lawyer assigned to this case turned up ten minutes before the start of the trial, having never met or spoken to me before. This was in stark contrast to my former partner’s lawyer who he was able to choose himself and prepare with for months in advance.
Only the incident on 12th February was tried. Evidence of previous assaults (including the voice recording – which had been heard by police and supplied to the CPS un-cropped) was not considered. (In criminal trials evidence relating to incidents prior to the one in question usually cannot be used.)
The defence lawyer suggested I seemed too strong and intelligent to be a victim of domestic abuse and stated that my behaviour of running away from him and then coming back to apologise was inconsistent. This behaviour, however, is typical of someone abused (who blames themselves for what is happening to them) but this was not explained by the CPS lawyer. I was forbidden to talk about the abusive nature of the relationship prior to 12th February and so could not explain to the Court why I wouldn’t have simply tried to run away and get help.
Key pieces of evidence were, I felt, poorly presented (e.g. photos of my injuries were printed in black and white which rendered some of the bruising much less visible) or not mentioned at all (e.g. phone records) and two prosecution witnesses who had been asked to attend court were never called to give evidence.
My former partner was found guilty of criminal damage to my car but not-guilty of assaulting me. He was given a Conditional Discharge for 12 months and ordered to pay me £300 compensation, a fraction of the cost of the damage. No restraining order was put in place.
After the trial, my former partner gave interviews to several national newspapers and I received a number of abusive messages from trolls (as well as, and for which I will always be extremely grateful, lots of kind messages of support, including a statement from my new college in Cambridge). I have struggled to come to terms with what happened to me and, although I am improving, I continue to suffer from PTSD symptoms, which became worse after the trial. My former partner has remained in Cambridge, and has continued to try to convince my friends I lied about everything.