Domestic violence happens to someone else, doesn’t it?

It’s Monday and, as some of you will know, yesterday I blogged about gardening.

Such a mundane subject when, on the same day,  I read a blog from a friend talking about being a victim of domestic violence. Gardening seems such a trite thing to talk about in that context.

It was one of those blogs where you reflect on what you know of that person and you think ‘what? I’d never have thought it!’

Which just goes to show that domestic violence is no respecter of intelligence, personality or income. There may well be some evidence that if you’ve been brought up in a violent household, then you are more likely to be attracted to that kind of environment later. Work I’ve done around domestic violence murders, does seem to suggest this can be the case. But not having that kind of background, doesn’t mean you won’t be a victim of domestic violence.

I know this because I was a victim of it too. Not the ‘mysterious black eyes’ or facial bruises type. But the ‘you’re ugly’, ‘you’re fat’, ‘you’re stupid’, ‘you’re no good at anything’ type. All the signs were there at the beginning – but when they say love is blind, well it certainly was for me. This was one occasion in my life when I thought I’d got  it all. I finally got the good-looking guy, the man everyone wanted to go out with. He had piercing blue eyes, appeared successful and very attentive.

When I first met him, he ‘shared’ a flat with a woman who’d been his partner but they’d split up some time ago. I visited at his invitation and found, to my surprise, there was only one bedroom. But I conveniently overlooked this fact.

Then soon after, we were running to cross a wide road in Bath and I was accidentally left behind, a little slower than him and lost his hand. I laughingly crossed the road after him only to get a tirade of verbal abuse about how I’d humiliated and embarrassed him.

As I said, all the signs were there.

There then followed a roller coaster of two years of emotional abuse, interlaced with break-ups, reunions and the end period of living together. Along with the personal stuff (I was watched over all the time) there was the debt collectors and the lies, the money borrowed in my name and more which I just cannot go into here…

In the end it was a small thing which made me see the light. Something so small I can’t even remember what happened. I just walked out, called my parents, and asked for sanctuary. Luckily they agreed.

I’d made the mistake of agreeing to buy a house with this character – but luckily my name was on all the paperwork and I decided to go ahead on my own. A brave decision as I was responsible for a large loan, taken out without my permission and in my name, for motorbike parts, which I had to pay off for two years in order to not be blacklisted.

Once the relationship was over, I saw this man for what he was – a pathetic, sad little man, more pathetic than I had ever realised. I was stalked for six months, where he would turn up when I was out covering an event, he would call my parents and slag me off in terms no one wants their loved ones to hear, he would phone me at work especially if I was on a late shift. I always asked where my money was – he always said he’d pay with interest – I’m still waiting. That was over 20 years ago.

Frankly, it was cheap enough to get rid of that man. The experience taught me something important – I am deeply sensitive to any man who criticises me in a personal capacity when he barely knows me. Some short time after this relationship, I had a couple of dates with a man who told me he didn’t like my coat and thought I should get another – I never went out with him again.

I don’t judge anyone who puts up with dv for a period of time. It’s so easy to be blind – or to truly believe you can change someone or to be so downtrodden that you just cannot see a way out.

I also sometimes dream of that time and then wake up and feel a rush of relief that I’m not back there. I count myself lucky to have broken free and found someone I can be myself with  and not be fearful for my safety or sanity.


Vincent Tabak – the murderer next door

The utterances of Vincent Tabak during his recent trial for the murder of Joanna Yeates have, at times, made me want to throw something at the radio or TV each time I heard his thoughts broadcast.

The man took no responsibility whatsoever for what he’d done and even had the nerve to give a sympathy-seeking, sobbing apology to Joanna’s parents. Fortunately the jury saw through his charade and convicted him of murder and now the real truth is coming out about him, his lifestyle and distasteful preferences. It is, sadly, the world-weary truth that a journalist will often know more than they can report and expect that more information will be revealed after a conviction.

The murder of Joanna Yeates and subsequent trial of Vincent Tabak has had an incredible amount of coverage in the media. There has been, on average, 800 murders per year since the year 2000, although there was a drop in the statistics in 2010 to 651. What is it about this case that has generated so much interest and publicity?

As a resident of Bristol, I found myself to be overly curious about Joanna’s initial disppearance.

It was a strange case as it showed that murder could happen anywhere, even in leafy Clifton, and to anyone. But the most disturbing thing was that a person could just disappear and that the murderer could be the ordinary, non-descript, man next door.

As the investigation began, each nugget of information was seized upon by the media and repeated. In such an excited situation there is a huge pressure as a reporter to get the story first, especially now that news is broadcast around the clock. But it comes at what cost? It reminded me of the frenzied and inaccurate reporting that happened during the initial stages of the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. There were huge fines that newspapers had to pay following the investigation into inaccurate reporting and now there is also an inquiry into press conduct being led by Lord Justice Leveson.

There is a clear line as a journalist between reporting the facts, and conjecture, and it is emphasised repeatedly in journalism training.

Speculation makes people tune into your broadcast and sells newspapers, but it is a gamble. Unless you can validate those assertions in court, you, and your publication, could be prosecuted. And as a journalist, surely your responsibility is to report the facts so that an accurate picture of the story can be understood.

If you are not independent in thought, it is easy to mislead…or be misled.

In fact, the media were manipulated by the very man guilty of Joanna’s murder. One of the facts that has now emerged is that the person who pointed the finger of suspicion at Christopher Jefferies, the landlord of Joanna Yeates, was in fact…Vincent Tabak. The police arrested him and he was vilified by the press. I remember one report was trying to link him to previous unsolved cases in Bristol going back thirty years. Released without charge, he was guilty of nothing except having a bad comb-over hairstyle and a rather louche style of dress.

I’m not surprised that other details about Vincent Tabak have emerged post trial. In a way, it is a slight reassurance, that the neighbour on your doorstep is probably just that, and not a potential murderer.


Have you forgotten Meredith? It’s all about Miss Knox.

Let's not forget Meredith....

Social media world is buzzing tonight with the freeing of Amanda Knox, as an Italian appeal court quashes her conviction for killing Meredith Kercher, from London.


It’s interesting as a UK resident to see the American reaction to this result – it seems many, many people always believed Amanda Knox to be innocent.


Even Oprah Winfrey apparently did a programme

involving Miss Knox’s parents.


In fact, the reaction suggests that Miss Knox will almost be welcomed home as a hero. All in keeping with the impression I have of this lady, an outgoing, all-American girl, confident and, to me it seems, a bit in-your-face.

I wasn’t there to hear the case in its entirety and as my Italian allows me to ask for an ice-cream and that’s all – well, it wouldn’t have made much difference any way.


But on seeing this reaction, I just keep thinking what about Meredith Kercher and her family?


What must they be feeling now? Does any one care about them? Will we ever truly know what happened to poor Meredith?

This family has kept themselves very private during this latest twist in a tale of murder and sex.

And while, it’s right that any miscarriage of justice is revealed, what about the victims in all of this?

We must not forget that at the centre, there is a family whose child was murdered in horrible circumstances and there is, to me, something grating about celebrating an all-round awful situation.

A man is serving a sentence for his involvement in the killing of Meredith. But this appeal case does raise so many questions about what happened to her.


I feel so uneasy about all of this. I don’t want innocent people to spend time in prison but let’s not forget that a young woman died here and her family don’t have the answers.


So as I see the buzz and watch the media reports, my heart goes out to the Kercher family – because for them, nothing has changed. Meredith has gone and they have to deal with that day in, day out. Tomorrow won’t bring a day of freedom for them.

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