Christmas evening and she's sitting in the kitchen. Mascara running down her face, one eye swollen and puffy from where he has hit her.

Two police officers are trying to take a statement, but she isn't interested. She's not interested in talking to us either.

Several small children are running around our feet while another woman I take to be her sister is wiping down the kitchen counter.

I don't think that the children are hers, she seems too young.

He's been arrested and removed, she doesn't want to press charges.

It's that same old story.

I don't know what's going through her head, but it's not what would be going through mine if I'd been punched in the face.

She has no explanation, she sits there saying nothing, wanting nothing, doing nothing.

We leave, we are powerless to do anything.

To see what one person can do to the other, and for that other to let them get away with it grinds away at our souls.

It's like a bad cliché, like a Christmas in Walford or a night in Emmerdale.

We do our paperwork and go to our next call.

The last domestic violence case I went to was also a cliché, she told us she would be leaving him. Four hours later he was picking her up from the hospital full of hugs and apologies. Sometimes, just sometimes, I want to show these bullies what it's like to be a victim of violence.

37 thoughts on “Cliché”

  1. Daniel,Apparently it's as part of a “National” press release, but I do know that West Midlands Ambulance Service are putting these posters up. (At least in Shropshire anyway). And they look very, very cool! You can see a samples of them over at, and in particular (even if it is 1.08MB!)



  2. We're blokes. If it happened to you or me, it'd probably be some random drunk dickhead we'd never seen before. She's presumably living with the human sewage stain who blacked her eye.Maybe she's thinking “I'm so useless. I just want them to go away so they can't see how pathetic I am. I promised myself I'd never let this happen to me like it did to mum. It must be my fault, and they can all see it. Why won't they just go away? I can't press charges, that'll make him even angrier. I can't run away, he said he'd find me and kill me and I believe him. He's got lots of mates all over the place: I'll never get away. What will he do when he gets out?”

    “Sometimes, just sometimes, I want to show these bullies what it's like to be a victim of violence”

    I empathise with that but just punching one of these tough guys a few times won't remotely approximate the suffering of their victims. You'd have to keep him in a lock-up somewhere and torture him for months or years. You couldn't do it, I'm glad to say, because you're still human.

  3. You couldn't do it, I'm glad to say, because you're still human.You'd be surprised (although that might just be the night-shifts talking).

    Here is the thing – if my dad had *ever* laid a hand on my mum he'd have woken up on morning with his testicles in a small glass by the side of the bed and my mum washing the blood off the bread knife. It *annoys* me that some other people can't also take their own destiny by the hand (so to speak), even if it's just by asking for help.

  4. Asking for help is the hardest thing for an abused woman to do it took my mam 7 years and she worked for the police so knew what could be done and had friends that wouldnt have thought twice about hurting him.It all about fear your post reminds me of an xmas where my dad decided to break all my presents as me and mam werent ready at exactly 11 to go out for dinner. i was 6.

    Also remember this my dad got kicked out of the house yet he still came back all the time even after the locks were changed and forced his way in just to attack my mother so how do you no she hasnt tried to get rid of him before.

    We all like to believe that the system will protect us but it doesnt always. My father hit me yet the court still made me see him up until im 18. I think this is disgusting im now 17 and still have to suffer going to see him yet I have the scares off his abuse.

  5. That does require one to have intact self-esteem though, and that is usually what's been worn away for years in abuse cases. She is afraid of being with him, but even more so on her own – likely doesn't have the slightest scrap of self-esteem in her ability to make it on her own. Plus there's the reality of continued danger from an ex who would probably never make it into jail.I believe that in relationships that turn abusive, either the spouse leaves the *very first time* violence occurs, or it's going to be a long drag out.

    It must be so frustrating to have to attend these cases – I understand your sentiment. But usually the situations are not nearly so simple as “just up and leave him” because of the psychological damage to the victims.

  6. The beating is the obvious part. The emotional manipulation is what keeps them there, as well as financial dependence. The affection and gifts and apologies, the neediness that is genuine. And leaving does have it's dangers, women are often killed after escaping.In the US, it's usually not a matter of the abused pressing charges, it's a crime, and the state makes the charge. Asking someone so beleaguered to suddenly take all the responsibility on is useless, they have had their will beaten out of them. Stockholm Syndrome could as easily be called Beaten Wife Syndrome.

    It creeps up on even strong women, warping reality. For a weak woman with few resources, which is part of the attraction for manipulative men, it's a deep, deep trap.

  7. Here is a question, something I'm trying to get my head around.Now, as in when I've written about this subject before, commenters tell me about long histories of abuse.But doesn't it start with one punch? One slap? One emotional blackmail?Why do people let it get to a 'history'?Why don't they get the person arrested, thrown out and disown them when the first hand is raised?It just confuses me.

  8. I can only talk about this frm my experances but throwing them out doesnt always work. It took my mam 3 attempts to get my dad to stay away and then it involved a heavey hitting mate of hers threatening him. Which i would say is the main reason theabuse stay with their abusers for the long term and “allow” it to become a historyThe first punch can often come in the middle of an arguement or when drunk and the person just excuses it as a mistake and before they no it their excusing it again and again.

  9. No, it doesn't start with one punch.In some cases, a lot of the job will have been done by an abusive parent and started from early childhood. But even ignoring that, and thinking only of the one specific relationship with the one specific abuser, it starts very small. Hardly noticeable.

    A lot of the time, the very first thing is the abuser making out that the victim has hurt or upset him in some way (btw I'm using “him” for abuser and “her” for victim for convenience but realise it is often the other way around). Like “you completely abandoned me at that party, I felt so out of place” or “I hate it when your friend X comes round, I feel like I can't stay in the room, and she hates me” which has the effect of isolating the victim – they start to socially cut people off to avoid 'hurting' the loved one. They isolate themselves.

    Another starting factor is slight over-reactions. Let's say she spills ketchup on his shirt. A normal reaction is maybe to exclaim, try to clean it off, and then forget it and see if it washes out. An abuser, on the other hand, might throw in a couple of “clumsy cow”s, some reminders of previous episodes of clumsiness, stress how much they liked that shirt, and bring it up in company to belittle the victim… it's nothing to write home about but we're talking about an accumulative effect here.

    Eventually it gets to the point where every time something, no matter how small, happens that can possibly be blamed on or used against the victim, a rant starts. Swearing and shouting and put-downs and threats of leaving, gradually escalating, but nothing physical. The victim might mention it to a friend, but at this stage, friends will probably call it a lover's tiff, and offer advice on dealing with marital disharmony.

    Then, and only then, comes the first slap. And a lot of women have managed to retain the self-esteem and sense to walk out at that point. The ones that don't, though… they won't want to admit to it. They don't want to think of themselves as a “victim of domestic violence” and they don't want to think of the abuser as a “perpetrator of domestic violence”, because those terms bring to mind the media definitions of couples half-killing each other, it's surely not applicable for one slap? They're ashamed of it having happened, they're embarassed that their relationship isn't working as well as they like to think it is.

    Then comes the “it'll never happen again”, a phrase the victim really wants and hopes to believe – even if it is accompanied by “and don't tell anyone, because it'll make us look bad/we don't want people to get the wrong idea”. But it does happen again, and again. Gradually it gets worse. “It'll never happen again” is replaced by “I wouldn't have done it if you hadn't blah blah blah and made me so angry, can't you try not to keep fucking things up?” and the reasons to not tell anyone include “I'll kill you, and your sister, and your mother, and I'll tell everyone what an XYZ you are, and you'll be out on the streets, and this, and that…”

    By the time any injuries are inflicted that leave a mark – let alone that require an ambulance and medical treatment and would have a hope of standing up as an assault charge – the pattern is well and truly set and it takes a hell of a lot to break it.

  10. Hi Tom.I was on shift all day yesterday too. My day was like yours. We had two like you describe. One of which resulted in a lady being truly and terribly injured in an accident which followed her desparate attempt to escape being brutally assaulted with a weapon by her husband.

    The terror. The fear. The tragedy. Somehow last night and today I just can't shake it. Reading your blog makes me feel slightly less isolated and alone whilst all around my happy family celebrate our late christmas day unaware of what seems to be slowly dissolving my soul.

    You guys out there. Have the Merriest Christmas you possibly can.


  11. Dear God, how do people do this to each other? How can someone think that this is right? That it's not only ok to hit someone else, but from the sounds of it, they seem to think that it's their right to do so. How can someone think that?It makes me so thankful for the family that I have. It really really really does. Merry Christmas and a huge thank you to all out there that have to deal with this – I hope at least one has a Christmas miracle that you get to see.

    I may not have experience of any of this (and for that I am very grateful), but I do know from a different experience that having police and ambulance crew that are decent people, that inspire confidence, people that CARE – even if only for the length of the job – is one of the most important things a victim can have. You just don't realise what you're doing at the time – and might not see the result. It might not happen with all, but as they saying goes, there's always one. 🙂

    To all those suffering, if you happen to read this blog, I hope you find the courage, strength and help to find a way out.

  12. And now one of these 'domestic incidents' seems to have (allegedly) led to the death of a policeman. -Or at least the man has been arrested on suspicion of murder.My Dad is a retired policeman and he says they dreaded going to 'domestics' most of all, as often even the victim was just as likely to turn on the police for trying to arrest her partner.

  13. I just wanted to say, excellent reply, that totally fits with the situations I've seen where someone was being abused.

  14. Batsgirl has described this to the letter.My parents are doing this to each other & I have never known a time when they did not follow this pattern. Its development is insiduous and relentless. My father knows exactly what he is doing but claims that nothing is ever his fault, he has always been 'driven' to rage by the actions of my mother. My mother colludes entirely in this, she is unshakeable in her belief that she must do something wrong each and every time.

    She is terrified (but would never admit to this) of being on her own, of not having enough money to live on, of losing him. I believe that she loves him still but I think she is clinging to a memory of what he once was, rather than what he can be now.

    It is very very easy to judge these situations and very very hard to take actions once in them or involved in them. The abusers are rarely abusive 100% of the time, often there are considerably time delays between attacks but the underlying tensions never recede. This makes it possible for families to pretend that all is well – after all, all abusees want it to be ok again.

    I struggle with my feelings towards both my parents, due to this situation. I feel for them both, I love the good people they can be, I resent and blame them for making me witness this throughout my childhood and for involving me in the game when it suited them. I reject utterly their ways but the relationship remains present and if they are unable or unwilling to take control to improve their lives, I remain utterly unable to establish how I should relate to them in a manner which is positive and supportive, without colluding with them again.

    Thank you for writing about all aspects of the work you do, I value your honesty and clarity of a horrible situation.

  15. And, it's not just blokes – anyone hits me, I might be puny, but by Woollies and All Her Chocolate Angels, they'll pay.So ArwenLune's post, and Batsgirl's and the others below, do seem to sum this up. This isn't about fighting – equals trading blows – it's about grinding someone down and using their own lack of self-esteem (such a cliched term – so hard for some people to own) to make them think they bring this abuse on themselves, and/or cannot ever be free of it.

    It's UGLY.

    I am a female person, I have by my age dated many men, for varying lengths of time, and no-one has ever HIT me – so IMO it's not like X% of men automatically hit, or Z% of relationships go to that first punch.

    (And, it's not like I'm not, at times, REALLY annoying – anyone who's seen me post replies here knows I'm gobby, rude, opinionated – and in real life, I can screw things up just like anyone else!)

    Fact is, I dated one guy who tried to grind me down – this was after I'd just got my heart majorly broken – did he sniff the blood like a shark?

    Because he was in my social circle before, and knew all about my unhappiness – he tried to play the games Batsgirl describes so eloquently below.

    When I was dating him, we argued and 5 minutes later, he accidentally bumped me down 2 steps, grazing my knees (first time with grazed knees since my age hit double figures, howja like that?) – another time I spoke back and accidentally, purely by chance, he kicked me….

    But I – glad to say – freaked him out too much by not going along, and he shortly dumped me in the most horrible way he could think of – I won't detail it, but my birthday, middle of the street, whatever, you get the picture.

    48 hours later I was so glad to be rid of this moron, and began to see through his hard work to make things be my fault. Plus all those “accidents” I had, started to point to a pattern!

    I hesitated to post about this, for a bit, fearing it would look like a big FU to people who've been abused, but then I re-thought things and wanted to demonstrate that abusers – and this guy was a City Gent, none of your estate scumbags – are trolling 24/7 for targets, and are not limited in their reach.

    He saw what he thought he wanted in me – happily, my mum made me able to be the right kind of selfish/self-assured/hard headed, and even though I was at the lowest point (emotionally) of my life, I shook him off like a cold and moved on to better things.

    But – I was nearly there – I kind of loved him, we did have lots in common, he was funny, charming, intelligent, and sweet at times – if he'd played me a bit differently, if I'd been just a bit more inclined to feel bad about myself…. this post might have been about me.

    I hope not, I hope I'd have spotted the warning signs?

    But it might.

  16. (Hugs) AmbuSam, take care of yourselfI'm with batsgirl on this one; I've always wondered why on earth anyone would stay around for the second punch, but obviously it is not as simple as that, but goodness knows what the answer is.

  17. I'm impressed…Full-page story on the front page of one of our free local newspapers this week under the headline “EMERGENCIES ONLY” and with the subheading: “DON'T CLOG ACCIDENT UNIT EXPECTING TREATMENT FOR MINOR AILMENTS“. And most of page 2 is taken up with another article “LEAVE OUR STAFF ALONE” about the importance of not being abusive to NHS staff, in particular ambulance crews (apparently this week sees the launch of a poster campaign in Warwickshire about this).

    I just thought I'd mention this, seeing as so often on this blog we rant about the negative stories the press pick up on and then twist and exaggerate beyond all recognition. Oh, by the way, the paper is the Royal Leamington Spa Times…

  18. Indeed! (They printed that poster with the article.) Looks great…Was it just the stop-abuse campaign that's a national thing, or did you mean the article they had on the front page too?

  19. What is it with Christmas Eve that makes people want to hurt each other? It's as if they feel they have to hurt someone and ruin their Christmas. New Year's Eve isn't as bad, people don't tend to fight as much, it's get drunk fall over, call ambulance on New Year's Eve. But for some reson the trolls want to hurt someone on Christmas Eve, it's a blessing not to work it some times.

  20. Thats awfull and what really gets me is that there is nothing we can do to help!! What a way to spend christmas and whats more she will probably go through the same thing next christmas and the one after that!! What a shame 🙁

  21. Well, I have a '?better' cliche for you Tom, got a call to a bba ?suspended. And the job really was as given. So, we saw in Christmas doing neonatal CPR. Not nice. I really will never forget that job.:'(

    Anyway, change of atmosphere. How was you Christmas? And, what is the name of your new book!!! I got your 1st one for Chrismas, so I now have two!! I am also reading: In Stiches, The diary of an on call girl, wasting police time and a paramedics diary. Verdict= really rather good, even if the chapters are a bit to long for my poor little head 😀 (I like to be ableto pick up a book, read about a page and put it back down again, because my attention span is not huge!!)

  22. “What is it with Christmas Eve that makes people want to hurt each other?”My theory is, all year round most of us want to, for example, eat fancy food, drink a bit more than normal, have time off work, spend time socialising, give & receive gifts etc – and holidays are the time to indulge those desires in a healthy way.

    Sadly, some people's year-round itch is to thump other people, so they, just like us, pick up the holiday vibe, let their hair down – and indulge themselves in their favourite activity.

  23. Some of it is early training.By younger brother used to beat me. He was taller and out weighed me by over a hundred pounds, but my mother always said it was my fault. One evening he knocked me out and I came to with him still kicking me. I was able to escape and ran down the street bleeding from my mouth, nose, and cuts on my face and arms. Someone I did not know came out and when they saw me, they invited me inside and called the police.

    The police sneered at me and my parents yelled. My eyes were black and swelled shut for a couple of days, and further punishment was heaped on me. My mother let me know that I was never to call the police for a family argument no matter what. She also told me that I should try being nicer to him and do whatever was needed not to provoke him. That night I had provoked him by eating some of the dinner that I had fixed for the two of us. After that anytime I tried to so much as defend myself, I was punished. Meek responses to his punching me out of the blue were acknowledged as appropriate.

    A few years later after I had moved out, I visited my mother and again he beat me bloody. This time he broke my nose. I insisted on going home and when I got there my husband took me to the doctor. My mother was scornful that I was leaving early and that I went to the doctor. Again she told me I just needed to be nicer and not provoke him. It was made very clear to me that it was entirely my fault.

    My refusal to attend family gatherings where he might show up is seen as a severe over reaction. I am told I should forgive and forget.

  24. That's really sad…..Happy Christams Tom. It's now a year since I disovered you, when I got your book for Christmas!

  25. A few years ago a met a really 'nice' man at a singles club, a few weeks after my 20 yr marriage had broken up. He was well-dressed, well-spoken and I was completely fooled, and let him move in as I was having a break-down. He turned out to be a rotter; cruel, lazy, manipulative, a boozer, a bit slappy, and when I tried to leave he threatened to find me, burn down my house and kill my children. I tried to blank it out, ignore it, hoping it would go away, but had to go in the end after 4 years. I lost my house, all my possessions, and still look over my shoulder when I go near his home-town. The only marks he left were on my mind. It is not easy to just walk away, there is so much at stake. Luckily I have met a better man and remarried.

  26. Expectations. People want or expect things to be a certain way. When they aren't, people use whatever tools they have. Some have charm, domestication, energy, creativity, determination, vigilance, resilience, flexibility as tools to either create what we want or accept the different picture. Not everyone has those skills and turn to brute force, manipulation and violence to either try to change the situation into that “picture perfect christmas” or deal with the disappointment.

  27. Just thought I should mention:Your anger about this and your attempts to understand are valuable to the process of education and change.

  28. The law is the same in NZ. There's no need for the woman to press charges. If the police are called out to a domestic violence case, they will arrest the perpetrator, on exactly the same kind of grounds as “disturbing the peace”. Except, of course, it's assault.

  29. I'd been dating my boyfriend for a year when I became pregnant. Until that time, I had mistaken his anger for passion. The clever ones dont use slaps or punches – anything that can be clearly identified as the tool of a bully. They push you down the stairs, bang your head against the wall, yell at the top of their voices whilst waving their fists around their ears, push you over – I remember the moment when I became terrified of him – he bodyslammed me to the floor, crushed me with his weight (he had become very fat during my pregnancy, presumably because I was cooking bigger portions) whilst kicking, yelling and screaming, beating his fists on the floor around my head, basically like a toddler having a tantrum, except I was undernearth. He was so big and heavy, I couldnt breathe. That was the moment I realised he was so out of control, he could kill me. His anger would spark off and go crazy.My parents had made it very clear that I could not return to them, because I was pregnant (unbeknown to me, they were also dealing with dad's cancer), when I went to the council and local housing associations, they had no-where for me to go, i wasnt a priority (was it because I had no baby yet? all i remember was they couldnt help me) and because I was a student, I was not eligible for income support, so if I left, I would have no roof over my head and no way to pay for one.

    From that day on, I lived in fear of him and his outbursts, it took me 7 years to find a way out. When I did, I lived in isolation for years. Not able to get proper work because the school day was so short, shorter still because i had epilepsy and could not drive, and not able to find friends because I had no proper work and was not able to go out in the evening because i had a little one. Still, a struggling life alone looking after my son was better than a life in fear. But the loneliness compounded my feelings that i was to blame. If I was a better person, surely I would have friends?

    I yearned to speak to him, to hear his voice- the man who held my hand when our son was born, the person who stuck by me the most when no-one else did. Loneliness drove me to despair and suicide attempts. Sometimes, desperate for contact with another person, I even called him. He would tell me that I had made too much of it, that it was all my fault for being scared. I believed him.

    When the tv counsellors tell you how important it is to help your child maintain a good picture of his father, they dont tell you how to justify leaving an angry violent man to an 8 year old without damaging his image of his father (and hence himself). its impossible. I listened to them and chose not to revile my ex. But my son cannot help but blame me for our split.

    I believe the statistics in the UK are that one woman dies every four days at the hands of her partner. Given the lack of support for women who want to leave, the difficulty of leaving with one's child/children when there is no-where to go, the isolation of single mothers, and the impact of low-self esteem, the surprise should be that so many women manage to do it, somehow.

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