In this blog Rhianon Bragg shares her experiences of domestic abuse in a rural setting, and being let down by the criminal justice system.
Day 3635 – nearly 10 years since my children and I were targeted.
I can’t concentrate, I can’t think straight, I can’t focus, I am fearful for the future – this is my norm. With PTSD, this is our life – the targets of a man who was a coercive controller, domestic abuser and stalker. Like many others, I have also been significantly failed by numerous parts of the criminal justice system (CJS). Utterly unacceptable, we’re lucky to have survived this far.
Recently he’s been interviewed – part of a live police investigation. There’s been a Parole hearing – I have not heard the outcome officially yet. It can take up to two weeks for the victim to be told. Many assume you’re the first to know. You’re not.
There has been no respite for us as his victims. The perpetrator focussed criminal justice processes keep us in a state of high anxiety and plenty of uncertainty. Your rights are few and far between – far fewer than you’ll imagine if you haven’t experienced the system.
We live in the countryside, a place that’s always been home. It’s beautiful and now, because of him, dangerous too. Since I first went to the police I have repeatedly flagged up how he used aspects of rurality to facilitate his abuse, isolating us from the community, a sparse population – the lack of witness, guns, nobody to hear us scream. Do I feel that I have been listened to by the CJS? Not yet, not really.
When I found the National Rural Crime Network (NRCN) report Captive & Controlled over two years ago, it was a moment of relief. Issues of rurality that I felt like I had been banging my head against a brick wall about, were here, spelt out, with recommendations to all levels of the CJS. Clarity itself.
I forwarded it to our Police and Crime Commissioner, to be told we’re not part of the NRCN, a network of PCCs and police forces championing a better understanding of crime in rural areas. However disappointing that was, the information, the research, the learning, the recommendations are all still there – it just needs to be implemented.
Our perpetrator is a convicted Stalker. He fits the ‘8 Steps’ that, according to research, typically precede domestic homicide with disturbing accuracy.
As a Stalker, he’s showing a strong and unsettling desire to return to this area – his area of offending, the sparsely populated area within which we, his victims live. To be clear, living amongst his traditional support network never stopped him offending before. He was known about.
He told me, when he held me hostage, that this was his territory, that he did what he wanted when he wanted, where he wanted, always had and always would. The words of a perpetrator who felt invincible, and who had used aspects of rurality to facilitate his abuse over years. I have shared this with the CJS – has it been taken into account?
Don’t you find the thought of a convicted stalker, wanting to come back to the area his victims live in, incredibly disturbing?
Does that spell remorse to you?
Think about it.
Surely if the offender was in any way remorseful, through recognising the wrong they have done to their victims, they would want to establish themselves elsewhere?
As a victim, I battle for our future safety – just to carry on living in our own home. I battle for mental health provision, I’ve battled for all sorts of support – I shouldn’t have to. No victim should have to, but this is the reality.
Within this nightmare, I have found some positives in the work I do now, delivering training, working on projects to make positive change – some local, some national. To find some light in this darkness is a small relief.
I speak out through the press. I was anxious at first – the results of his coercion. Would I be believed, would I be judged, would I be able to do it?
But it has felt right to let others learn from our abuse. To forearm them with knowledge that we did not have.
I have worked with a number of journalists with a range of different audiences all of whom have been sensitive to the nature of the subject. I’m grateful for the column inches and airtime that the subject and I have been given.
I want others to know the challenges we have met, I don’t want them to be as naïve as I was. It gets said, but I promise you if I can help prevent another from suffering as we have, then it will all be worthwhile.
Now at the end, tell me, what are your hopes and dreams?
I’ll share mine, it is that my children and I will be able to live free from fear in our own home.
Who knows what the future will bring.
If you need help or advice on domestic abuse, you can get in touch with the Free 24/7 National Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0808 2000 247 – or contact any of the specialist domestic abuse organisations and helplines listed on our Resources page.