A victim of domestic abuse has said her experience of the family justice system has left her ‘broken’.
Karen* has backed the ‘Just and Fair’ campaign by local charity La Dolce Vita Project, which will be the focus of an event in Stormont next week.
She suffered years of domestic abuse at the hands of her ex-partner and believes the family justice system ‘revictimises’ women.
“There was no physical violence in the relationship but there was emotional and financial abuse. He controlled how people viewed me, what I did, where I went and everything was my fault.
“It took me a long time to realise it was going on. It was so masterfully done I didn’t even trust my own intuition. I ignored his behaviour or played it down.”
Karen said by the time the relationship ended she was a ‘shadow’ of her former self.
For months, he made little or no attempt to see their children.
“He would say that he wanted to see the children, but then wouldn’t show up for months and months. He began to harass me during this time, phoning constantly and sending text messages.”
Family court proceedings were launched by her ex-partner and Karen believes this was an attempt to continue to control her.
“Because he said the magic words ‘I want to see my children’ the courts were prepared to put us through anything to ensure he got access that he didn’t actually seem to want.
“Every time an order was made he breached it but he was always allowed contact.”
Karen eventually stopped her children having contact with their father.
“I was threatened that my children would be removed if I refused to give my ex-partner contact. He used the court process to make accusations about me and to hurl abuse at me.”
She said that the system re-victimised her and she felt she was ‘treated like a criminal’.
“It was always me that had to prove my innocence in respect of the allegations he made. There was no onus on him to prove anything.
“Often I felt like what I said in hearings was dismissed by the court, but what he said was taken as gospel.”
Karen said the whole family justice system needs an overhaul and ‘attitudes need to change’.
“The system needs to look at the background and take it into account. It didn’t seem to matter that he had a history of being abusive and behaving in twisted, controlling ways. He was always treated with more respect and reverence than I ever was.”
*Names have ben changed.