Donna’s Story

Donna was referred to The Haven’s Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) Service for support after she was subjected to physical and emotional abuse by her ex-partner. The case was in court and she needed help with understanding what to expect and what was expected from her. Her road to justice was painfully long and frustrating. So much so that she made multiple attempts to end her life. When we spoke to her, she said repeatedly that she may no longer be alive if it wasn’t for the encouragement and support she received from our IDVA. 

I moved to Wolverhampton during an ongoing criminal investigation for violence I had been subjected to by my ex-partner. I had to leave my home of 12 years for my safety. I was referred to The Haven who are the main point of contact for the Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) Service in Wolverhampton. I was immediately allocated an IDVA but because of my past convictions, I was unsuitable for The Haven’s safe accommodation. I was offered a space in another temporary accommodation. 

My mental health was significantly impacted by everything that was going on. It only deteriorated after moving to a new town where I did not have a support network outside of the IDVA. I started using alcohol to cope and whilst in this initial temporary accommodation, I took an overdose to end my life. I was really struggling, and I did not feel supported by the staff there. The Haven’s IDVA helped me find another safe temporary accommodation within Wolverhampton.  

She also referred me to Recovery Near You for support with alcohol misuse. Initially, I was very engaged but fell back into old habits as the case prolonged. I was really struggling with my anxiety, and alcohol made me numb. I did not know whether I was coming or going and began to use alcohol again as a coping mechanism to try and numb the pain. 

The Haven’s IDVA contacted the allocated Criminal Justice Community Psychiatric Nurse who advised that due to the complexities of my mental health needs, I was to be referred to the Wolverhampton Complex Care Team. I was put on a waiting list. By then, I had already been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

The Haven’s IDVA supported me to make a homeless application through Wolverhampton Homes, but the application was unsuccessful because the staff at the initial temporary accommodation advised that I was not capable of living independently. To this day, I am not sure how they came to that conclusion, or why they gave this advice, but I am thankful that The Haven was able to help me challenge this.  

The Haven’s IDVA arranged a professional meeting with all the professionals involved including Wolverhampton Homes, Probation Service, Changing Lives, Recovery Near You, Criminal Justice Community Psychiatric Nurse, and the Support Worker from the initial temporary accommodation. The Support Worker did not attend the meeting. The IDVA advised Wolverhampton Homes that I previously held a tenancy for 12 years prior to moving to Wolverhampton with no issues. Everyone in attendance agreed that there is no evidence that I could not live independently, and I was granted priority banding.  

The Haven’s IDVA attempted to follow up with my Support Worker from the initial temporary accommodation but was unable to make contact. Shortly after this, the perpetrator in my criminal case was charged with kidnapping and actual bodily harm. A court date was set. The IDVA contacted the West Midlands Police (WMP) Witness Care Unit and arranged for support and for me to attend court for a pre-trial visit. 

At the pre-trial visit, I was able to familiarise myself with the court process. I was shown around the courtroom, I was told where key the parties involved in the proceedings might be sitting, I was told what to expect on the day of trial and I was given the opportunity to ask any questions.  

As we were getting ready for court on the day, we were informed by WMP Witness Care Unit that the trial had been postponed for 5 months. I did not know what to think or say. I had waited so long to get here, and I was told on the day that I would have to wait another 5 months! Sadly, yet again I turned to alcohol to cope. I felt like my life was no longer worth it and I took my frustrations out on anyone who came close to me. An incident occurred at the temporary accommodation I was residing at, and I was asked to leave the accommodation.  

I moved into a mixed hostel and my alcohol consumption increased. The Haven’s IDVA facilitated another meeting to ensure that I was being adequately supported by all agencies and it was agreed that they would meet monthly. The Haven’s IDVA provided me with intense emotional support throughout the criminal justice process.  

The evening before we were due to attend court again after the 5 months wait, I was called and told not to attend court. At this point, my anxiety worsened very quickly. Two weeks later, I received another call informing me to attend court the next day. However, I was advised that I would now need to go to a different court than the one where the pre-trial visit was arranged.  

The day finally came and The Haven’s IDVA was in court with me. She was incredibly supportive, and I have no idea how I would have done all of this without her. I read my statement. I was then advised that a witness who was crucial to the case had not attended. The Crown Prosecution Service nor WMP Witness Care Unit knew how to get in touch with the witness, so I was asked to contact them. I found this to be very shocking. I called the witness from my phone, and she told me she could not get to court as they had no money for transportation. A police chaperone was arranged to bring her to court the next day. I was then told that the trial would not go ahead and that I would need to return to court the next day. At this point, I had read my statement multiple times. I was furious. I was so upset because I had just relived the incident multiple times and it had taken a lot for me to build the confidence to give evidence in court. I went home disappointed and struggled to sleep as I was concerned that the case would be postponed again.  

The next day, The Haven’s IDVA accompanied me to court again. Even though I knew I would not be able to move forward with my life until justice is served, I had made up my mind that if the case was postponed again, I would not be attending court to give evidence. Surprisingly, the perpetrator gave a last-minute guilty plea and admitted to actual bodily harm but not kidnapping. I requested a restraining order and was advised that this will be granted upon sentencing. 

The sentencing was postponed for a month and when the perpetrator was finally sentenced, he was given a custodial sentence of 3 and a half years. To put things in context, the maximum sentence for actual bodily harm is 5 years. A restraining order was granted for 12 years.  

With the help and support of The Haven’s IDVA, I have recently accessed medication to stop drinking from Recovery Near You and I am making plans to move forward with my life. I have also been accessing The Haven’s Free to Transform programmes to help me build on my self-esteem. 

I am still waiting for an appointment with the Wolverhampton Complex Care Team which is now booked for March 2023 

Donna’s name has been changed to protect her identity. Images are for illustration purposes only.

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