‘From a strong, independent woman to a quivering wreck’

A story of domestic abuse

Robert started by offering to buy all of Siobhán’s clothes. She wasn’t making the most of herself and he could help, he said. She refused.

Then he turned on her friends. He would say: “If you truly love me, like I love you, you’d want to spend your time with me, not your friends.”

The flowers and compliments dried up, he’d laugh at her opinions and put her job down, eventually convincing her to leave work and stay at home.

“He became more moody and unpredictable, flying into rages without provocation,” she says.


Then one day she called him in work about an overdue bill. He was angry, and hung up.

“I’d almost forgotten by the time he came home, but when he walked in the front door he went ballistic,” she says.

“I’ve never been able to handle confrontations, so I told him I was leaving. With that, all hell broke loose. He shouted and roared at me, grabbed a long knife from the kitchen and completely destroyed the livingroom, slashing furniture and smashing ornaments. Then he locked the front door, pointed the knife at me and said ‘you’re not going anywhere’.”

Bottle of perfume

Nothing was said the next day and Siobhán buried the experience and carried on. Three months later, on her birthday, he gave her a bottle of perfume and she accidentally dropped it when taking it out of the box.

“He swore and shouted at me for being stupid and what happened next was so quick I still don’t remember it properly,” she says.

“One minute I was standing there watching the perfume bottle shatter then, bang! I was sitting on the kitchen floor wondering what the hell had happened.”

Next day, when Robert was at work, she felt so low she spent most of the morning searching the house for pills for an overdose.

“I’d gone from being a strong, independent woman to this quivering wreck, with no friends, no job, and no confidence.”

A friend had given her a card for Women’s Aid and she phoned them. After the call, she packed and left.

“I still think of that day as the day my life changed.”

* Names have been changed to protect identities.

- Women’s Aid national helpline is open 24 hours at 1800 341 900

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland is a crime writer and former Irish Times journalist