“The other day I did fucking hit my old lady…”
By Tom Allan
The Christmas light were up this week in the centre of Plymouth. There was even a carousel, all gold and horses and bright mechanical music. People were rushing about, trying to grab a bit of shopping, and heading home from work.
“Excuse me sir, do you have time for a quick interview?”
I was on Cornwall street, trying to interview a few passers by for a radio piece I was making. Most people just kept walking – this man was the first person to stop.
“I’m asking people about domestic violence.” I said, as he flicked unwanted elements out of his Chinese takeaway. His voice was a little slurred.
“What do you mean, domestic violence?”
I wasn’t expecting that. “When there’s violence between a couple” I explained.
“Yeah, it is quite a problem, yeah…they shouldn’t do it really, should they?” he said. He paused.
“The other day I did fucking hit my old lady…but that’s cos I was drinking…”
“Why did you hit her?” I asked.
“Because I wanted money.”
Ten minutes later I was sitting with the Council Leader, Vivien Pengelly. I was there to ask her about a protest, a silent march against domestic abuse, that’s taking place in Plymouth on the 24th of November. We talked about the nature of the problem, and how the city was trying to deal with it.
“A woman will put up with 35, 36, 37 instances of abuse before she will do anything about it.” Vivien tell me. “It’s not easy to just get up and walk away with your children.”
Plymouth’s former police chief, Maurice Watts, has been appointed by Council to be their “domestic abuse manager.” And they recently awarded 1.2 million pounds to the charity Carr-Gomm, for a pilot project that will provide thirteen new homes and a refuge for families affected by domestic abuse.
It all sounds very positive. Mrs.Pengelly is passionate about the subject, there’s extra funding, and a ex-police chief driving it forward. The message is, this is a crime, and a serious one.
But somehow, writing this now, I just feel a bit sick. I keep coming back to what Mark (I got his name after the interview) had said. The way he blamed it on the bottle of vodka he had drunk. Then on the fact that his wife had been shouting at him. And how he had talked her round afterwards.
“I kissed her straight backand apologised. Soon as I’d done it, I sort of went like that to say I was sorry.”
I don’t know her name – I didn’t ask Mark what it was. So she’s Mrs.X. I don’t know much about her. I only know that her husband hit her last week – and that she didn’t leave.