A young woman who recently walked away from an abusive relationship has shared her story to encourage mothers to leave abusive partners, insisting that is the best decision for them and their children.

All too often, women stay in abusive relationships for their children. This emerged in court this week when the sister of femicide victim Bernice Cassar – whose husband is charged with killing her in November last year – said that, for many years, Bernice wanted to stay in the marriage “to keep her family together”.

I could not let my child grow up thinking this was normal- Abuse survivor

The woman – who is not being named to protect her child – came forward to share the message of hope to mothers who feared making the leap.

“Going back is the easy way out,” she said.

“I would get beaten every few weeks or months but, at least, I would not have to face all this hassle – the threats and the expenses. I am the victim, yet, in the past two years I’ve had to fork out thousands of euros in lawyers’ fees for something I did not do.

"I also used to go to a psychologist every week for a couple of weeks to try and figure out what was going on and try to understand how someone else’s brain works,” she said.

She explained how the violence started a few months into their relationship.

Her partner beat her, then apologised and assured her that it was a one-off. She believed him because she loved him and, when she later became pregnant, she believed that would change everything.

“I went to a psychologist. He told me something that stayed with me. He helped me see that my partner was behaving the way he was because it was normal to him – he was brought up in that environment. That was when it hit me: I could not let my child grow up thinking this was normal,” she said.

So, the next time he hit her she went to file a police report. She took her toddler with her and had to wait for over two hours before she was told she’d better return the next day as they were busy.

Sometime later she returned and filed the report. Things did not change and she eventually moved in with her parents and tried to rebuild her life by working full-time to save money to build a home with her child.

I am the victim, yet, in the past two years I’ve had to fork out thousands of euros in lawyers’ fees for something I did not do

Meanwhile, the partner kept harassing her, saying he wanted her back and sending threatening messages including that she and her child would “suffer for the rest of your life”.

Murdered mother Bernice Cassar told her sister she had stayed in her marriage for many years to keep her family together. Photo: FacebookMurdered mother Bernice Cassar told her sister she had stayed in her marriage for many years to keep her family together. Photo: Facebook

'I cried so much. It could have been me'

It was around that time that Cassar was killed.

“I was at work when the news spread. I cried so much. It could have been me,” she said.

She filed another police report about the threats and consented to take a risk assessment using the tool known as the DASH system – the Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Honour Risk Identification.

Her risk factor resulted to be “medium” after she scored 11 – the same score achieved by Cassar. This emerged during the court case against the victim’s husband, Roderick Cassar, who was charged with her murder on November 22, 2022.

“This is a complete farce. Her case was so much worse than mine,” said the woman, adding that, this time, the case against her partner was appointed to be heard as a compilation of evidence. He admitted to the charges and there is a restriction order to stop him from harassing her.

Since then, the protection order was breached and she filed another report on this matter – she is waiting for action to be taken.

The woman feels that not enough is being done to support domestic violence victims. The government plans to introduce legislation that allows a person to check if their partner has a history of abuse.

“Does this make sense? For me, the answer is no. If one had to check and confront the partner that there were such cases, I can assure you that, somehow,  they will blame the victim and convince you that it was not their fault,” she said.

Not easy to remain strong - it takes months to go to court

She believes more has to be done to educate victims, by spelling out to them the reality they are in.

“Are victims aware that almost 100 per cent of the time the perpetrator will do the same thing over and over again? Is there awareness or are we just telling victims to make the first step and file the report and, then, nothing?

"It’s not easy for a victim to remain strong, especially when it takes months to go to court. Remember, the perpetrator will shower the victim with gifts, begging him or her to drop the charges,” she said.

Her message is that the only way out is for the victim to take the step and walk away.

“This is the message I wish to share: be strong, there is hope. Taking the decision to move out of such a relationship is the scariest thing ever as you’ll be going into the unknown.

"However, once they make such a decision, even if it will take ages to find themselves again after being controlled by someone for months or years, they will realise that it will be the best decision for them and their loved ones.”

 

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