After meeting her perpetrator aged 18, Caitlin went on to suffer unimaginable abuse as her charming partner turned into a man prone to fierce tempers and violent outbursts which eventually led to her leaving the relationship.
But it was not a quick journey from the start of the violence to her exit as she endured years of abuse while trying to protect her two step-children and her own daughter.
Caitlin is a pseudonym for an RCN member and student nurse currently in her second year at the University of East Anglia. She has now written a book about what happened to her aimed at people in abusive relationships, or those who think they might be.
It outlines the signs of abuse and the different types of abuser, how to identify if you are suffering abuse and also key advice on what to do next.
But the self-published book - Love Doesn’t Hurt You: Know The Signs of Domestic Abuse – is also aimed at those who might come into contact with victims, so they can pick up on signals of abuse and help them take action.
Caitlin said: “I used to do a lot of work for Interprofessional Learning (IPL). As a guest speaker I would come in to talk about domestic violence situations you might find yourself in, to educate student nurses, pharmacists, doctors and the general health services. They could hear from someone with a personal experience of domestic abuse.
“Following completion of a psychology degree, I decided to go into nursing and didn’t feel it was appropriate for me to continue my work for IPL so I took the plunge to write a book about my own personal experience of domestic abuse and to highlight the barriers of why I didn’t contact the police and why I didn’t communicate with health professionals. Then when I did communicate with health professionals, why the subtle hints weren’t picked up.”
Spotting the subtle hints
Caitlin said she wanted to write something for people going through domestic abuse, as well as something for health professionals to help them spot the subtle hints. “The victim might have the perpetrator next to them, so it’s about how to look for non-verbal clues,” she said.
“You have got to be able to distinguish the difference between somebody who might be extremely excited about having a baby and her husband doing all the talking and somebody who might not be speaking but is a victim of abuse.”
The book includes two screening tools for domestic violence.
Asking the right questions
“In America, women are screened routinely for signs of domestic abuse,” Caitlin said. “I know we screen during pregnancy but it doesn’t happen as much as it should. The two basic tools can be used to help ask even if they don’t have the confidence to ask directly ‘are you in an abusive relationship?’
“This tool helps break down communication and ask questions in a subtle way.” Caitlin acknowledged that it could be hard for a student or health professional to actually ask the questions which could lead to abuse being identified and acted upon.
“The toolkit helps with confidence,” she said. “The victim might not answer at that particular appointment, but may go away and come back and disclose and ask for help.
“I have also listed as many organisations as I can so health professionals can signpost victims to other organisations.”
Caitlin doesn’t recognise the woman she is today, but knows she cannot escape the effects the past abuse has had on her, and her daughter. She hopes the book can help others escape a cycle of abuse and better equip those who may be in a position to help them.