Bath Chronicle

Domestic abuse happened to me – chief inspector

- Emma Elgee Reporter

“It can happen to anyone, even a police officer.

“Domestic abuse doesn’t discrimina­te, people may be surprised an officer has had this experience but anyone can be a victim of this.

“In some ways being a police officer was a barrier to me admitting what was going on as I felt I had to be ‘strong’ and didn’t realise it’s strong to speak up.”

Chief Inspector Sharon Baker of Avon and Somerset Police has spoken to the Chronicle about her experience of domestic abuse to show how it can happen to anyone.

Chief Inspector Baker explained that one of the hardest things for victims was to recognise early signs of troubling behaviour. Her own relationsh­ip ended soon after an alleged assault, which saw the police called. She said she thought she was going to die that night.

Even after that, she explains the silence was still gripping her, giving the abuser power.

Now, many years later, she feels able to share her experience, an act that has already seen more victims come forward.

She said: “It had been such a slow escalation of problems over that time. I was like a frog in boiling water, almost not realising it’s happening as you continuall­y make excuses for their behaviour.”

She explained how she found herself in a relationsh­ip that turned coercive and controllin­g when she was at a “vulnerable” point of her life. She said: “It was very slow that things started happening, it wasn’t immediate. Comments were said about what I was wearing, things that made me feel very bad, like snippy comments, but I brushed them off. “That then escalated to comments made about my friends and who I should see, even suggesting I was selfish if I wanted to go on a run or something and not be home to hang out with him.”

Chief Inspector Baker explained that the behaviour eventually left her constantly “treading on eggshells” in fear of an argument. She added: “I remember that I had to sneak one friend in the house to get her stuff after a run as he didn’t like her and his reaction would have been awful. My stomach dropped when I realised he was home.

“The biggest flag was how isolated I was. The comments were no longer about just my friends they were about my family. I remember one Christmas where he was snarling at my family and I went upstairs to break down but came back down and pretended as if nothing was wrong.”

It has been ten years since the relationsh­ip ended and it is only now that the chief inspector feels she can talk openly about it.

The brave officer has recorded a Youtube video for Avon and Somerset Police to help raise awareness of domestic abuse. She said: “I’d want anyone reading this who thinks it is happening to them to reach out, support is out there and you will be believed.”

■ The police have a site called This Is Not An Excuse, which includes details of local support networks, as well as other informatio­n about domestic abuse.

■ The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is 0808 2000 247.

■ Julian House offers a range of services, including a safe house, and the Freedom programme

■ Southside Domestic Abuse Service has a team of independen­t domestic violence advisors (IDVA) and support workers. 01225 331243.

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