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Woman Says She Was Abused By Her Partner For Years Then Jailed For Lying To Police About It

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As campaigners across the US and UK campaign for more extensive training for law enforcement dealing with domestic abuse cases — and more protections for survivors of abuse — one heartbreaking survivor story has been shared with the BBC.

The woman, who spoke under the pseudonym, Rochelle shared her story of years of abuse against both her and her young son at the hands of her partner. 

Then, when the details of her abuse became known to the police, it was Rochelle who suffered.

She was jailed for lying about who abused her. 

"I was forced to lie to the police about what happened to us that night. But obviously it was me that got the consequences in the end for lying," she says. 

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For years, Rochelle lived in fear of her partner. He refused to allow her to see friends or family, he controlled her passwords and didn’t let her have social media. 

So, when he assaulted her and her 18-month-old son, she didn’t feel safe coming forward and revealing his identity.

"He was threatening me on text messages, saying that if I was to go to the police and health care, seek medical advice, he'd come back around and hit my son,” she says.

When police found out about the lie, Rochelle was jailed for 40 months for perverting the course of justice. 

But the police already knew about the abuse.

Rochelle says law enforcement were aware of her ex’s violent past actions against her and her son.

"[The police] already knew the amount of call-outs they had. I also phoned the 111 service. I think my report says 11 times in eight weeks... that I've got an 18-month-old son and I'm going through severe domestic violence and being controlled.”

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The 111 service is called in the case of urgent but not life-threatening health issues.

"Not one person ever came out to see me in the 11 times I rang," Rochelle adds.

Domestic violence survivors are not given enough protections.

While trying to escape abuse, survivors are more at risk than ever. 

75% of abused women who are killed by their partners are killed after they have left. 

This means, for women like Rochelle, telling police about abuse or incriminating your abuser can be a life-threatening task, not to mention an extremely upsetting one.

In the UK, there is currently a campaign to create legislation that would allow abuse survivors who commit crimes while in an abusive situation to argue that their crime was as a result of manipulation or abusive control.

This is similar to an existing legal protection for victims of trafficking who can argue their crimes were as a result of exploitation.

In the US, the high-profile homicide of Gabby Petito, who was killed weeks after police were called to a domestic incident between her and her partner, Brian Laundrie, has sparked a conversation about the police forces’s ability to handle domestic violence.

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Often, it appears law enforcement miss crucial signs of abuse or fail to recognize the complicated nuances of dangerous relationships.

Instead of seeing domestic violence calls as homicide prevention, police officers often act too quickly to identify an aggressor or bring charges against anyone perverting the course of justice. 

“Nearly all abuse continues because the victim has no one to turn to who can protect them,” says life coach Keya Murthy. 

“Abusers should be allowed to report abuse incognito. Just reporting isn’t enough because the abuser might increase their degree of abuse.”

The kinds of protections campaigners are seeking would eliminate some of the concerns around reporting abuse but law enforcement need training in order to protect survivors on a long term basis.

As Murthy says, “The victim needs someone to talk to who will hear them out and give them strategies to prevent, reduce and escape abuse should it happen again.”

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Alice Kelly is a senior news and entertainment editor for YourTango. Based out of Brooklyn, New York, her work covers all things social justice, pop culture, and human interest. Keep up with her Twitter for more.