A SURVIVOR of domestic abuse has spoken publicly for the first time of her six years of terror before she fled to the safety of a new life in Edinburgh.
Nicola Muir finally left her marital home two years ago after she became terrified her former husband would physically hurt their young son.
The 38-year-old has waived her anonymity as she feels being open about her experience offers her and her son more protection in their new life in Colinton Mains.
Ms Muir, whose story was used in last night’s BBC Scotland documentary Behind Closed Doors, believes that living in hiding – which she did for 18 months – “only served to protect” her abuser.
She said: “Taking an opportunity to shine a light on us is the safest option for me. The shame of what took place in my marriage is my abuser’s entirely. If other women can see a strong woman who has disowned that shame . . . I think that will communicate something powerful.”
Ms Muir was 30 and a financially independent and successful human resources manager when she got married.
“We met at church and while I knew he’d had issues with drugs he’d been through a rehab programme and seemed to have all that in the past,” she said. “We didn’t live together beforehand, but I was in love.
“The abuse really started the first day of our married life. He was suddenly very cold towards me. We were in a bar and he sat next to me to whisper something. I thought it would be affectionate but instead he dug his fingers in my ribs and said ‘I could put a knife into you right there’.
“He denied saying it, said that I had got it wrong, so much so that I ended up apologising to him.”
The manipulation continued, with Ms Muir saying she was constantly threatened. When she fell pregnant she told her GP about the abuse.
“I wasn’t the typical abused woman you see in posters. He never punched me in the face – it was more mental and emotional. But it did get physical. One time he literally kicked me out of the bed while I was breastfeeding.
“He controlled everything including the way I greeted him on the telephone. He would become enraged if my breathing was unsuitable. But he would also scream in my son’s face when he was a baby and one time he goaded me by jabbing scissors just next to the baby’s head to see my reaction.”
Ms Muir finally left when her husband dragged their young son through the house by the arm. “I thought he was going to break his arm. I just couldn’t stand it. We just left. He phoned me and threatened me if I didn’t come back, but there was no way.”
She said she was lucky she had family and friends to turn to for help, so didn’t have to access a Women’s Aid refuge, but has nothing but support for the organisation.
“One reason most women don’t leave until something potentially fatal happens is because there’s nowhere to go and you have no money. But if there’s a place in a refuge then it makes things slightly easier.”
She has returned to her former home just once, with police officers, to try and collect a few belongings. “We’ve been through the family courts and there’s now an interdict out against him coming near us because I was believed.
“He tracked us down six months ago, turning up on the doorstep. I called the police. But he knows where I live and I’m not moving again. This is not my shame, it’s his and my life is so much better now.”
How you can help
FORTY years ago Edinburgh Women’s Aid was launched to help women and their children experiencing domestic abuse leave their homes and get help and support. Still today one in four women will experience some form of domestic abuse. To help EWA help them please donate this Christmas – as little as £5 can be put to good use.
Cheques should be sent to EWA, 4 Cheyne Street, Edinburgh, EH4 1JB or donate online at www.justgiving.com/edinburghwomensaid/donate
What can your donations do?
£5 provides duvet covers for a woman or child/young person
£10 provides a duvet for a woman or child/young person
£50 gives children/young people an outing to the cinema/ten-pin bowling/zoo
£1000 gives 12 weeks (5 hours per week) awareness raising/prevention work in schools
£15 covers fuel/lighting costs for a week’s refuge space
£20 provides 45 minutes of one-to-one support for a woman or child/young person
£25 provides 60 minutes of one-to-one support in the community
£25,000 provides an additional advocacy worker for 35 hours per week
£100 buys new locks to keep someone safe in their home
£15,000 provides an additional support worker to women or children and young people for one year (21 hours per week)
£5000 funds a parenting course to increase parenting skills and build for the future
£2500 enables a lifestyle management course to build confidence and self-esteem