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Woman assaulted after social worker “gave safe house address to abusive ex-husband”

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A woman was assaulted by her abusive ex-husband after a social worker allegedly told him the location of her safe house twice.

The woman was living in the safe house with her two children at the time.

Her ex-husband was so violent that the police considered her to be at high risk of being murdered, yet the social worker allegedly believed he had a “parental right” to know where his children were. 

The woman, known only as “Ivy”, spoke anonymously to the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show about her ordeal. She said she received an apology and a small amount of compensation from her local social services.

Detailing the abuse she suffered over a period of two decades, Ivy said she was raped every week by her ex-husband and his associates. She also described the extreme violence they inflicted on her, including strangling her until she became unconscious and using knives against her.

She didn’t initially go to the police as her ex-husband threatened to harm their children if she did.

However, she faced further obstacles when she eventually did go to the authorities, telling Derbyshire that the police officer she spoke to didn’t believe her. He said she had received “sexual gratification” from the assaults.

"I left feeling completely degraded and humiliated," she said.

When her ex-husband discovered that she had gone to the authorities, after officers seized the phone of one of his associates involved in the violence, he broke her ribs. This led the police to consider her at high risk of being murdered by her ex-husband and she was moved to a safe house.

However, a social worker told him the address of her new location, and he attacked her again. When the police moved her and her children to a second safe house, and changed their identities, the social worker told her ex-husband her new phone number.

Describing this as a “complete breach of trust”, Ivy said, “You trust them... that they're going to be there to protect you as the victim.”

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After moving four times in three months, and having to give a statement to 18 different police officers, Ivy was advised by authorities to drop the charges against her ex as it would be “impossible” to keep her safe. She said she was told that, "neither her life, nor her children's lives, were worth losing in the pursuit of justice".

"I was filled with guilt,” she said. “Guilt that it allowed my ex-husband and the other offenders to go free, therefore allowing them to potentially go on and harm other people.”

Ivy suffers from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and said her children were finding it difficult to cope.

"The youngest walked into school one day last year and said they didn't want to be alive any more,” she said.

Speaking to the BBC, Claire Waxman, who founded campaign group Voice4Victims, said Ivy’s case was “one of the worst I’ve ever heard”. She warned that there are “countless” other women at risk and that the legal and justice system was too complicated for victims. 

Waxman added that she thinks the complaint procedure needs to be simpler and quicker for victims and that they should have a “case companion” to help them with each step of the process.

The local social services who dealt with Ivy during the time have said that they "fell well short of the expected standard" although she does not know if the person who repeatedly gave her information to her ex-husband was disciplined.


You can listen to the whole interview here

The BBC added the following note: Due to Ivy's high levels of anonymity and risk to her life as a result of identifying details, we have been unable to independently verify all details in her story. Police officers are using her case in training and she has spoken to MPs and Lords about her story.

If you or anyone you know needs help or advice, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for free, 24 hours a day, on 0808 2000 247 or visit their website here.

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