Domestic abuse can be a difficult topic to discuss, especially at work. We don't want to pry into people's personal lives, until it starts to affect us directly. But, we never expect it to, do we?
In the U.K. a staggering 30% of all domestic violence homicides happened on workplace grounds.
A person who gets ready to leave an abusive partner, can move out of a house…but a lot need employment and that makes the workplace a very easy target.
Below are a sample of case studies from the U.K. Domestic abuse does not stay at home, it's in the workplace and it can affect us all.
CASE STUDY 1
NAME: Rachel Williams
INCIDENT: Shot at work in front of colleagues and customers.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Whilst Rachel was blasted at point blank range in the left knee, another shot hit salon customers, injuring two.
Rachel was abused by her husband Darren for 18 years before being shot at work, in front of colleagues and customers. Thankfully she survived the attack but the impact was devastating for all concerned.
"I met Darren when I was 21. I already had a two-year-old son, Josh, but Darren was the most serious relationship I’d ever had. After around a year-and-a-half, he moved in with me and I soon got pregnant. That was when the abuse started.
The first sign was when I was seven months pregnant. Darren lifted me off the floor by my throat. He’s a bodybuilder – 6 foot 7 and 22 stone - so there was no way to fight back. It was a very vivid sign of abuse but I didn’t realise. I hadn’t been educated about it. Had I known what triggers to look out for, it wouldn’t have taken me 18 years to get away from him. But I didn’t understand what a healthy relationship was.
Darren apologised, as perpetrators do, and said it wouldn't happen again. You don’t know if there will be another incident. You’re just walking on eggshells; living on your nerves. I wanted to see good in the person I loved - but in the back of your mind, you’re still waiting for something else to happen.
The abuse continued but it was sporadic. I can’t really pinpoint the incidents. It was upon you before you even realised, and was both physical and emotional. Darren liked to punch the back of my head. He’d spit in my face. He’d grab me by the throat. He’d squeeze my jaw, kick me and punch me – but nowhere visible. He controlled what I wore - ‘you shouldn’t be wearing short skirts – you don’t want men to look.’ I thought he wanted to protect me, but it wasn’t that. It was control. He’d degrade me in front of people but nobody would challenge him. He was big - so even other men were frightened of him. People feared him. No one really encouraged me to leave him and I didn't tell my mum because she never liked Darren. He was my problem.
You try and hide as much as possible from your kids, but they obviously see it. Both Josh and Jack, my son with Darren, grew up with it. Violence became the norm.
Over the years, the abuse would happen in fits and starts. There might be a bad incident, then a period of him being quite submissive. I’d say to him, 'you need to seek help'. I felt sorry for him in one way - his brother committed suicide at 21 and Darren always felt guilty about it. He was almost like a child sometimes. He had some mental health problems – anxiety and depression – and was taking steroids and anti-depressants, which is apparently a lethal combination.
I finally left him in 2011, when I was 39. He strangled me when I threatened to go and then slit his wrists in front of Jack, who was then 16.
In that moment, the fear of staying with Darren became bigger than the fear of leaving him. When the police and ambulance came to take him to hospital, I packed his bags and gave them to his sister. I had a respite of two weeks while he left me alone and, in that time, I filed for divorce.
But Darren wouldn’t give in so easily. He was arrested for threatening to kill me, but given bail with restrictions. The next day, he appealed for them to be lifted because he wanted to see his son. The court lifted all his restrictions and the very next day, Darren shot me - with the intent to murder me.
I’d felt like something was going to happen. He always used to say there was only one way out for me and that was in a wooden box. But I didn’t expect him to go to the extent he did. I’m a hairdresser and went to work as normal. I remember it was a sunny day and I looked at the salon door because something was blocking the light. It was Darren. He went into his bag and pulled out a gun. That was when he shot me.
Later that day, he killed himself. I knew he’d do it, because he’d said he’d never go back to prison - and that would have been inevitable after he’d shot me.
I was in hospital for six weeks and during that time, Jack and I became estranged. Before that he’d always been like my shadow. I think he was confused about everything that had gone on and obviously he’d just lost his dad. He stayed with Darren’s family when I was recovering, and they blamed me for everything. He became really nasty - sending me texts saying ‘it’s all your fault’. I phoned social services to move him somewhere neutral, but they said he was 16 and could live where he wanted.
I came out of hospital on a Friday and had a phone call on the Monday saying Jack was missing. I went looking for him with my leg in a brace – I was searching frantically and had a sixth sense that he’d done something. When I came home, I had a phone call from his best friend’s mum saying she’d heard a scream from the woods. He’d hanged himself.
It’s your worst nightmare as a mother. It will be five years this August. We lost a massive part of the family with Jack. But I’m no longer a victim – I’m a victor. I’m going to be a voice for those who aren’t still standing. I can’t change the past - but I can change the future.”
SUPPORTING STATEMENT FROM RACHEL’S EMPLOYER
This supporting statement reveals in detail, how one domestic abuse victims’ experiences, can deeply affect an entire workplace and all staff within it.
Rachel states: “If there are any employers out there, or work colleagues, please be observant of your fellow staff members. This is an email I had from my old employer with regards my case.”
I employed Mrs Rachel Court, then known as Haywood, as a Junior Hairstylist at my salon Bonkerz Hair Centre from June 1999 until Easter 2002. Although I was always very pleased with Rachel's standard of work, her employment didn't come without problems.
Her partner Darren Williams controlled her working life. For example, we all lead him to believe that our male trainee was gay. This was because Rachel was not allowed to work with heterosexual males, she was also not allowed to cut the hair of men or lesbians.
Darren's demeanour was intimidating and we were all afraid of him "kicking off”. He would make surprise visits to the salon and check our appointment book to try to catch her out. I remember one particular day when Rachel was the only stylist available to cut a gent’s hair and I had to order all my trainees to circle around her and the client to block any view from the street whilst she cut his hair. The fear of her getting caught was tangible and the whole salon was on pins.
Furthermore, Rachel was also only allowed her hair to be styled in his preferred style and was not under any terms allowed it coloured. Only one time we broke the tinting rule, the following day Rachel came into work and begged for the colour to be removed. Rachel explained that she had been ordered by Darren to reverse her hair back to its natural colour. Of course, it was!
I have no doubt that Rachel was controlled by Darren and to be honest myself and the rest of my staff were all fearful of him.
CASE STUDY 2
NAME: Hollie Gazzard
INCIDENT: Stabbed to death at work, in front of colleagues and customers.
A man who stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death at the hairdressers where she worked has been jailed for life.
Asher Maslin, 22, admitted repeatedly knifing Hollie Gazzard, 20, at Fringe Benefits and La Bella Beauty salon in Gloucester in February.
She had ended her relationship with the former security guard just days before, Gloucester Crown Court heard. The Honourable Mr Justice Teare said Maslin would serve a minimum of 24 years.
"The number of stab wounds on a defenceless young woman show that this was a merciless killing," he said.
The attack happened shortly before 18:00 GMT on 18 February as Miss Gazzard was nearing the end of her shift at work.
Maslin, of Benhall Gardens in Cheltenham, stabbed her 14 times in her neck, chest and torso and she died two hours later at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital as a result of massive blood loss.
Horrified colleagues and customers who were in the salon at the time had tried to help her but were warned off by Maslin.
The following day police officers recovered a knife that had been discarded at a building site near to the salon.
Gloucester Crown Court heard the couple met in February last year while working in a nightclub and they had lived in Edgware, north London, and later Watford before returning to Gloucester in July.
Stephen Mooney, prosecuting, told the court Maslin became violent towards her, grabbing her around the throat, hitting her and kicking her in separate incidents until Hollie ended the relationship in January.
But when they separated Maslin's behaviour grew more threatening. He stole money from her bank account and sent her text messages saying he was going to "smash your house up" and to call him or "dis bat is going to hit your dad's head," the court heard. "It's following these threats that Hollie went to the police on February 16 and gave a statement," Mr Mooney said.
CASE STUDY 3
NAME: Jane Clough
INCIDENT: Stabbed to death at work
Jane Clough, 26, was found with multiple stab wounds outside Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
Jonathan Vass, of Preston, a former ambulance worker and father of her baby, got life after admitting murder.
Preston Crown Court was told Vass, 30, had killed Ms Clough while on bail awaiting his rape trial.
Vass attacked Ms Clough, of Barrowford, Nelson, at about 2020 BST as she was walking from her car to start her shift at the hospital's A&E department.
After stabbing and slashing the mother-of-one with a 3in (7.6cm) blade, he briefly walked away, then went back and slit her throat.
Her colleagues in A&E did not recognise her due to the severity of her injuries and the "catastrophic" loss of blood, the court heard. They battled to save her but she died shortly afterwards.
Vass, described as "manipulative and controlling", had been due stand trial at Burnley Crown Court on charges of raping her.
The judge in that case had granted him bail, with conditions including keeping away from Ms Clough. However, he followed her life on Facebook.
The rape charges against Vass, of Conway Drive, were ordered to lie on file when he pleaded guilty to Ms Clough's murder on 7 October. Ms Clough's parents John and Penny were angered by both the decision to free him on bail and then to allow the rape charges lie on file following his guilty plea to murder.
Judge Anthony Russell QC, sentencing, said: "As she lay bleeding you walked away but then returned and slowly, deliberately and cold-bloodedly slit her throat. "It is difficult to imagine a more horrific crime than this murder. Furthermore it was a crime motivated by real hatred and revenge.
"This was a deliberate, brutal and callous murder for which you have shown no remorse and no care for your own daughter. "Jane Clough was a nurse who devoted her life to the care of others. She had the misfortune to become involved with you.
"She bore your child and then you murdered her, leaving your infant child without a mother and with the prospect of growing up to learn one day that her father murdered her mother."
The court heard that Miss Clough kept a diary, detailing Vass's abuse of her and fears of what he might do.
She and her family, who held a protest outside court before sentencing, were "rocked and devastated" when he was bailed on the rape charges. Ms Clough was "extremely concerned for her safety", the court was told.
She went to live with her parents and said in her diary that she was worried "Johnny was going to do something stupid" and would "get his revenge".
Dennis Watson QC, prosecuting, said it was clear the motive for the murder was to prevent Ms Clough giving evidence. He said Vass wanted to "dominate and have complete control" over Ms Clough, despite having relationships with two other women at the same time. She reported him to police in November 2009, telling officers of months of abuse, including being raped when she was seven months' pregnant.
Text messages between the pair were read out in court, in which she asked him why she should take him back. One of his replies read: "I do love you Janey. Either get pregnant or engaged. Your choice."
Vass was charged with nine rapes and assault in November 2009 and told a work colleague, Ms Clough's ex-boyfriend, if he was found guilty he would kill her - but the threat was dismissed as "bravado".
Police found three letters on Vass, written after the murder, when they arrested him outside her parents' home the day after the attack. One to her family said he "could not bear to see her happy with another man".
Another to Ms Clough said: "I consider what I did to be retribution", and the last, to detectives investigating the rapes, was "arrogant and abusive in tone," the court heard.
Det Supt Neil Esseen, who led Lancashire Police's investigation, said Vass had been "vicious and controlling".
"There is no doubt in my mind that he committed this brutal murder to prevent this brave young woman from having her day in court, and testifying as to his previous appalling treatment of her."
He paid tribute to Ms Clough's family who he said had behaved with "dignity and honour" and had given her a voice in the proceedings.
CASE STUDY 4
NAME: Clare Bernal
TRADE: Beauty Consultant
INCIDENT: Shot four times and killed at work
Moments before she was murdered, a Harvey Nichols beauty consultant smiled at a colleague on another counter, unaware that her former boyfriend was pointing a gun at the back of her head and was about to kill her.
Clare Bernal, 22, was shot four times by Michal Pech, a former security guard at the London store, who had briefly dated her. He had become obsessive after refusing to accept that their relationship was over and was on bail after pleading guilty to stalking her.
After killing her in front of terrified customers, Pech, who had taken cocaine before the murder, turned the gun on himself.
Victoria Daniels, who was working on a nearby counter at Harvey Nichols, told the inquest, at Westminster coroners' court, of the moment she saw Pech, 30, approach Miss Bernal and shoot her in the back of the head.
"It was just before closing time. I saw a man creeping around Clare's counter almost military style. "He was being very quiet and slipped around the counter. I thought he might have been a boyfriend surprising her or a stupid customer. "Clare was looking in my direction and smiling because I had just said: 'It's nearly time to go home'. "I saw him pull the gun out, it was a black pistol. He pointed it straight at her and then pulled the trigger. He then fired two or three more shots at her. I looked away and then ran out of the store. "I believe there were a couple more shots. The last one I heard must have been when he shot himself. I looked back and saw him on the floor."
Helen Quinn, another assistant at the store, said she saw Miss Bernal fall behind the counter. "I saw a man go up to her, I saw him pull out a gun and I saw him shoot Clare. From what I recall there was one shot and then that's when Clare fell behind the counter."
The inquest was told that in September 2004 Pech secured a job as a security guard at Harvey Nichols where he met Miss Bernal. Their relationship ended in February, the inquest was told. Pech, who was born in the Czech Republic but was living in Tottenham, north London, refused to accept the end of the relationship and began following her in the street, pestering her with telephone calls and loitering outside her home. He was arrested twice and dismissed from his job at the store.
He is believed to have travelled to Slovakia in April where he bought and registered a pistol. He returned to Britain in August prior to a scheduled court appearance. Pech turned up at court and pleaded guilty to harassing Miss Bernal. He was released on bail while a pre-sentence report was compiled and was due to appear again on Sept 21. Eight days before that, he went to the store and shot Miss Bernal and himself, the inquest was told.