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WRDA are supervising a University of Ulster Placement Student to conduct research into domestic abuse via child maintenance arrangements. We want to hear from women who have been through this devastating experience. If you would like to take part in the anonymous research, please click here . All responses will be anonymous.

Content Warning: This article contains descriptions of domestic abuse.

1 in 4 women in Northern Ireland will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. It’s a shocking figure. We have the highest murder rate of women in the whole of the UK and Europe matched only by Romania.

‘She must have done something to make him do that’

‘She gives as good as she gets’

‘She stays with him, so he mustn’t be that bad’

We’ve all heard these statements, some of us might even be guilty of thinking them or saying them ourselves…

‘Why doesn’t she leave him?’

I’ll tell you why she doesn’t just leave him, truth is, it’s just not that easy!  Many women who have experienced DA are afraid to leave, absolutely.  Many others don’t have the financial means to leave. He has manipulated the financial situation to a point where she can’t just leave. He relishes the fact that if she does leave, she will not be able to cope financially without him. He thrives on control and power, it’s the lifeblood of his abuse. Abuse is not always physical violence. This is my story.

When I met Anthony in the garage where he worked there was nothing in our initial interactions that rang alarm bells. I handed over my number and after a few dates we became a couple. Nothing untoward. It wasn’t until a few months into the relationship that his abuse started to rear its head. Subtle at first, he was careful of that, testing the waters to see what boundaries he could push and where my limits lay.

‘Are you really wearing that out’?

Frequently ‘punished’ with the silent treatment and cold shoulder for weeks on end if I ‘misbehaved’. Manipulating my behavior into what he wanted me to do. I wasn’t allowed to be myself, wear what I wanted to wear.

‘If you were classier, I would take you to nice places’

I soon became pregnant, unplanned, but pregnant none the less. The coercion continued; I couldn’t leave now, how would I raise a child by myself?

‘If you want to be a good mummy, you will be breastfeeding’

‘No child of mine will be sucking a dummy’

Left to attend my scans alone as ‘punishment’ for trapping him. Sitting in the waiting room surrounded by happy couples, elated at the prospect of seeing their babies on screen, my heart broke.  This man had changed me from the happy, bubbly, confident girl I once was and still it wasn’t good enough for him, otherwise he would be here. Bad as he was to me, I foolishly thought that once baby arrived, he would be good to her. He had a son from a previous relationship who he showered affection and attention on, surely, he would be the same with our baby.  How wrong I was.

‘Why didn’t you just get rid of it’ He snarled through gritted teeth at 34 weeks. His face contorted with rage and hatred.  Too late now. I decided there and then, I’m doing this alone.

Baby arrived, the joyous birth of my first child tainted by Anthony’s behavior and rejection of our child. He’s the dad though, ‘children need both parents’ at least that’s what ‘friends’ and baby books told me.

‘I will change, I want her in my life, She’s my little flower’  

I caved and agreed to give the relationship another go. I felt guilty that I was depriving our daughter of the relationship I thought she deserved with her father, even If he didn’t deserve it. Naively I believed that he would change. The abuse continued.

He refused to ‘mind’ our daughter until she was out of nappies. An excuse so I would have to stay over with her to facilitate the access I desperately wanted her to have with him. He refused to pay for anything to do with our daughter’s care. Preferred me to pack sterilizers, bouncers, and cots into the car every time he wanted to see her. I eventually broke and bought two of everything for convenience. He got his way. Our daughter was lactose intolerant, I couldn’t breastfeed for long. Another fight, another argument.

‘What sort of mother are you’

‘My ex was able to breastfeed my son for two years. You must be the problem’

He expected me to do a weekly shop for both his house and mine. Lactose free food is a lot more expensive, If I didn’t buy it my daughters health would suffer. I was forced to take on his financial obligations as well as my own. He refused to put any money towards celebrations, birthdays, clothes, or childcare. I was in a well-paid job at the time and could afford most things myself, this soon occurred to him, so he then began to work on that element of my life.

‘I wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning for what you earn’

‘Why are you wasting money on childcare? Cut your hours and I will take her and help you out’

He was self-employed, could make his own hours, he collected his son from school everyday already, I had no reason not to believe him. I cut my hours. He didn’t take our daughter. I continued to pay for childcare myself.

Child maintenance began to become an issue, having been manipulated into reducing my income, I could no longer afford to continue to pay for everything. Anthony had a family-based child maintenance arrangement with his ex, which is an agreement between two parents without the need for the Child Maintenance Service. Anthony would pay his ex-partner £50 per week without batting an eyelid. Admirable.  When I brought up the subject when our daughter was just gone 1, I was shocked that he agreed. However, a verbal agreement is not actual payment. I realized this quickly. Payment was sporadic, often linked to my behavior and access to our daughter.

The relationship ended abruptly when our daughter was 2. Anthony was drinking as he did on most occasions when it was his access time with our daughter, another tactic of his so that I couldn’t leave her alone in his care. Our daughter was asleep upstairs, his nastiness was escalating, his son was due to come over the next day for a ‘family day’, he left to get drugs. I decided then and there, I would be leaving. I knew he would come back, under the influence of drink and drugs and I would be getting a barrage of abuse. I had just started packing mine and my daughters’ things, I heard the door go.

‘Where do you think you’re going? You *****!’


Everything happened all at once. I was pulled backwards by the hair, punched, dragged, and kicked. I had no idea what had just happened. Adrenaline kicked in, either I fought back, or I genuinely thought I would die. I managed to get my phone out of my pocket, managed to dial 9……9…… SMASH!!!! Anthony had snatched the phone and smashed it on the floor. This is it; he’s going to kill me. I screamed for help. I got to the front door, opened it a crack, he came behind me slamming it shut. Sirens, blue lights, the police, thank goodness. The neighbors must have heard my screams, rang the police, I was saved, the nightmare was over. Anthony was arrested, eventually charged, and prosecuted, a first-time offender he was given a suspended sentence and minor fine for smashing my phone.  I didn’t care, I was relived, the abuse was over, or so I thought.

Due to a non-molestation order Anthony could no longer get physical access to me or my daughter. He rang and texted constantly flitting from apologies to abuse when I wouldn’t do what he wanted. I was tired. I wanted peace, I got low, cried all the time over the littlest thing. I saw the GP and was prescribed anti-depressants.

Anthony continued to abuse me the only way he could…. Financially. He refused to pay anything towards our daughter’s upbringing. In his mind it was my fault he could not have access to our daughter, nothing to do with his own actions. My debts were mounting, struggling to afford my daughters upbringing. Meanwhile Anthony was satisfied that I was being kept in my place unable to achieve happiness without him, still controlling me through his reluctance to pay what he was legally obligated to.

I wasn’t myself; I was broken. I was in constant conflict with myself, I considered dropping our daughter off to him and giving him full custody simply because I could not afford her, but was giving her over to an abuser worth it?  I applied to the Child Maintenance Service to intervene. As Anthony was self-employed the CMS had to contact him for his current income, they told him I had made a child maintenance application. He threatened to kill me if I didn’t withdraw the request, promised he would pay me directly.  I withdrew the application, he never paid.

Months went by, I cut off contact with Anthony, sought help from Women’s Aid. I grew stronger, braver, got myself back on track for my daughter. I decided to contact the Child Maintenance Service again, I wouldn’t be Anthony’s victim any longer. I informed them there was a history of domestic violence and coercion with the nonresident parent, I was offered no help or advice as set out in the CMS guidelines on domestic abuse. Again, he was asked to provide his income details, he never did. CMS gave him chance after chance, he never complied. CMS eventually made a default maintenance decision of £7 per week as there was no income on the HMRC system for him for the previous 5 years. The case was never referred for financial investigation as it should be if something doesn’t add up, allowing the economic abuse to continue.

I wasn’t letting him win, I researched everything I could on self-employment and child maintenance loopholes. I submitted mandatory reconsiderations and appeals for every decision, I made complaints I provided proof of his business and asked for the case to be referred for financial Investigation. I spoke to MLA’s, I wrote to the minister for the department of communities that oversee CMS. Slowly but surely I started to see some progress. Two years’ worth of default calculations were eventually revised so that there is now a £3000 arrears amount owed to my daughter. Victory.

I wanted the harm caused to me and my daughter by his fraudulent filings and economic abuse recognized in his potentially pending prosecution, I again contacted the CMS to confirm that it would be. I was told it would not be, I would not even know whether there would be a prosecution! I was dumbstruck. I could not understand why I would not be informed after all I was the victim of his economic abuse via CMS for the last 3 years.  I contacted police and the public prosecution service for confirmation, convinced there had been some mistake, both confirmed there had not been.  Prior to February 2022 economic abuse and coercion were not legally recognized as form of domestic abuse. Thankfully after much political lobbying from women’s rights groups the laws on abuse have been changed to include coercive control and economic abuse. Victims can report these crimes to the police and abusers can now be held accountable in court.

However, in terms of child maintenance prosecutions where does this leave us as victims? How do we get the economic abuse recognized? A criminal cannot be prosecuted for the same crime twice, so if we’re not being informed whether ex partners are being prosecuted, how do we know to report the crime to the police?

Economic abuse and coercive control are Domestic abuse. The harm you have suffered is real. It is currently being allowed to continue through the provision of child maintenance throughout the UK.  Men are being allowed to abuse women financially, even after they have summed up the courage to leave. This needs to change.

WRDA are supervising a University of Ulster Placement Student to conduct research into domestic abuse via child maintenance arrangements. We want to hear from women who have been through this devastating experience. If you would like to take part in the anonymous research, please click here . All responses will be anonymous.

If you have been affected by the content of this blog and need someone to talk to or are a victim of Domestic abuse past or present, please contact your local Women’s Aid using this link . Alternatively, the PSNI can be contacted on 101 or if someone is in immediate danger, please ring 999.


By: an anonymous contributor


Bold Women Blogging is a public submission blog. Posts do not necessarily represent the views of WRDA but rather operates as a platform for open discussion to encourage women’s participation in social and political issues. To find out more visit this page.