A domestic abuse survivor has spoken out about the eight steps which can lead domestic violence to escalate to murder.
30-year-old Abbie Brydon was severely beaten by her former partner Scott Hughes at their Wythenshawe home in March 2018. She believes she would have died had it not been for her neighbours hearing her desperate cries for help.
Following the brutal attack by Hughes, Abbie was left with two ‘blow out’ fractured eye sockets, nasal fractures and bruising so severe that her own family struggled to recognise her. Hughes has since been convicted of GBH with intent, and is currently serving 14 years behind bars.
Going forward, Abbie wants to help others going through domestic abuse to be aware of how their situation could escalate to homicide. She has described ‘The Homicide Timeline’ outlined by Dr Jane Monckton Smith as being ‘absolutely spot on’.
Dr Monckton Smith, from the University of Gloucestershire, examined the circumstances of 372 cases of domestic abuse killings; conducting interviews with both bereaved family members and public protection professionals.
Throughout the course of her research, the criminology expert discovered an emerging pattern of eight distinct steps, with the first step beginning with an individual’s ‘pre-relationship history’.
According to this study, victims should take notice if their partner has a criminal record, or if they have been accused of ‘control, domestic abuse or stalking’ by former partners. Victims will reportedly often be aware of such allegations, but don’t always believe them.
The second step comes at the ‘early relationship’ stage, where the relationship may accelerate with ‘early declarations of love, possessiveness and jealousy’.
As the relationship progresses, the third step emerges, whereby the relationship is ‘dominated by coercive control, usually with some of the high risk markers’.
The fourth step is described as ‘trigger/s’ whereby the abuser’s power is threatened by an event such as a separation, an illness or financial difficulties.
With the fifth step comes a marked ‘escalation’, which could include more frequent or severe control tactics. This could involve suicide threats, violent behaviour, stalking and begging.
The sixth step is defined by a ‘change in thinking’, with the perpetrator driven to make a decision due to ‘feelings of revenge, injustice or humiliation’. This decision could involve ‘moving on, revenge, or potentially homicide’.
Step seven sees the perpetrator in their ‘planning’ stage; which could lead to them ‘buying weapons’ and ‘seeking opportunities to get victim alone’, as well as carrying out ‘stalking and threats’.
The eighth and final step is homicide, which could involve ‘extreme violence, suicide, suspicious death, missing person, multiple victims’.
This timeline was designed with the aim of assisting practitioners who are involved with carrying out risk assessments; helping them gain confidence in their decision making, particularly in crisis situations.
It’s hoped this timeline will enable practitioners to recognise these eight stages when they come across them, allowing them to intervene and potentially save more lives.
Dr Monckton Smith, made the following statement:
The domestic homicide timeline is a pioneering model which transforms the way we think about domestic homicide, coercive control and stalking and the risks in these situations. This is the first time these behaviours have been organised in this way.
Police have been incredibly receptive, and recognise the steps in cases they are working on, because it speaks to their experience and makes an order out of the chaos that is domestic abuse, coercive control and stalking.
This will fundamentally change the way we look at risk and has the potential to save lives, as intervention is possible at every single stage and victims can use this to understand their own position.
Abbie believes this eight stage pattern, published in the Violence Against Women journal (VAW), could well save the lives of others who are currently suffering at the hands of their own partner.
According to the Manchester Evening News, Abbie said:
I think you never assume it is going to happen to you but the similarities in the study and how the stages progress are absolutely spot on,
Going through it stage by stage I think would make a lot more people take it seriously. If it was more widely known to women I think it could save lives.
I never in a million years thought it was going to get that far but I think if people could see it in black and white it might make you realise; I need to get out, I’m in trouble. I think it is really important every women knows about it.
Dr Monckton Smith has trained police officers and public protection professionals throughout the UK, including the National Probation Service, Garda Síochána, Thames Valley and Kent Police. Following the publication of her research, she hopes further training will be implemented.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues, and want to speak to someone in confidence contact the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247. Do not suffer in silence.
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.