Get out while you can – I wish I had, said Chippenham woman
Assault victim Loretta Butterworth, whose story has touched the hearts of the nation in the last week, is appealing to victims of domestic violence to get out of abusive relationships.
Her violent ex-boyfriend was given an 18-month community order after holding her against a wall and repeatedly hitting her in the face in St Paul Street, Chippenham after a day out drinking.
Since the Gazette & Herald ran the story Miss Butterworth has appeared on ITV’s Daybreak with Lorraine Kelly on Monday.
Support for her has flooded in through thousands of outraged website comments praising her courage in speaking out to police and saying she is an inspiration to women.
But Sandra Horley, of domestic violence charity Refuge, said there was a danger that the community sentence received by Toby Hayden – which she described as “woefully inadequate” – could deter other abuse victims from speaking out.
She said: “It is appalling that the severity of this crime has not been reflected in the sentence handed down.
“It is crucial that victims like Loretta feel protected when they find the strength to take their abuser to court.
“Violent men like Toby Hayden must receive punishment that fits their crime. Until this happens, domestic violence will continue to flourish.”
Miss Butterworth, who has made a full recovery, said: “What I want is for other women, and men as well, to look out for the small signs and get out as soon as possible, don’t wait for something big to happen.
“What does it say to these people if he can just walk around a free man and there’s still a chance that I might bump into him?”
Her mum Angela, 48, of Coulston Road, Corsham, said: “I never liked him. But Loretta hid things from me and made excuses for him.”
Miss Butterworth said she was annoyed at herself for not seeing the signs earlier and it would affect her ability to trust men in the future.
“I was angry at myself for being so blind,” she said.
“I can’t believe someone who said they loved me could do that; what then could a random stranger do?”
Being given a leaflet on domestic violence by a nurse in hospital the night the incident happened last month was a wake-up call.
She said: “I looked at the list of things to look for and realised I could tick most of them off.
“Half of them weren’t even violent things. That’s when it really hit home. Abuse can be psychological and verbal as well, not just physical.”
Miss Butterworth’s trauma is just one of 4,500 incidents of domestic abuse reported in Wiltshire and Swindon in the year ending March 2012. And it is recognised that 80 per cent of victims do not tell the police.