Nicola Fenn, of Minehead, tells domestic abuse victims to talk about it

A WOMAN who thought her partner was going to kill her during a vicious attack has pleaded with domestic abuse victims to speak up before things escalate.

Nicola Fenn, of Minehead, put up with years of mental and physical abuse from her controlling partner Christopher Brand until one day he “went berserk”.

Brand, 57, was this month jailed for 12 years with an additional three years on licence for smashing a brass meditating bowl over Nicola’s head, leaving three deep gashes that needed 30 stitches. A jury found him guilty of assault occasioning grievous bodily harm.

The couple had been introduced to each other by a mutual friend six years ago.

Nicola, 52, said: “We had what was initially a nice relationship. Then he started getting very controlling mentally and it escalated to physical abuse.

“It’s a real Jekyll and Hyde story. When he was good, he was fabulous. But when he was bad, he was horrific.

“The bad times started to outweigh the good. So many things went unreported.

“I knew it, but I wanted to protect him.”

Nicola, who worked in a hotel, said: “I’d walk out of a door inside the house and he’d say, ‘Where are you going?’

“Then he’d start smashing things round the house. He smashed probably ten of my phones because they were my contact with the outside world.

“He also broke computers. I could come down in the night and would be looking at eBay and he’d say, ‘You’re contacting your ex-boyfriends’.

“He probably didn’t feel secure in himself. He didn’t have that trust and it just escalated to complete control. He didn’t want me to have any contact with the outside world.”

Brand worked as an antique dealer and encouraged Nicola to accompany him.

One day in March Nicola told him she did not want to go to any car boot sales with Brand as the coronavirus crisis was getting serious and she did not want to compromise guests at the hotel where she worked.

She said: “He started throwing things around.

“I was sat in a chair unable to move. I didn’t know what to do.

“It was like the weather forecast. You knew the wave is going to come.

“It came from behind me. He’d already smashed bottles and things.

“I just felt this massive pain in my head. He smashed the TV. He just went berserk.

“I went up to the bedroom to try to escape. I said please get an ambulance. He didn’t.”

Nicola fled across the road to neighbours, who gave her first aid until the emergency services arrived and took her to Musgrove Park

Hospital, where she was given a CT scan because of the severity of the injuries and doctors had to pull glass shards out of her head before stitching her up.

For Nicola the suffering continues. She said: “Every night I have to go through every room to make sure he’s not there.

“The other night I heard something fall over in the garden. I went downstairs and was hallucinating.

“I have nightmares and flashbacks. It’s impacted on my daughter, who’s 14. I don’t think she trusts men, although her father has been brilliant.”

Nicola is undergoing therapy and counselling and wants to get the message out there that domestic abuse victims need to speak up before things get out of hand.

She said: “I want to tell my story to tell anyone suffering domestic abuse, ‘Don’t leave it to the last minute’.

“Start reporting it early. If you feel something is going slightly wrong, address it.

“Talk to anybody – friends, family, a stranger.

“People saw it happening to me. The longer it went on, my stories got more elaborate to cover for that person.”

Since the case was highlighted, Nicola has been approached by a number of people in Minehead saying they too have been victims of domestic abuse.

She also stressed that not all victims are women and praised the support she has received from police throughout her ordeal.

Domestic abuse victims can contact www.somersetsurvivors.org.uk/ or call Somerset Domestic Abuse Support helpline on 0800 69 49 999.

In an emergency call police on 999.

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Somerset County Gazette | News