Mother in witness protection after 20 years of abuse is still fearful

Mother in witness protection after 20 years of domestic violence reveals her children can’t ‘go to prom, join sports clubs or attend award ceremonies’ in case a social media posts reveal clues about their location to her ex

  • Woman was placed in witness protection after decades of domestic abuse
  • She was subjected to sustained physical and sexual violence by her husband 
  • Now she fears social media posts might lead to her identity being revealed
  • Means her children must stay off social media and can’t attend school events 

A mother who was placed in witness protection after enduring decades of domestic violence reveals how her children are unable to live a normal life in case details of their new identities make their way online. 

The woman, identified by the pseudonym Sian, spoke to BBC News about her experience, revealing how her children must stay off social media in case posts gave away clues that might lead to her abusive ex-husband tracking them down. 

Sian endured 20 years of domestic abuse at the hands of her ex, who raped her and subjected her to sustained sexual and physical violence before authorities intervened after she sought medical help following a ‘particularly traumatic’ experience.

The woman, identified by the pseudonym Sian, spoke to BBC News about her experience, revealing how her children must stay off social media in case posts gave away clues that might lead to her abusive ex-husband tracking them down. Stock image

Sian and her children were immediately placed in the UK Protected Persons Service (UKPPS), moved to another part of the UK and now live with new identities. 

Other than those directly involved in her case, Sian estimates fewer than 10 people know about their past.

It means she lives a life of social isolation, unable to trust anyone and constantly fearful that their secret might come out.

Mobile phones and the rise of social media have exacerbated the issue because there is the constant fear that she could unintentionally end up in the background of a photo or video that is shared online. 

‘It’s very scary just walking down the street, you know what it’s like – people take Instagram videos or Snapchat videos,’ she said. 

‘There have been plenty of times where my children have shoved me out of the way because someone has their camera out.

Mobile phones and the rise of social media have exacerbated the issue because there is the constant fear that she could unintentionally end up in the background of a photo or video that is shared online. Stock image

‘It’s a daily part of life for us. You’re constantly on alert so that you’re not caught up in that, and obviously it’s [meant] the children can’t go to prom, they can’t do everyday things that children would normally assume would be a passage of life.

‘They can’t go to award ceremonies at school, they can’t even join sports clubs, because parents will take videos.’ 

Her children are not allowed on social media, which presents its own struggles when it is such a common part of their lives. 

Sian added that the best way to protect herself is to remain largely at home. She compared the isolation she feels to the experience others are having during lockdown. 

‘For once I was rather grateful that life didn’t feel so drastically different for us, and we didn’t struggle with having to get used to the new way of life as we were already used to it,’ she said. 

‘Living in witness protection is similar in ways to the total isolation everyone had to endure during lockdown.’  

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