Woman encourages others to speak out against domestic violence

Timothy Lenihan and Suzie Giddens 

Timothy Lenihan has been brought to justice, pictured with Suzie Giddens. - Credit: Cambridgeshire Police

A woman who was controlled by her boyfriend has spoken out about her experiences in a bid to help others.

Suzie Giddens, 32, has now shared her story in a bid to encourage other women suffering from domestic abuse and coercive control to speak out.

Two weeks ago Timothy Lenihan, 41, was brought to justice after coercively controlling her.

Suzie Giddens 

Suzie Giddens - Credit: Cambridgeshire Police

The start of the relationship – and the violence:-

Suzie, who lives in Peterborough, said: “I met Tim at a festival in Central Park, Peterborough and gave him my number, but it was one of those things where at the time I just think anything of it.

"I was warned he had a bad reputation so was wary, and he had just come out of another relationship.

“We had one date and I told him things weren’t going to work out as I was planning on moving away from the area.

Most Read

"But when I was at work he turned up one day; he seemed frantic and very upset.

“At the time I didn’t want anything serious and I thought it was going to fizzle out, I pulled the wool over my own eyes to be honest.”

Suzie said she didn’t notice any violent signs in the relationship until 2012/2013 – more than a year after her and Lenihan got together.

He had been drinking and threw her to the floor, but the next day was remorseful and apologetic.

Miss Giddens added: “The violence was kind of scattered out, it wasn’t all the time.

"In a way you feel you have a duty to change people.

“After he was violent to me he was the best he could ever be.

"He would take me out for dinner, be really nice to me and be devoted and committed.

"I convinced myself that when he was being like that he would change. Whenever I tried to leave he would say he was feeling suicidal. He would really pull on my heart strings and make me feel guilty.

"I wouldn’t want anyone to go through that, I look back now and I think he knew exactly what he was doing.”

Coercive control:

Suzie also spoke about the coercive control element of the pair’s relationship, including Lenihan constantly checking her phone and accusing her of cheating.

She recalls one incident where he accused her of cheating and told her he had proof and screenshots.

When she asked to see them, he had messaged someone from her own phone in 2012 pretending to be her, then screenshotted the chat and kept the screenshots for three years.

She said: “I noticed the grammar wasn’t quite right. I couldn’t believe he went on Facebook, pretended to be me and messaged another man.

“It was complete madness and that really opened my eyes as to how controlling and manipulative he could be.

“When I would go for weekends away with my friends he would always do something to dampen or ruin it, so much so that it put me off going out or planning anything."

Lockdown and Covid-19:

Suzie said when the first Covid-19 lockdown arrived, this only made things worse, she said: “It really proved to me that I had been living under a pretence this whole time."

“I thought it wasn’t going to benefit me to leave home. Tim sat at home drinking all the time and I hated it. I would go to bed at around 8pm because I just couldn’t be around him. I started to realise I didn’t like anything about him.”

It was in January when Suzie’s sister’s friend asked her if everything was OK that set the wheels in motion for change.

She said: “I was so desperately unhappy and he just didn’t care. I realised I deserved better.

"In March I fled to my friend’s house as I realised I just couldn’t be myself around him and I never knew when the beast would be unleashed so to speak.”

The car tracker

It was just before her birthday in March that Lenihan brought a tracker and installed it in her car without her knowledge.

He admitted checking it up to 15 times a day.

Suzie said: “I began to have an innocent conversation with my friend and really opened up to him; I realised I had somebody to talk to.

"Tim would monitor every movement and it got to the point where I stopped talking to this friend because I realised my life could potentially be in danger.

“However, I went to see him in the end as I had no-one else to turn to.

"When I realised Tim was outside his house, all the blood drained from my face. I realised he somehow knew exactly where I was.”

Suzie’s message to other women or men suffering from domestic abuse or coercive control is not to be paranoid and think it’s just how they are, or this is normal behaviour.

“Nobody has the right to know where you are and what you’re doing; it’s not normal”, she said.

“Your life is your life and nobody has the right to dictate to you how you live it.”

Speaking to police

Suzie said she never would have spoken to police and it was her friend who called 999 after Lenihan turned up at his house.

It was then that officers found the tracker in Suzie’s car after they questioned him.

Suzie said: “I never felt I would be believed, but police becoming involved was the best thing that could have happened to me.

“If they hadn’t been called I could have ended up dead.

“Speaking to officers and opening up to them was like a breath of fresh air.

"They arrested him and had him remanded in custody straight away.

"I felt safe and I felt believed.

"Please speak to police if you are going through a similar situation.

"They will listen to you and take things very seriously.”

The sentencing

Lenihan, of Loder Avenue, Bretton, Peterborough, admitted charges of coercive control and common assault.

At Peterborough Crown Court two weeks ago, July 28, he was handed a two-year community order, a 30-day Rehabilitation Activity Requirement, a 50-day building better relationships programme and 50 hours of unpaid work.

He was also made the subject of a restraining order, lasting seven years, preventing him from contacting Suzie.

Suzie said: “The restraining order lasting for such a long amount of time is a brilliant result.

"That’s enough time for me to try to get my life back."

“Life can only get better after being in that kind of toxic, vile environment.

"Things will get better, but you have to take that first step and get help.

“I feel so free; my life is in my control and it feels so liberating.

"Why should you change your life for someone who is not treating you right and never has done?

“People can’t be treated this way and I want to stop this happening to somebody else, so if there are any doubts or concerns in your mind at all, please speak to the police.”

DC Robyn Barlow, who investigated, praised Suzie for her bravery in confiding in officers and reporting what had happened to police.

We would strongly urge anyone who is a victim of domestic abuse to contact us on 101 or call the national domestic violence helpline on 0808 2000 247.

For more advice and support on domestic abuse, visit: https://bit.ly/3ltgfqz