Raising awareness of domestic abuse: Andrea’s story
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For 28 years Andrea Smith lived her life in constant fear of her husband.
Dave, the man who had sworn to love, protect and cherish her, was in fact beating her so badly she was left with a dislocated jaw – and he would also often rape her, sometimes while she slept.
She was told what to wear, who she could and could not speak to, and he even timed how long it would take her to go to the shop.
And, such was the abuse Andrea suffered, she attempted to take her life on three separate occasions.
Having initially met Dave while having her first tattoo, Andrea had no idea of the violent sexual abuser he was to become: “About a week later I saw him at a party and he asked me to go out with him. Within a couple of weeks, he’d moved in, but it was just far too soon.
“He was saying all the right things. I’d got three children from a previous marriage, I just thought he was a nice guy.
“Within three or four weeks he started to show his true colours. But by then there was no way he was going to go.”
The abuse started with Dave making fun at Andrea’s expense, commenting on her appearance and propositioning her friends in front of her.
He then began controlling Andrea, stopping her from doing things she had previously loved.
“I wasn’t allowed to do anything,” she said. “I used to go trampolining, but I had to stop that because he was threatening to hit the coach.”
Dave was jealous from day one and Andrea hoped that committing to him would help make things better but sadly it didn’t work out that way.
“The first ten years of marriage were horrendous,” Andrea said. “I didn’t really want to get married to him but you don’t say no to Dave so I basically just went along with it. We were married within nine months. I thought maybe he’d feel more secure and things would settle down because it was all over his jealousy, god knows why.”
The physical abuse didn’t take long to appear. And once it started, it just didn’t stop.
“Even sitting watching TV he’d just start punching my leg,” Andrea said. “I’d just sit there thinking I’ve not done anything.
“One night he sat for about half an hour just punching my leg and I got up and just smacked him straight in the mouth. So then he was saying ‘you’ve hurt me, you’ve made me bleed, you’ve got to take me to hospital.’ I just thought I should have actually gone to hospital and said this is why I’ve retaliated because my leg was black and blue. But I didn’t say anything to anybody.”
Understandably being in such an abusive relationship took its toll on Andrea’s mental health and she felt like she only had one way out.
“It got to the point where I just didn’t know a way out. And I did on three separate occasions, try to commit suicide,” Andrea said.
“After that I got some help from the doctors and got counselling. But he always said that he would get my kids if I left because of my mental health and the fact that I tried to commit suicide – never mind the fact that what he’d done and was doing to me is what got me to that stage.
“And I actually believed him. So I was totally trapped. When I went to counselling with the doctors they said it was him who had got the problem so it was him who needed counselling. That was 20 years ago and he never bothered because he said it wasn’t his problem, it was all mine.”
It was often minor and trivial things that would cause Dave to hurt Andrea, so she was constantly on edge.
She said: “He’d come home and he didn’t like what I was going to cook him and that would cause an argument. It was just really volatile all the time, like treading on eggshells. You didn’t know whether what you were saying or what you were going to do was going to cause him to flare up.
“His favourite thing was to grab me by the throat. He was always very careful where he hit me. He only ever once blacked my eye.”
A few years into the marriage however things changed and Dave became less abusive to Andrea.
“The middle part of the marriage wasn’t too bad, it seemed to settle down,” she said. Andrea later realised it was because her sons were then teenagers and would have fought back to protect their mum. However, once they had grown up and left home, the abuse started again.
Despite the terrible abuse she was suffering, Andrea, like many people, didn’t want a failed marriage so the couple went to see a Relate marriage counsellor.
But Dave still didn’t acknowledge that his behaviour and forcing Andrea to have sex with him against her will was not only wrong, but was also against the law.
Andrea said: “The Relate woman said look its rape and he said no, I’ve just got a higher sex drive.”
By this stage, Andrea was hoping to get out of the relationship and had begun rehoming the pets she loved so that she could leave.
The final straw came when Dave made a comment to Andrea that showed he still didn’t understand how wrong his behaviour was.
“He said ‘well it’s not as if I batter the sh*t out of you’ and that’s what did it, that was the turning point,” Andrea said. “I thought well if you think what you’re doing is fine then what hope have I got because he always said I’d only leave him in a body bag and he’d do time for killing me.”
Andrea was having counselling at the time and her counsellor suggested she should go to Derby Women’s Centre to seek help. It was a suggestion that has transformed her life.
“I’m glad I did,” Andrea said, “I went down there and spoke to a woman who said I needed a housing advisor and asked if I would give a statement to the police. I said yes and he was arrested that night.
“I didn’t even know about Derby Women’s Centre and if it wasn’t for my counsellor telling me to go there I’d still be in the situation now, that’s if I was still here at all.”
Dave was charged with rape, sexual assault, intentional strangulation, and controlling and coercive behaviour, but having initially denied the charges, Andrea had to prepare to go to court to give her evidence. However, on the day of trial, he decided to plead guilty.
“I was so mad that he went guilty at the last minute,” Andrea said. “We were parking up in town for me to go and give my evidence.
“I really wanted my day in court but he’s a coward and he wouldn’t want to everybody to know what he’d been up to. But I said I was still reading my (victim) impact statement out, nobody else was. It didn’t happen to anyone else, it happened to me. I’d kept it in for 28 years and I wanted to get it out.”
In September 2023, Dave appeared at Derby Crown Court for sentencing when he was jailed for seven and a half years. The judge told the 53-year-old, of Mowbray Street, Derby, that he would have to serve two thirds of the sentence – five years – before he was released. In addition he was ordered to sign the sex offender’s register and handed a restraining order banning him from having any contact with Andrea.
Temporary Detective Constable Sophie Wallace, who led the investigation, said: “For almost 30 years David Smith controlled every aspect of Andrea’s life, taking away her freedom, leaving her feeling a shell of the person she once was, and violating her in the worst way possible.
“Even after being arrested and interviewed by police, and then again when he appeared in court, he still didn’t accept how utterly appalling his behaviour towards his wife was and showed an abhorrent attitude towards women.
“I have no doubt that he is a very dangerous individual and Andrea’s life was in real danger had she not been able to get out of the relationship.
“I cannot praise her enough for how incredibly brave she has been throughout this very long and difficult process. She has shown extraordinary courage and determination in bringing Smith to justice, and for her to have the confidence to stand in court and read her victim impact statement out was nothing short of outstanding.
“While the impact of Smith’s behaviour will understandably continue to affect Andrea for the rest of her life, I sincerely hope that knowing he is behind bars will give her the chance to start looking to the future and put this horrific chapter in her life behind her.
“I’d also like to encourage anyone else who is suffering domestic abuse to please come forward and speak to us as Andrea did. We will listen without judgement and work tirelessly to bring the perpetrator to justice.”
Andrea has now waived her right to anonymity to speak out about her experiences as part of our domestic abuse campaign in a bid to help others.
Like many people in the same situation, it took Andrea some time to realise that she was suffering domestic abuse.
“It was only when I went down to the Derby Women’s Centre because it was just such a normal part of life,” she said. “It’s like the rape, when they arrested him and interviewed him they came to see me and I said I didn’t want him being charged with rape but the CPS said he was going to be. It was only later that I realised that there is rape in marriage. I never took it as that because we were married, it wasn’t somebody that I didn’t know so I never saw it as being raped but obviously it is. It still seems weird trying to come to terms with that.
“I spent half my life trying to make something work and please somebody and I’d have never done it. In another 20 years it would still be the same no matter what I did.”
Being isolated and afraid, Andrea found it difficult to see a way out, but she has now realised that there was support out there.
“There is help out there and there are things you can do but obviously it’s harder when you’ve got younger kids. I’ve had to wait until now and it’s only because I’ve been getting help from Derby Women’s Centre that I’ve managed to do it otherwise I’d still be with him,” she said.
Understandably, Andrea still suffers with the trauma of what Dave did to her.
“I'm absolutely fine in the day,” she said. “When I go to bed at night, I'm not sleeping very well. I'm up and down all night because it's just like everything's coming back and its sort of just going around and around and different scenarios of when he comes out as well.”
Despite this, Andrea is now able to look to the future and is keen to show other survivors of domestic abuse that there is hope.
When asked what her advice to other women in abusive relationships would be, Andrea said: “Go to the women's centre. It was all just taken out of my hands. It sort of quickly snowballed but everything happened in the right way. Like my daughter said, he was out of the way so I could move because I would never have got out and been able to do that. Everything happens for a reason and it's happened in the best possible way.
“It’s just actually about telling somebody who can do something about it. I never knew about all of the help that there is out there.”
And Andrea added: “The police officer, Sophie, and everyone else who helped me were brilliant. I felt so supported throughout the whole process so if you are suffering domestic abuse, no matter how isolated you feel, there are people out there ready and willing to guide you through – just take that step and reach out.”
Domestic abuse can affect both women and men and can occur in same sex relationships. It can be physical, emotional, sexual, or financial.
It can be repeated, random or habitual, and is used to control a partner.
If you're a victim of domestic abuse, or know someone who is, there are a number of ways you can report your concerns:
We will be holding our latest Facebook Live broadcast to talk about domestic abuse on Tuesday 6 February at 1pm.
During the session we will be joined by Professor Jane Monckton-Smith OBE, creator of the eight-stage homicide timeline, a framework for tracking the homicide risk in cases of coercive control and stalking.
An officer from our domestic abuse unit will also be taking part in the chat and offering advice and support from the police.
There will also be the opportunity for you to submit questions if there’s anything you want to know about domestic abuse and the many forms it can take.