Employer’s letter shows how wide-reaching domestic abuse can be
A woman who survived being shot by her husband has shared a letter from her old employer, showing the extent to which her partner controlled her life for years. Rachel Williams, 44, made the letter public along with graphic photos of her injuries, to urge people to recognise the early warning signs of abuse.
She was at work in a hair salon in 2011 when her husband Darren burst in, unable to accept that she had left him six weeks earlier, and blasted her at point blank range, later killing himself. But although this was the worst, most traumatic, point and the end to their relationship, things had been difficult for 18 years before that.
A previous employer had written a letter supporting Rachel when she prepared for a court case about a different incident. She shared the letter on Facebook, urging people to raise concerns if they had them.
Dear Sir/Madam, I employed Mrs Rachel Court then known as Haywood as a Junior Hairstylist at my salon from June 1999 until Easter 2002.
Although I was always very pleased with Rachel’s standard of work her employment didn’t come without problems.
Her partner Darren Williams controlled her working life.
For example we all lead him to believe that our male trainee was gay. This was because Rachel was not allowed to work with heterosexual males, she was also not allowed to cut the hair of men or lesbians.
Darren’s demeanour was intimidating and we were all afraid of him ‘kicking off’, he would make surprise visits to the salon and check our appointment book to try to catch her out.
I remember one particular day when Rachel was the only stylist available to cut a gent’s hair and I had to order all my trainees to circle around her and the client to block any view from the street whilst she cut his hair. The fear of her getting caught was tangible and the whole salon was on pins.
Further more Rachel was also only allowed her hair to be styled in his preferred style and was not under any terms allowed it coloured.
Only one time we broke the tinting rule, the following day Rachel came into work and begged for the colour to be removed. Rachel explained that she had been ordered by Darren to reverse her hair back to its natural colour. Of course it was!
I have no doubt that Rachel was controlled by Darren and to be honest myself and the rest of my staff were all fearful of him.’
Her husband refused to let her do even basic parts of her job description, and would show up to check she wasn’t going against his orders. She said she shared the letter to encourage employers or colleagues to be aware of the signs of domestic abuse, and be ready to help if necessary.
As well as the letter, Rachel, from Newport in South Wales, bravely shared graphic photos of the wounds Darren inflicted on her. ‘Sometimes you have to show these hard-hitting photos to show what it’s all about,’ she told Metro.co.uk. ‘Women still get killed. We have got an epidemic on our hands.’ ‘To me, it shows the severity of domestic violence. I didn’t think there would be as much interest but I’m glad there has been.’
Rachel was attacked in 2011
Six weeks after she left her husband Darren Williams, he arrived at her work place armed with a shotgun.
During a struggle, he shot her point blank in the left knee as she brought her legs up to protect herself. The shot peppered other customers at the salon in South Wales, injuring two.
He shouted ‘I love you’ before storming out, and was found dead in nearby woodland.
Her son Jack, 16, killed himself shortly afterwards.
Seven years on from the trauma, she now campaigns on behalf of other victims, saying that she won’t let her son’s death be in vain.
Rachel told Metro that she regularly hears from victims who are also in abusive relationships, thanking her for speaking out about what happened to her even though they say they aren’t ready to do it themselves.
Now in a happy relationship, Rachel is proof that there is life after abuse.
‘Obviously, I didn’t ask to be put in this domestic violence arena,’ she said. ‘It was thrust on me because of a man’s actions. But Jack’s death is not going to be in vain. I’m going to keep on shouting about domestic violence until the government stands up and takes notice.’
She praised recent changes to the law, including increasing the maximum sentence for stalking from five to ten years, and a ruling that perpetrators should no longer be allowed to cross-examine victims in family court.
‘But we need tougher sentences for perpetrators,’ she said.
Rachel now campaigns on behalf of other victims (Picture: Wales News Service) ‘Short sharp shocks of two weeks in prison’ should be more common for people who break restraining orders or their licensing conditions, she said, as this could be enough to make people stop and think.
‘It would really make a difference, especially for perpetrators who appear like a pillar of society,’ she said. ‘A week in prison woud be enough to deter a lot of them.’
‘They could be in a high powered job, whatever walk of life they come from. They could be living next door. They are in your street. They don’t live on a different island somewhere.
‘You just can’t see them because they’re hidden behind their persona.’