Last week, at an emotional event in Glasgow’s City Chambers, I listened to a childhood friend of mine tell an assembled audience about her escape from 20-odd years of escalating domestic abuse.

She was standing in front of some luminaries of Scotland’s legal world, including Lord Advocate James Wolffe and solicitor general Alison Di Rollo, helping unveil an incredible stained glass installation – called GlassWalls – created by survivors, telling their stories through art.

“It’s funny,” Janey tells me. “But I’d actually forgotten I was creative.”

Just another part of her temporarily lost in what she calls the years of “darkness”.

But this was an event to inspire change, to bring the voices of victims into the justice system in a way that has been too long coming, and Janey was going to be heard.

So there she was explaining how she was so belittled and controlled in her long relationship that she would never have left her partner, except in a body bag, had her young daughter not phoned the police at the culmination of the violence.

The stained glass display has been designed with help from domestic abuse victims

She told of the agony of an 11-month wait for her case to come to court while her body and mind crumbled to the stress. She was diagnosed with complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

She slept on the couch every night, a hammer by her side, petrified he’d appear.

Not that she got the chance to explain much of that in court. When the case was heard, at its fourth calling, her ex pled guilty.

She waited a further four months before he was sentenced. He walked with little more than an electronic tag and community service.

For Janey and her kids, the sentence has been so much tougher – and, in many ways, will never end.

If you think you have an idea of the “type” of women who become victim of this most insidious and manipulative abuse, you could not be more mistaken.

Lord Advocate James Wolffe attended the unveiling

Janey (it’s not her real name) has always seemed to me, and likely to everyone else who ever came into contact with her, as a woman comfortable in her own skin and entirely in control of her own destiny.

As a child, she was outgoing and confident, first on the stage to perform, first to get up to mischief, all with the cheekiest grin.

When you were with Janey, you were generally naughty. As an adult, she didn’t seem to change much.

Though our lives inevitably took us in different paths, we would bump into each other over the years.

She became a physiotherapist. I’d be at hospital with a poorly sister, child or elderly mother and we’d run into Janey, cheerful as ever, making patients laugh while she coaxed them back on to their feet.

Sometimes she’d be on a ward and I’d watch her bustling around, calm and professional as she dealt with the seriously ill. Always ready with a joke, always with that same grin.

We had kids around the same time. I remember meeting her with her newborn and being in awe of how comfortable and proficient she was at breastfeeding while I was still a fumbling, weepy novice.

But that was Janey all over. Breast was best so her kids were damn well going to get it, even if it was hard.

And yet all this time she was hiding the truth. She tells me now that she’d switch on her “work face” and just get on with it.

She was isolating herself from family and friends because he was convinced she was having affairs and hated her going out. She built up a selection of excuses for staying home.

She gradually began to believe that she was to blame for everything because she had “wound him up” in some way. It was her fault he reacted with violence. She was just selfish.

She accepted she was useless at technology and couldn’t be trusted to touch the home computer because she’d break it – which meant he could hide whatever he was up to.

She believed he was sorry for grabbing her throat or hurting her. She hid bruises under her uniform.

She came to the conclusion it was better to be invisible when out in public so no one would talk to her and arouse his jealousy. So she’d wear dowdy clothes and leave her hair unwashed. She stopped wearing make-up.

She was already small and slight, only 5ft, but the person Janey had been was shrinking and it would likely have disappeared altogether if, after a beating which lasted all night, her daughter hadn’t dialled 999.

And even then Janey couldn’t bring herself to go to A&E, to be treated by colleagues who would have discovered what had been going on.

It has taken a very long time, and a great deal of therapy, for Janey to reach a point where she can stand up and talk with pride – and humour – about finding herself again through an incredible support and advocacy group, the Daisy Project, based in Glasgow.

And last week there she was, revealing the beautiful stained glass triptych, as well as daisy windows made by the women.

GlassWalls tells the story of how far Scotland has come in tackling the malignancy of domestic abuse – and how far we’ve still to go in creating a court system that fully understands and accommodates the victims, listens and responds to them.

It’s the idea of researcher and public prosecutor Dr Emma Forbes, whose work with survivors showed they overwhelmingly felt they weren’t being heard.

And that’s not their fault. Despite huge progress in awareness of domestic abuse – through Police Scotland’s Domestic Abuse Task Force and a dedicated Domestic Abuse Court – the criminal justice system is still structured in a way that leaves victims feeling confused and ignored.

Last week, the Lord Advocate personally heard my friend’s story and that of two other brave women. He pledged that testimonies like theirs would inform changes. It’s crucial that they do, for every single woman who suffers in secret and puts on her “work face”.

For Janey, I’m glad to say there is light at the end of her darkness years. She is back in education, she mentors other survivors. She is happy again. And the words of advice that sent her to a place of escape have been immortalised in a work of art to inspire others: “I know it’s difficult. But nobody knows you. Just chap the door.”

GlassWalls is on display until December 20. For information and to help fund a tour of the work, see www.glasswallsart.com.

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