We first became aware of Meg's* situation when a concerned family member contacted us. She was worried that Meg's partner was subjecting her to abuse at their home and hoped we could offer some advice and assistance.
The family member contacted Meg who agreed to meet with us to discuss how we could support her moving forward.
At our first meeting, Meg disclosed several incidents of violence and explained how she had been abused physically, emotionally and financially for the past three years. The abuse began when she was pregnant, and her partner had found many ways to control her, including threatening to kill her on more than one occasion.
Meg still lived with her partner and young son and was extremely afraid of the potential repercussions of talking to us. She disclosed that she often had to report where she had been and who she had been with, and that her phone was constantly monitored. Meg was encouraged by her partner to give up work and sell her car which ensured she was fully dependent on him. She felt isolated and scared and had limited access to money to support herself and her son.
Once in refuge, we supported Meg and her son as they planned their new life. We assisted Meg with applying for benefit entitlement, registering with a GP and finding a nursery group for her son. Initially, Meg found it difficult to cope and accept that she couldn't return to her previous life, but our women's workers maintained regular contact with Meg and supported her through every challenge she faced.
After several months working with Meg, we helped her to secure a job that she loved and to find a permanent home. We created a budget to assist her with managing bills, rent and day-to-day expenses and regularly checked that Meg and her son were happy, comfortable and safe in their home and new life.
*Meg's name has been changed to protect her identity
A teacher living in France, Zara* had been married for two years when she moved to the UK with her husband and child. After leaving her friends and family behind, her husband quickly used this opportunity to dominate their relationship and became volatile, leaving Zara afraid to voice her opinions.
She said: “He isolated me from everything and everyone. When I asked him to introduce me to his friends and family, he would say bad things about his own friends and ask me to stay away from all that. That way he slowly made me so dependent on him.”
Through both physical and emotional abuse, Zara began to lose respect for herself, believing her husband when he said she was a bad person and accepting that she deserved to be beaten.
She said: “The emotional abuse started soon after our marriage. If I raised my opinion during an argument, he would say I had mental problems and that I’m hysterical. He did all sorts of things to make me feel bad and, most importantly, very low about myself. The physical abuse started when we had an argument and he suddenly started beating me on my arms. I started to cry and he stopped. But he didn’t apologise for his act, rather he blamed me and said it was my mistake and because I didn’t stop arguing, he had to beat me."
“I didn’t realise until the end of the marriage that I was going through an abusive relationship. The emotional and physical abuse became more intense and every time it happened, it was just a reassurance for me that I’m the bad person and I deserved it all. I never once thought about leaving because I always blamed me for everything and believed completely that I had problems.”
Zara’s marriage came to an end when she finally hit back. During the incident, her husband recorded her hitting him on his phone and reported her to the police, who arrested her. After being given bail, Zara was directed to us by the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Initially, Zara was worried that we wouldn’t believe her side of the story after being arrested: “I was reassured that GWA would never judge me and would believe what I say. They gave me advice on how I keep myself and my little one safe. I was afraid of telling my work but GWA advised me to talk to them and, to my surprise, I got a lot more support than I expected, especially throughout the legal process.”
After our support to take back control of her life, Zara now feels like a different person. She loves and respects herself and vows never to be treated that way again: “Looking back, I thought the abuse was a normal part of marriage so I never spoke about it. People say they would never let that happen to them but abusers are very manipulative. They firstly break your confidence and slowly take control over you and your life. It has nothing to do with the type of women you are, how well educated you are or your financial situation – it could happen to anyone.”
*Zara’s name has been changed to protect her identity
The Words of A Survivor
The following are words of a survivor of domestic abuse. By sharing her story, she hopes to give courage to women experiencing domestic abuse, to urge them to seek help.
I fell for him, I packed my life up and moved over to England after landing a job. I got on the plane looking forward to start our life together. Got off the plane, he told me the job had been cancelled, he was stressed and angry, no mood to celebrate our new beginning.
He used this, to control our new life together. Looking back at the 11 years he always blamed everything on me, took his anger and aggression out on me. Yet he never Hit me. he controlled me, our money.
I had to beg just to be able to buy new socks. He refused to let me have more than 1 pair of shoes. He stopped me from going out for walks time after time and other times, because my shoes were so worn, I could not walk in them and he would not let me get new ones.
I broke down, I told him I could no longer live like this, cause my only thought was to jump off a bridge
I told him exactly what I needed, he promised, yet he did the exact opposite, he did not care about the over 1000 times I went to bed sad, as long as I cooked, cleaned and was quiet.
I was supposed to make my escape, but covid happened, his holiday was postponed.
Then, I had 14 days to pack, say goodbye, to ask for help, and help I got! Yet I had been Afraid that no one would believe me.
Why was I so afraid, cause I am strong and seen as a strong person. Cause how can you be strong and controlled at the same time? Trust me, you can!
I reported to the police that I was escaping, so there was no way he could report me as missing. I escaped, and he has not tried to contact me or any of my friends.
Now, later, I have been waking up with a smile every day, my mind and body so relaxed, I have no regrets, I got new friends and I am signing the papers for my new home. I still got worries, but I smile.
I now clean my temporary home, dancing and smiling.
So please Do Not be Afraid, Ask for Help, they will believe you, they will support you, you will be happy and free.
I am Free!
I am Happy!
Survivor: Poem by Laura
This powerful and thought-provoking poem reflects the experiences and feelings of many survivors of domestic abuse. Laura pens poems about real life issues with the purpose of bringing awareness and hope to victims and others. We feel privileged she has chosen to share the passionate and insightful words of “Survivor” with us. Thank you, Laura.
The end of the date brought our first kiss,
Butterflies galore - nothing was amiss,
Daytime texts and phone calls every night,
Could it be love? I think it might.
With every day we got closer,
It then turned into a roller-coaster......
To read the rest of this poem click here