How do other people survive domestic violence? What helped them? What advice do they have for others? Here are some real life stories from domestic abuse survivors.
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The decision to report my partner to the authorities for abuse that I had been made to believe I deserved would have been even harder if it wasn’t for the support I received. I found the justice system daunting and the prospect of a court case terrifying. I felt vulnerable and under pressure to make the right decision. I was referred to the Independent Sexual Violence Advocacy Service, and the ISVA talked me through my options and gave me the freedom of choice. She listened to my worries and explained aspects of the legal system which seemed complex. With her support I was able to build up my strength to face the pending court case.
The positive relationship that I had with my ISVA was based on trust and the reassurance that I had somebody, not in an intimidating uniform as a point of contact. Somebody on my level, with a genuine understanding and compassion for the situation I found myself in. I firmly believe that as a direct result of this relationship I was able to find the strength to proceed with my decision to leave my partner and successfully take him to court.
Before my counselling at Doncaster Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, I was at a low point in my life. I found myself struggling to deal with the aftermath of the attack. I had turned to self harm and could see no hope that my life would improve. I was welcomed by DRASACS and began visiting my counsellor on a weekly basis. Just knowing that I have this session with my counsellor provides me with reassurance that I have somewhere safe to go. Somewhere, where I am heard and understood without judgement.
My counsellor has helped me to deal with my thoughts, without resorting to self harm. As a result of the help from my counsellor I am now at a place where I no longer consider self harm as an option. This is somewhere I could never see myself at one point. The support of my counsellor has enabled me to turn my life around, so much so that I have started university and have high hopes for the future. Thank you so much."
Can’t remember what I’d done to make him hit me. Must have been my fault though. I just pushed him till he lost his temper. My fault. I was so stupid, hopeless at everything. Never did anything right. No wonder he lost it.
I waited a long, long time, before I finally realised that no matter what I did – it would never be good enough. Before I understood that I was worth more than this, and before I had the courage to leave. I did leave, and my only regret is that I didn’t do it years earlier. Why I thought that staying together was better for my children. Why I thought I couldn’t cope on my own. Today? Well I’m happily married to a wonderful man, who loves me just the way I am. Who trusts me, and supports me with everything I do.
My message to anyone out there suffering violence and abuse is get the help and support you need, you deserve to live free from abuse".
The world made no sense without him in it, and I felt confused and lonely. My son did make sense however. I wanted to be helped – to be stronger for his sake. I was assigned a Domestic Violence Advocate, who was a brilliant lady who genuinely wanted to help me. She referred me to the Women’s Centre. I met with another lady, who, alongside my Domestic Violence Advocate, explained what courses the Women’s Centre had to offer. I was welcome to call in anytime, should I ever need to talk, or just need somewhere to go (to have somewhere to aim for when you’ve no friends means a lot!).
The Confidence and Communication classes I attended were run with warmth, humour and understanding. The Project worker took the time to welcome everybody individually and listened to every question and thought with interest. The classes helped me a great deal in overcoming my social anxieties. I learned about body language and how not to interpret the behaviour of others on a personal level. This is something I often used to do. I learned to integrate again, with other people; something I hadn’t done for a long time. I learned to socialise again and the world wasn’t such a bad place after all!
Meeting people who are not “obvious victims” opened my eyes up. It reassured me that vulnerability can happen to anyone and that made me felt less like a victim. When you feel like a victim, you tend to act like one, and people treat you in that way (I found that at least). Rather now, I felt like an individual for the first time in years. The Confidence Class brought out a side of me I hadn’t seen for a very long time – a very focussed and talkative side of me.
I had never been allowed to have an opinion, with my abuser, and I noticed that I wasn’t alone. Many women in the class seemed happy that people were listened to. The classes gave me a sense of direction – a mark in my diary – somewhere for me to be. A hurdle at first, because I suffered with anxiety, and on my way to my first class I suffered with a panic attack. Yet by the last class, I walked through a busy town centre, by myself, with a sense of freedom. The anxiety wasn’t with me any longer.
Sometimes in order to overcome your fears you do have to face them!"
I was forced to have sex with him whenever he wanted; sometimes crying into the pillow as I knew what would happen if I refused. In hindsight, I think he was trying to tie me down, and have lots of children. His own father had done this with his wife, who also suffered abuse. This was his way of preventing me from getting away.
He once attempted to strangle me, leaving bruises on my throat, but in those days (1970) domestic violence wasn’t really seen as a crime, and there wasn’t the support and understanding available that there is today.
The first time I left, I went to stay at my sister’s and during the night, he turned up at the house. The kids were asleep. He ran upstairs and grabbed them and ran down the street to a taxi that was waiting. After two days, I went to his dad’s to get the kids back. His father said to me, “If you had done that to me I would have given you a smack.”
After I got brave enough to leave with assistance from friends, he snatched the kids a few more times. After getting the children back after the custody hearing, I had to go with the Police to escort me for my safety. When I moved to my mum’s, he would turn up demanding access to the kids. Access days were horrible. Until the children were back in the house, I could not relax. He would use the children to try to manipulate and upset me.
I now so regret not leaving him earlier but in those days, it wasn’t always possible with children and no money to speak of. All this happened over thirty years ago, and the children are all grown up now, and I’ve left it behind me. But it all comes back to me when I hear about campaigns like this one, and I’m so glad that today there is more support for victims. I would just say to anyone – don’t put up with being abused."
My Story: 1969 – 1970
Sarah and Stacey
Changing Lives is a national, registered charity which provides specialist services throughout England to vulnerable people and their families.
Both Stacey, 21, and Sarah, 23, say they now have positive aspirations for the future and for their young children.
Stacey has a two-year-old boy. She grew up witnessing domestic violence between her parents as a child. Despite vowing to herself that she would never accept a violent relationship, she discovered after becoming pregnant that her partner had a police record that he hadn’t disclosed to her.
This meant intervention from social services throughout Stacey’s pregnancy, and after the baby was born.
“I couldn’t go to bed without tidying up the entire house, worrying that if I didn’t, they’d say she might be taken away,” said Stacey.
“I felt low. I was worried and stressed about what they thought and what might happen, constantly questioning myself and my ability to bring up a child.”
“I didn’t blame social services. They had to keep the baby safe. The father was a big risk.”
“He would stand outside threatening to burn my house down. I had to pay him in beer to look after my son because he wouldn’t look after him while I went to work. He hit me in front of my son. I decided I had to do something, because I knew I couldn’t allow my son to grow up thinking this is the right way to treat women.”
At Changing Lives, Stacey completed courses and one-to-one therapies. She became friends with Sarah, who has three young children.
“Every relationship I’ve been in has been abusive in one way or another, whether it’s been physical or emotional,” said Sarah.
“I found that I had eventually become the abuser.”
“Things went really sour when I was pregnant with my last child. My partner had me in headlocks, and was breaking into my house.”
“I’m feeling positive now. We [Sarah and Stacey] are going to get where we need to be, through Changing Lives.”
“There is help out there. People are willing to talk to you. I’ve come from a background of abuse, from being born. And now, I’ve got aspirations. I want to do for other people what Changing Lives has done for me.”
I've now completely turned my life around, I've got a job I love, and I've even volunteered to help other women, after I 'came out the other side'. I'm also now doing a college course to be a teaching assistant! Everything is so much better now. I just hope I can help other women to see if they can do it too. It is possible to come out the other side."
The emotional abuse started first. I was very rarely allowed to go anywhere by myself. When I was it would only be to work and even then she would phone me constantly throughout the day. I tried to leave her when this started, but she emotionally blackmailed me to stay by overdosing on tablets; which I later found out she would spit them out under the bed. She would also threaten to hurt any future girlfriends I have so badly that I wouldn’t want to be with her.
Optimistically thinking that things could get better between us I proposed to her after two years of being together. This was the biggest mistake of my life- things went dramatically downhill from that moment.
The first time she viciously attacked me was on Good Friday 2008. I don’t know why or what provoked her. She ran into the house, grabbed a knife and as soon as I walked in she was attacking me with it. She then grabbed my testicles and twisted them as hard as she could and would not let go. It was excruciatingly painful. To this day I still do not know what caused her to be so violent. She would just snap from nice to nasty in an instant.
The violence only got worse from there. The second time she attacked me, she followed me around the house punching me in the head, hitting me with a pint glass, knocked me to the flood and proceeded to drop her knee into my head repeatedly. It was ferocious and I genuinely feared for me life. I also remember on another occasion she was punching me in the eye when I was driving around a roundabout, so hard that she bruised her knuckles. I was however later in the wrong for causing the bruising. The most shocking attack however, happened on our wedding night. She really beat me, kicking and punching me repeatedly. I remember her digging her nails into my cheek, it felt like she was going to rip my cheek off. I managed to get away and ran down the road in bare feet and my wedding suit. I went back because she was threatening to hang herself with my wedding tie. I later got beaten because the cuts on my face ruined our honeymoon pictures.
She was eventually convicted of assault by beating three years ago and given a six month restraining order. She subsequently lost her job as a care assistant. I have been left with a lot of fear and I am constantly on a state of high alert. I am however in the process of explaining my experience to my therapist. I am working on dealing with what happened to me and slowly moving on. It is a long and difficult process but I now that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and I will not allow her ruin my future."
She began shouting when we got in the house and smashed a mirror over my head. I had never seen this side of her before. Not wanting to make things worse, I just dropped it and slept on the couch. The next morning she came out of the bedroom as if nothing had happened, so I didn’t mention it.
A few weeks later I got a call from work to see if I could do an extra shift. I said no as I was already exhausted from night feeds and working 60 hours per week. When I got off the phone he told me to ring them back and tell them I’m coming in. I refused, I didn’t want to go to work. She started arguing saying that she wanted some new clothes. Every time I tried to talk she would shout over the top of me. All of a sudden she smashed the glass door on our living room unit and started to throw the pieces at me. I had scratches all over my face and neck. I ran to the closest people I could think of. They let me stay the night at their home. The next morning, I returned home to her crying, saying that she was sorry and it would never happen again. A few years passed before anything else happened.
In 2009 we lost our middle child. We were both distraught by this and it changed our relationship completely. She started going out a lot more, leaving me at home with our child and rolling in sometime the next day.
She was arguing more and becoming aggressive again. This continued for a few months and I eventually found out she was using cocaine and that she was cheating on me. When I confronted her about the cheating she blamed it on me for not being there for her when she lost our baby. I still loved her and was desperate to make it work and so I forgave her. After our 3rd baby was born I was left holding 2 children, working full time and doing night feeds. I started to become miserable because she would pick at me for every little thing I did. I even found out that she had spent nearly £5000 on cocaine, using it whilst the children were around.
It became a daily struggle of shouting and pushing me around. In 2013 she came in from a night out and attacked me. I ran to my neighbour’s house to phone the police but she phoned the police on me also. We were both arrested. They interviewed me straight away as I hadn’t been drinking and they had to wait for her to sober up. After she was interviewed, the police told me they would just let us both go even though I had marks on me and she didn’t.
We decided to make a fresh start after this incident and moved away as a family. Things were great for a few months, until a rumour started that I had been sleeping with someone. This was not true. A few weeks after the cheating accusations we invited a few friends over, she even invited the lady that I was accused of cheating on. Everything was going fine, everyone was enjoying themselves, even my partner and the lady I was accused of cheating with. Then out of nowhere my ex comes out with, ‘I know the truth’. It was almost as if somebody had switched a light switch and her face filled with anger. She started shouting and the other lady and I were both refusing her claims but she just wouldn’t listen. I decided to remove myself from the situation. After 10 minutes I made my way back to the house. She was stood waiting for me, then out of nowhere she started jumping on me. She was biting and scratching me all over my face. I told the kids to run upstairs to their bedrooms but they wouldn’t leave me. They were dragging at their mum to get off me. I managed to break free, grabbed the kids and made it into my bedroom I pushed the bed up against the door the kids were crying. I saw the house phone on the bed so I phoned the police. Before I knew it, she barged into the bedroom. She pushed me down on the bed and bit at my eye and ear. She continued to viciously attack me, with our children in the room.
I eventually managed to get out of the house and shortly after the police and ambulance turned up. The police took a statement and pictures as well as the clothes I was wearing. The next day I was phoned by the police telling me that they were pressing charges. I was given custody of the children and she was only allowed supervised access. We were free from her and my children and I are finally safe, happy and making a fresh start".
Thankfully, I am now out of my difficult situation but I would like to share it with others to give them hope that they can get out of it too.
In May 2009, I got married to my partner I had been with for around 3 years. We had a good relationship and got on well with each other. The first three months of our marriage was excellent and we really enjoyed each others company. However, when I was promoted at work she became very insecure about our relationship as I had to increase the hours I was working. She resented my promotion so much and she wanted me to give it up, along with my £50k salary and take a smaller job as a bin man. When I refused to do this, she hit me for the first time ever. I have never been hit by anyone I have been in a relationship with before and it shock me so much. Following a great deal of saying sorry we eventually went to bed and nothing was said about it.
Between January and April 2010 I would receive a hit across the face, shoes or plates thrown at me. It became the routine of how things were. I would come back from work, have something to eat, we would argue about my job and then I would get hit. This was my normal life for four months.
One Saturday night I told her that I did not love her anymore because she was being so violent to me on a regular basis. I don't remember too much from this point onwards. I remember being curled up in a ball on the corner of the landing with punches and kicks raining down on me.
Eventually it stopped. She ran out of the house and drove off in a rage. I calmly packed my things and left. In some ways it was a difficult decision to make because I was unsure about what she would do to herself but in other ways it was really easy. At no point did I have to put up with this.
She was the person who was meant to love me more than anyone else and she treated me in this way? I stayed at a hotel for a few nights and then moved to more permanent accommodation.
I never met up with her or spoke to her again. However, the abuse did not stop there. She utilised me leaving as an opportunity to show that I was in the wrong for leaving her. She convinced my brothers that I was in the wrong. I showed my mum the bruises on my arms and back, she was physically sick.
Happily, the move away from my former wife was the best move I ever made. I have now found a new partner and a daughter, life if so much better. If I hadn't made the decision to leave, I don't know where I would be now."
Hayley's behaviour became ever more controlling and manipulative as the months went by. She would check my emails, text messages and Facebook account. She also hacked into these account and sent text messages to my female friends from my phone pretending to be me.
Hayley became violent towards me. She threw a laptop, threatened me repeatedly, destroyed another computer and would soak my sons (from a previous relationship) ironing once I had completed it. She singled my son out at meal times and often refused to allow him to eat desert. She would also serve his last and slam his plate down in front of him.
He witnessed her shouting, slamming doors at me and indulging in long periods of ignoring / isolating behaviour.
Hayley also prevented me from maintaining relationships with friends by constant questioning, checking behaviours - it was easier for me to not go out that face a barrage of questions.
Hayley threw me out of the house we shared, started drinking (began phoning friends and family telling the most abhorrent lies about me and spreading rumours that I was using pornography) and took an overdose - all within two month of our baby daughter being born, I later found out she had been drinking throughout this period. Despite all of this I decided to try again with the relationship but it only lasted another 5 months before I had to leave.
When I left Hayley told a social worker that I had been violent and abusive towards her. The social worker advised her that I was to have no unsupervised contact - I was never invited to the meeting or allowed to put forward my side of things. I never received minutes of this meeting. Hayley also lied to the Police that I had stolen some of her possessions - this prevented me from being able to recover my things before she moved out of the house we rented. I lost virtually all of my things and an £800 deposit on the house. She telephoned the police the day before to say they were going to arrest me that she had found the items.
For the past 14 months I have had sporadic contact with my daughter and Hayley still spreads lies and abuses me through the phone, text and email. She has threatened to lose me my job and contact with my son if I put in an application for a court order.
My life is getting better slowly but it has been a living hell for almost three years now but I know I have a future and will now fight for custody of my son."
Graham was married to his wife for 10 years before he felt strong enough to leave and divorce her.
During their marriage his wife was violent to both him and their son. She had a drink problem, which only made the violence worse. But she would use this as an excuse after every attack and promised to change. Graham even tried to commit suicide twice throughout their marriage because he did not know where to go for help.
During the final attack, Graham was stabbed in the head by his wife. He managed to leave the house bleeding profusely and got to a public telephone. He just about managed to ring 999 before he collapsed. He woke up in hospital with no memory of how he got there.
Throughout the relationship Graham told no one of the abuse he was suffering. She had made him feel like it was his fault and he blamed himself for all of it.
After they separated, Graham was kept from seeing his son for 2 years. But following a very lengthy Court process he was eventually granted sole custody and has brought his son up alone ever since.
For years following the divorce, Graham found it very hard to enter into another relationship as it was difficult for him to trust women. However, recently he has formed a new relationship and it is going very well for them both."
Please find below an interesting survivor story produced by Essex Police:
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