‘16 Days, 16 Stories’
Do you have a story to share with others?
’16 Days, 16 Stories’ has collected the stories of a broad range of individuals who are or have been affected by any aspect of domestic abuse. These stories may have come from professionals working alongside victims or perpetrators, or from individual survivors of abuse.
These stories will be published through a range of media as part of the 16 Days of Action to end domestic abuse and the White Ribbon Campaign. Look out for links on twitter @lutondrop_in and on this web-page. You can now download the '16 Days, 16 Stories' from the 2015 campaign as a PDF document by following the link here
16 Days of Action starts on International White Ribbon Day, the 25th November and ends on the 10th December which is also International Human Rights Day.
We hope these 16 stories all from individuals living, working or who have found refuge in Luton, help you to understand something about the devastating impact of domestic abuse and why we should all do whatever we can to help bring an end to it.
In 2016 our 16 days will become 21 as we run our campaign from 21st November until 11th December - if you would like to get involved and tell your story please follow this link to download our template.
Day 5, Story 5: Childhood memories
I remember being told off by my Mum the day after the incident, for getting my younger sister out of bed the previous night. She had been “asleep” when the Dad first started banging on the door to be let in. I had been wide awake with the first sound of a raised voice from outside in the street. With the first bang on the door I was terrified; I knew what was likely to come next.
I had got out of bed and gone to the landing, I thought that if he got in and could see me he would be less likely to attack Mum, this worked sometimes. If I sat close enough to her or sat on her lap he wouldn’t always throw a punch. I think this might be because he had once accidently punched my little sister when he was hitting my Mum and made her nose bleed. There had been blood on the bed, I remember feeling so sad for her but sort of glad that it had happened as I thought it would make Dad feel so guilty that he would stop coming round when he was drunk to beat Mum up. Anyway this time he broke the window in the front door and came through it, that’s when I panicked and got my sister out of bed I just wanted her with me.
Mum ran up the stairs closely followed by Dad, me and my sister hugged each other as Dad caught up with Mum on the landing. She was quite brave really and was fighting back; he had his back to me as they struggled with each other. It was then that the scream escaped from me, a scream of terror, everything was out of control and I was the eldest person there so it was my responsibility to protect my Mum, I didn’t know what to do. Mum stopped fighting back when I screamed and for just a second our eyes met over his shoulder, that second of hesitation gave Dad the upper hand, he over- powered Mum and pushed her into the bathroom until she was bent over the bath backwards as he reigned punches into her face.
I don’t remember what happened after that until the following day when Mum told me off for waking my sister. To this day I remember the look on her face when our eyes met over his shoulder.
If I work out the timing in my head my sister and I would have been 3 and 7 years old.
Reproduced by kind permission of a survivor of domestic abuse from Luton 2016.
Day 4, story 4: The story of C..
C had a tough time at home as a child. Her dad died when she was a teenager and her mum turned to alcohol to cope. C sought comfort in unhealthy relationships and as a young adult found herself being controlled by boyfriends and people she thought were friends.
C struggled to cope with the impact of these relationships and her mental health suffered. When she was feeling particularly low C met a new boyfriend D. For the first time in her life C felt someone cared for her and loved her. D was in regularly contact, visiting her daily, texting and calling her continuously. After a couple of months they decided to moved in together.
It wasn’t long before the relationship started to change. D would be angry if C talked to her family and friends and would accuse her of being unfaithful. C eventually became too afraid to leave the house and became extremely isolated. When C found out she was pregnant she hoped it would be a fresh start for the couple.
But D became even more abusive and told C she must get rid of the baby. For the first time C stood up to him. He responded by kicking and punching her and a neighbour called the police. Although C didn’t feel able to make a complaint, after a second violent incident she decided she needed to leave the relationship and talked to the police who took her to hospital.
When C moved home she found out she was about to be evicted due to rent arrears caused by her ex-boyfriend’s debt. C was still pregnant at this stage and was sofa surfing with her friends when she was referred to Stepping Stones.
It took some time for C to trust us. She had been let down by lots of people in her life and was fearful of professionals. We’ve met with C weekly and helped her explore her family and personal relationships and have encouraged her to ask for help when needed and engage with Children’s Social Care. We have supported C through a court process which saw her ex-boyfriend found guilty and sentenced to prison custody and we are now working with C to help her establish safe and secure accommodation. Whilst C’s immediate priorities are around finances, housing and meeting the needs of her child protection plan, C requires longer term support to raise her self-esteem and move on from the trauma of her previous relationships. We hope to be able to continue this work with C as she looks forward to the future with her new baby.
Story reproduced with kind permission of Stepping Stones in Luton 2016
Day 3, story 3: Give me a D.....
Domestic abuse is so much more than physical violence. Below are some of the warning signs that you may be in an abusive relationship.
Damaging your property
Making rules for how you will live your life
Expectations and demands that are trivial and have consequences
Stalking and Harassment
Threats to kill you or people you love
Coercive and controlling behaviour
Accompanying you everywhere you go
Unwanted sexual advances
So called honour abuse
Exploiting you financially
Story reproduced with kind permission of Victim Support's Specialist DA Services in Luton 2016
Day 2, story 2: The call that changed it all..
Even though it was ten years ago, I still remember the call like it was yesterday.
Where I was, what I was doing, could I have done more? Should I have done more?
Witnessing the after effects of someone you love be attacked and seriously hurt by someone that should have loved them is hard to describe. And if it’s hard for me to describe and watch, how hard must it be to live through that experience?
Not just the attack, but everything that happened after. The friends who didn’t believe it…. The accusations thrown around at court…. The struggle to be able to live your life like you did before….
Even though the physical scars heal quickly, violence and trauma makes a mark on your life that can change you forever.
I saw how one or two professionals in police and probation made a huge difference. They took time to listen, they believed and were on our side. But gaps in support were all too evident.
I look back now and think about how specialist women’s services could have helped. A safe, warm, welcome. Meeting other people in the same boat. Getting unfailing support to help navigate the criminal justice proceedings. Giving time to reflect and understand trauma and receive specialist support to recover and move on. And most importantly being somewhere where you can learn to smile again and have hope for the future.
This is something I think about every day in Stepping Stones when I come to work. Whilst we can never change the past, I hope that we can help women to create brighter futures for themselves and their children.
Story reproduced with kind permission of Stepping Stones in Luton 2016
Day 1, story 1: Arranged Marriage
I had an arranged marriage and moved to the UK to live with my husband and his family. When I came to the UK my mother in law and husband expected me to do all the house work, cleaning and cooking for everyone.
I never had a choice I just had to do it even when I was feeling unwell. I wasn’t allowed to go out other than with my husband and mother in law which was once in a while.
I wasn’t allowed to make friends and even when people came to the house I was watched over as they didn’t like me mixing with people.
My husband was very strict and wanted me to cover my face in front of people even when I was in the kitchen he would say to cover my face as people from the garden can see me.
He would hit me and swear and shout at me if I didn’t do what he and his family said.
I left him as he was planning to take me with him to Syria and I was so scared I went to the neighbour’s house who then called my brother and I left.
I am now happy and feel safe and have choices and rights to do what I want and how I want.
I don’t have to live with fear of what will happen the next day as now I am free.
I have learnt to speak English and have made lots of friends.
Story reproduced with kind permission of Women's Aid in Luton 2016
Day 16, story 16: Things they say...
Don’t go out with your friends tonight, let’s have a nice evening in.
I don’t think your friends like me for some reason.
You’re always on the phone talking and texting, you talk to them more than me.
Your family hate me.
Why do you need them when you’ve got me.
You wouldn’t go out if you loved me.
You look awful in that.
You don’t need make up.
You don’t ever dress up like that when we go out.
You look like a tart in that.
You’re not going out looking like that.
I only slapped you because you made me upset.
I don’t want your friends coming round, they just cause us trouble and they make us argue.
I am your family now, we don’t need them interfering.
Let’s have a baby.
B*tch, you make me so mad, it’s your fault.
If you would just keep your mouth shut.
You never give me the attention I need anymore.
Look at the state of you, who else would ever look at you.
If you tell people what you make me do they will take away the baby.
I will take the baby away and you will never see us again.
If you call the police I will kill you.
Your f****ing mad, you need help.
Let’s have another baby.
Look what you made me do...
Word stream provided by Professional supporting victims of DA.
Day 15, story 15: A Prayer.
My life was difficult and hard. I was forced to marry a mentally ill man. I was in a dark cloud full of abuse and torture. My crime I was born a woman. When I came to the refuge I was scared but they changed my life around. My trust, my life and my own identity Womens Aid in Luton have given me.Womens Aid in Luton are my saviours and I pray to Allah that every one of them are blessed.
Story reproduced with kind permission of Women's Aid in Luton November 2015
Day 14, story 14: An abuser can change....
"There is a myth that abusive men cannot change and I want to tell the story of one client, who believed that of himself too before he joined a perpetrator programme.
‘Joe’ contacted our service following an incident where he physically attacked his current partner. He and ‘Kate’ had been together for 8 years and had a 3 year old son. Joe and Kate said that the physical incident was the “first time”. Kate, however, said that Joe was controlling and “vile” towards her. Joe and Kate were separated. Joe told us he has been “violent all his life” and had spent some time in prison for punching an ex-partner. Joe said “I think there is something wrong with me, I have no control over what I do, it just happens. I don’t think you will be able to help me, but I want to give it a try. I need to stop what I am doing before I lose everything”. Joe was accepted onto a programme. A support service was offered to Kate and she was allocated a partner support worker.
Like a lot of men who start the programme, Joe was anxious and quiet. In his disclosures, Joe would blame Kate for abusive incidents and minimise his behaviour. However, as we worked to raise Joe’s awareness of what his behaviour was, he started to minimise and blame less. About half way through Joe said “I knew being physically violent was wrong and I still think it is, but I didn’t realise that the way I was controlling and emotionally abusing Kate on a daily basis was even abuse. I have put her through hell”. This was a turning point for Joe, finally holding account for his behaviour. At the same time our support worker was contacting Kate to see how things were going. Kate too was saying she could see some changes in Joe. It was early days but we carried on supporting Kate and working with Joe. Kate was referred to a women’s support programme to help raise her awareness.
Joe continued through the programme to engage, reflect and explore his behaviour. Things would resonate with Joe and other things would not apply to his relationship and at times he would disclose that he had been verbally abusive. Joe would bring these incidents to the group and explore with facilitators the incident, the intent and the affect that would have had on his partner, each time building on his understanding and accountability.
Joe completed the programme and said in his last session “I have been a violent man for 40 years, I cannot undo what I have done but I want to be the man, husband and father I know I can be”.
We recently contacted Joe and Kate. They are still separated but are co-parenting their son, safely and happily.There have been no further incidents of abuse reported by Kate or Joe."
This story was provided by a professional working with perpetrators of DA.
Day 13, story 13: Who's the victim here?
‘Chris’ was a vulnerable young man in his early 20’s when he first met ‘Dave’ who was in his late 40’s. Initially Dave was very loving and caring and helped Chris through the relationship breakdown that he had with his previous partner. As they became intimate and their relationship developed they started to argue a bit but Chris would just go to his room until Dave had cooled off.
The first physical violence took place after a couple of months. Whilst they were at home Dave started flirting with another male visitor. Chris made it clear that he was annoyed whereupon Dave asked Chris to leave and when he refused Dave punched him and dragged him across the floor. Chris hit out at Dave once to make him let go. The Police were called by a neighbour and both Chris & Dave were arrested & cautioned.
The Police referred the case to a specialist service for support. The handling of this case was complicated by the fact that both Chris and Dave each presented as victim and perpetrator at different stages of the case. Eventually it became clear that Chris needed to be provided with support as a victim of domestic abuse.
The next incident occurred a few months later. Chris and his friend James were drinking at the house and eventually fell asleep on the sofa. Dave had been in the bedroom but later said that he had a reality dream and believed that Chris had cheated on him with James. Dave poured a can of beer over Chris and then started to strangle him until Chris started to lose consciousness. Dave then beat him up leaving him with black eyes. Chris said he thought that Dave appeared to be completely enraged and was really going to kill him. Following this incident Chris made a statement to the Police but later withdrew as he felt that Dave was genuinely sorry for his behaviour.
Things continued to escalate however and when a few weeks later Chris confronted Dave because he had found out he had been telling lies about their relationship; Dave became violent again. Chris’s friend ‘Laura’ was visiting at the time and Dave started to smash photos etc and he asked Laura to leave. Laura didn’t want to leave Chris alone so initially she refused to go. Dave grabbed her by the throat and then by her hair and started pushing her out of the flat. As the argument continued Dave then started punching Chris too. Chris and Laura eventually left together.
The next morning Chris was arrested at his own flat. Dave had reported that he had been raped by Chris. Chris was later released on bail the same day. However on the bail date Chris was called into the station to be told that the Police would take no further action as Dave had refused to provide any forensic or further evidence to support his allegations. Chris told his Support Worker that he and Dave had not had sex for a month prior to the alleged rape.
A few days later Chris contacted Dave to tell him that he wanted to end their relationship but Dave came to see him the same day and promised that he had changed. He said he would never be violent or abusive again and he begged for forgiveness. Dave said he loved Chris and was going to change and to show he was serious he had made an appointment for anger management. Chris agreed to give Dave another chance but a few days later a verbal argument turned into a violent incident when Dave slapped and punched Chris, and then left.
With the support of his Support Worker Chris was thinking about ending the relationship as although Dave was getting help for his anger issues things were still not too good with lots of petty arguments and Chris wanted to go back to his own flat and start trying to rebuild his relationship with his family.
Because of the previous rape allegation Chris was concerned about what Dave would do to him if he tried to leave but when Chris discovered that Dave had hacked into his social media accounts Chris asked for support to obtain a non-molestation order and agreed to meet with a solicitor.
However around the same time as these arrangements were being made Dave managed to make contact with Chris and after more promises from him Chris decided to give their relationship another chance. For the first couple of days things were OK but then Dave lost his temper with Chris and became physically violent. Despite the injuries to Chris which included cuts to his face and bruised ribs Dave made another false statement to the Police and Chris was arrested for assault. He was later released and advised by the Police to leave the relationship but Chris thinking only of how much he really wanted the relationship to work, returned to Dave once again.
A few days later Dave again attacked Chris, grabbing him by the throat and attempting to strangle him. Luckily for Chris a friend was present and helped free him. Chris did not report this incident to the Police. The Police had already told him to leave Dave once and he felt they would not believe him and would think he was wasting their time as a result of his previously withdrawn statements.
A few weeks later Chris was again assaulted by Dave and received severe injuries. Dave was arrested and charged with assault and one of his bail conditions was not to contact Chris. This at last gave Chris the space he needed to accept that his relationship with Dave was not a healthy and loving one.
Although Dave continued to harass, intimidate, blackmail and threaten Chris by posting sexually explicit pictures which were taken when they were together, in an attempt to make Chris withdraw his statement, this time with the support from friends and his Support Worker Chris did not back down and the case against Dave was scheduled for trial.
Chris is anxious about giving evidence at the trial but in general says he is feeling a lot better about things now. It took him a long time but he eventually realised that he had to leave Dave. During their relationship Dave had isolated him from his loved ones so now he was working hard on rebuilding relationship with his family and trying to make amends.
Story provided by DA Professional working with victims of DA.
Day 12, story 12: Nowhere to go..
"I had suffered domestic abuse with my husband for many months and I didn’t know where to go or what to do until one winter my son’s health visitor brought me a telephone number for Womens Aid in Luton to call them. When I called them, they gave me an appointment to go and see them. I went to visit them and I talked to the support workers and explained what had been happening to me. They told me not to worry which helped me stop crying. They were so helpful and very kind. They took me and my son to a refuge. During my stay in the refuge they helped me a lot and the support workers supported me in everything, making me forget about everything I went through when I was with my ex - husband. They supported me by giving me money for my needs, and did what they could to get me indefinite leave to remain in the U.K. I was very happy. I left the refuge in the summer and I was put in a Hotel where I lived temporarily with my son. I thank all the Womens Aid group for such a good job they do for women and children. I will never forget about them, and they will still be with me. God bless them for all of the good work they are still doing."
Story reproduced with kind permission of Women's Aid in Luton November 2015
Day 11, story 11: If it was that bad; she would have left....
"There are many, many reasons why victims of domestic abuse stay with their partner; these are some that I have found are the most common.
HOPE : The perpetrator often tells the victim they were violent because of something they did, said or wore so the victim changes their behaviour in the hope the abuse will stop; the perpetrator then finds another excuse.
DENIAL: Violence is just one of many ways we can be abused and controlled; I didn’t see myself as a victim until he had caused extensive injuries to my face. Months of insults, isolation, emotional torture, using me financially and even ripping my hair out still didn’t register as domestic abuse.
FINANCIAL : If a victim has never had any control of their money, had to budget or pay a bill, leaving can be an extremely daunting thought. They are likely to have been isolated so will not have anyone to ask for advice; they feel utterly dependent on the abuser.
PRACTICAL: If the abuser has threatened to kill our parents or children it may seem safer to stay. Isolation means we have no one to stay with if we flee, there may not be a refuge nearby and we probably don’t have enough money for a bus fare let alone a B&B.
CHILDREN: Many victims tell me they are staying put because they don’t want to disrupt the children, the children need a father and he isn’t directly abusive to them. However, in most cases the children are negatively affected and this can be the catalyst we need to leave."
This story was provided by a DA professional who runs a Freedom Programme.
Day 10, story 10: Family Support can change lives...
"In my first weeks in a new role I had never supported a victim of domestic abuse, in fact I felt had managed to live in quite a bubble of naivety & was new to a job with an awful lot to learn.
It wasn’t long after starting that I greeted an elderly gentlemen who along with his daughter was bringing in his grandson to a stay & play session. In our conversation of broken English I understood he was a very frightened man who was very concerned for his daughter and her children. We struggled through his story of an abusive son-in-law and I could see the sadness in his daughter’s eyes as she stood in front of us holding her young baby staring off into the distance; seemingly removed from everyone & everything around her.
Having heard the daughter’s story there were lots of phone calls to seek advice and get help, with the outcome that without the daughter or her father prepared to give a statement or wanting to leave the home, there was little that could be done as an immediate response. I will never forget returning to work on Monday to hear of a police intervention after threats with a knife.
Over the next weeks and months disclosures came thick and fast. There were trips to the hospital in the back of a police car, awful injuries, emotional distress, supervision sessions with staff and more & more training. My experience grew and talk turned to DDV rulings & how badly needed a Freedom Programme was.
Working with a team of people passionate to support families, offering freedom, language support, family support, understanding how to help effectively & being strong enough to accept when things can’t or won’t change immediately in the way they hoped, is inspirational to me.
Completing a risk assessment with a Mum never gets easier. Hearing a victim’s story and wanting to help and make everything better whilst respecting wishes, needs a strong will to maintain our professional boundary.
I see victims who came to the centre with little self esteem, unable to raise their head or give eye contact when telling their story, with little English, no money or belongings to their name, but with the sheer determination & willpower to change theirs & their children’s lives for the better. I am often greeted by Mum’s who have been victims of domestic abuse & overcome so many hurdles, learnt to speak English, achieved qualifications, volunteered at the centre & found employment. I am privileged to know such extraordinary people.
In my first year my team dealt with 71 disclosures. Four years on we have supported 164 families in the past 12 months. Now very little of what I hear or see shocks me but every day I am reminded of how family support for victims can change lives."
This story was provided by a Children's Centre Manager.
Day 9, story 9: My life can change..
‘Amelia’ moved to the UK from Eastern Europe three years ago. After finding work as a cleaner, she met and eventually married ‘Jata’ who came from India. The domestic abuse in their relationship started shortly after Amelia became pregnant. Jata became very controlling and both verbally and physically abusive whilst, as a result, Amelia slowly lost her self-confidence and became more isolated.
The violence escalated. Jata raped Amelia, who after reporting this to the Police fled to a hotel. However Amelia had no family or friends in the UK to support her and no-one to offer emotional or financial support so quite soon she felt she had no choice but to drop the charges and go back to Jata.
Once Amelia’s son was born, the physical and emotional abuse escalated until it became part of her daily life. She became pregnant again but lost the baby due to Jata choking her and punching her in the stomach.
Then things started to change for Amelia. Following the miscarriage her case was referred to the local MARAC (a safety planning meeting of statutory and voluntary agencies which focuses on the victim’s safety) and Amelia was later referred to Luton All Women’s Centre and with the help of a Support Worker, who spoke her language, Amelia’s needs were identified and a safety plan was developed.
Amelia was given emotional and practical support which helped her deal with the crisis situation. Then she was supported to access the legal advice and the practical help she so desperately needed. This included help with Legal Aid, Protection Orders, Foodbank Vouchers, emergency accommodation and help with claiming Child Benefit and Tax Credits. Support to get a nursery place for her son meant that Amelia was able to get back to work and as she started to engage with the Freedom Programme and attend other groups she made new friends, who valued her for who she was. The journey to recovery had well and truly started and she was taking the first steps to rebuild a life for her and her son.
Currently, Amelia is in a safe place and has had no contact with Jata since the last incident. Amelia said that thanks to the Luton All Women’s Centre and the Project Support Worker she started to believe that her life can change, and, although, it would not be an easy process she will eventually live a happy life with her son; a life without abuse.
Reproduced with the kind permission of Luton All Women's Centre.
Day 8, story 8: It can happen to anyone....
"I have lived in Luton all my life. I was brought up in a loving and supportive family with 2 siblings. I was very naïve and found myself pregnant at 16 years old. My husband had a troubled child-hood and came from a big family. We were all devastated when our child became very ill and although this changed our lives overnight and it was a very tough time, we went on to have 3 more children.
My husband was jealous of the relationship our 2nd child had with her grandparents and became very cold towards her. This is when the abuse started.
We were deliberately kept short of money and not allowed to go shopping. He controlled us completely. He would regularly get drunk (he had plenty of money for beer) and he would verbally abuse me.
When our children were young I thought it was easy to hide the abuse but as they became older they noticed more of the effects. He would swear and call me terrible names and eventually all our internal doors had holes in them where he had lost his temper and punched them all.
When Dad was at home we hardly dare speak in fear of saying the wrong thing. He would lock us all out of the house and I had to climb over a neighbour’s back garden fence to get in the back door with the key I had hidden for just such an event. He later brought a neighbour into our home and had sex with her while we were all asleep in bed.
I felt ashamed of what was happening and didn’t want to admit to my family the abuse we were enduring so we suffered on in silence. I would lie in bed dreading the moment that he would get home from the pub. I felt so scared I hardly dared breathe and I was sure that he could hear my heart beat booming like a big base- drum in the silence.
Despite everything I thought that keeping our family together was the most important thing for all of us. Until after 30 years of marriage I eventually found the strength to escape. I told my family who remained so supportive and helped me move on. I have since found a loving and kind partner who knows all about my past life and my children have thankfully grown up to be wonderful and strong individuals and I am so proud of them.
I look back and wonder why I stayed for so long. My work in a pre-school has made me realise that there is help out there and nobody needs to suffer with domestic abuse anymore".
This story was provided by a professional working in Luton.
Day 7, story 7: Jail or Freedom?
"I feel better than before because now I have freedom for everything. I can go anywhere, anytime; I can do whatever I like. If I want to go to college I can, or I can take an English speaking course or learn to drive and I can even do a job as well. I can wear anything – not only a suit like before.
When I was with my husband all the time I felt like I am a prisoner and I am in jail. Sometimes I felt like I was a maid servant as treated by my husband. I didn’t have any right to go outside, to talk to anybody, to make friends, even to go to the temple on my own.
When I was pregnant I didn’t see any happiness from him. One day he cut his beard and I said “Please don’t do that” and he said “I wish that God would kill you and your baby as well. I do not care. I never listened to my parents’ warnings about who you are. Go to hell.” And then he abused me.
He always made me very scared and threatened me that because he brought me over here, he could send me back to his parents in India. When I heard all that, I felt very scared, lonely and helpless. I was just doing meditation and crying and crying and crying.
When I felt not well and when I was sick I ask him to take me to the doctor and I begged him always, but still he say if I was free then he would take me but if not then he can’t do anything, but you have to clean the house and make fresh cooking for me - don’t take any rest. He always came late at night and drunk and watched blue movies.
I had very difficult delivery, a caesarean, and he never helped me in anything even when I was in the hospital at the time of delivery it was not until the doctor called him - then he came but when the doctors took me to the operation theatre he didn’t come with me. I was crying a lot. At that time I miss my parent and I felt very alone but now the staff are very, very helpful and I feel a little bit better than before".
Reproduced with the kind permission of Women's Aid in Luton November 2015
Day 6, story 6: Life or death?
"At a point in my life where I was faced with just two choices, life or death, Womens Aid in Luton helped me through the hardest step of my life and led me into a safe, guided and stable path. They didn’t just give me a roof over my head, from the first day I was given hope, confidence and support that re-built the staircase once burnt by my abusive partner. I was given the tools to restart my life as an independent strong individual. I can confidently say that I will no longer be an unfortunate statistic. My mother pulled a knife to kill me when I was 17. All in the name of Family Honour. This was my mother who had given me life. Yet she felt it was completely normal and acceptable to take it in the name of Family Honour".
Reproduced with the kind permission of Women's Aid in Luton November 2015
Day 5, story 5: Mentally Exhausting
Being a young lone parent made me feel like damaged goods, so I settled for less for someone who I thought could love me. Deteriorating into someone you’re not, feeling so low and not having the strength to love, laugh, smile or cry. Being manipulated into believing you’re worthless, losing self control. Building the confidence to do better for myself, pitying the perpetrator, moving on and being myself again.
Reproduced with the kind permission of Women's Aid in Luton November 2015
Day 4, story 4: I was young once...
"I met my boyfriend in High School, I was 14 and he was 15. Looking back he wasn’t good boyfriend material. He was already abusing alcohol and had been in trouble at school. At the time it didn’t really bother me, my parents had split up because my Dad was an alcoholic so it was all normal to me. I was flattered and felt good because he paid me attention, something that didn’t happen at home.
I was 15 when the abuse started. He first hit me after I had just made a joke about something that he didn’t like, I remember that it was as we were walking to school for me to collect my exam results. He punched me really hard on my arm, I was shocked but didn’t say anything because we were in the street and I was embarrassed.
After that first time he hit me regularly, he pressured me to have sex with him and got really jealous if I went out with my friends, I ended up losing contact with all of my old school friends. I spent all of my spare time with him. It wasn’t all bad sometimes he was really nice, I loved it when he was like that, but I never knew what would set him off. I was scared of him, I tried telling my Mum what was happening but she was so stressed out herself that she didn’t really help. I felt really alone. With all the stress going on with my Dad and having lost contact with my friends I didn’t have anyone to turn to but ‘him’.
We stayed together and I learnt to manage his behaviour to an extent, we moved in together, it seemed better than staying at home. He became more violent and I tried leaving him but he always found me, I was frightened of him so I returned. He would be calmer for a while but then would lose it again. I reasoned that at least he wouldn’t kill me for leaving him though.
I eventually left him many years later. He had stopped hitting me by then as he didn’t need to anymore as I would do what I had to, to keep him happy. We had two children and I didn’t want them to see him being violent.
It was when my daughter was 13 that I found the strength to leave. My daughter had got to an age where she started standing up to him when he was shouting abuse. One day he got very drunk and started swearing and shouting at her, she didn’t shout back, just stood there. When he had fallen asleep I told her I would speak to him when he had sobered up. She replied “It’s alright, it doesn’t really matter”. Just that small statement made me realise that abuse was becoming normal for my children.
Separating was so hard, we lost our home, he ‘tried’ to kill himself and told my daughter that he would find out where we lived, break in and set fire to me in my bed. We were all so scared and my children started therapy at this time. I know that although it was difficult, separating was the best thing I ever did. The nightmare got worse for a while but it ended. If I had stayed it would have gone on forever".
This story has been reproduced with kind permission of Victim Support in Luton.
Day 3, story 3: The story of my childhood..
Violence, control, abuse.
Jealously, alcohol misuse.
This is the story of my childhood.
Apologies. Tears. Excuse.
Shouting, screaming, crying.
Confused about what's happening.
Praying, hoping, sighing.
Reddened face, bruised eyes,
Lies, unsung lullabies.
Lying awake hoping it will stop.
Eyes wide shut, more lies.
Inhale, exhale, stop.
Frozen on the spot.
Not sure whether to stand or run.
Intervene, or not.
Guilt, anguish, isolation.
Low self- esteem, desperation.
Unsure of my feelings of loyalty, love.
Actions, words of devastation.
Escaped, separated and celebrated.
Finally able to feel secure and safe.
Freedom long awaited.
Poem by Young Persons Support Worker and inspired by childhood events
Day 2, story 2: Don't Suffer Alone...
"I was initially very afraid to open up about the domestic abuse I went through not just the physical stuff but also the emotional aspects. I then started engaging with the Domestic Violence team who were very understanding and supportive. They put me in contact with different organisations that helped me a lot. I would say don't suffer alone, I've been there and it's very hard but I do now feel a lot stronger. Please speak up and talk to someone".
This story comes from a male victim of domestic abuse.
Day 1, story 1: Beginning of a New Life.
"No food, no shelter, no family, no friends. Left out on the street with my two children. I came to the UK with the belief that my husband would protect me but instead he was the one who abused me. I was covered in bruises black and blue on a daily basis. Women's Aid in Luton were the light at the end of the tunnel that day. My support worker picked me up and gave me food and milk for my children. This was the beginning of a new life and today with her help and support I am able to stand on my own two feet and be confident. Thank you all."
Reproduced with the kind permission of Women's Aid in Luton November 2015