Trigger Warning: This blog post contains information about domestic violence and abuse. Look after yourself and remember, we’re here 24-hours, 365 days a year. Call us on 0808 800 0340 or visit our website for information on the available support. https://junowomensaid.org.uk/
We are now the safest we have been in years.
In the last two to three years, we have been places we always wanted to go, done things that were never possible with him hanging over us, and the children are happier, settled and full of confidence. I have newfound confidence too, which is why I wanted to share my journey to raise awareness of domestic abuse. If this series of blogs helps one woman then it’s worth it.
I have completed the Women’s Aid Ask Me Ambassador Training, undertaken various Equation awareness courses, spoken at Juno Women’s Aid events and have almost completed their volunteer training. They have all increased my knowledge on a personal and professional level. It feels liberating! I wrote an article with a local paper about my journey to raise awareness, a series of radio interviews in 2019 and am in my second year of a BA Hons Criminology and Law degree.
The long-lasting impact of domestic abuse
It’s not all been plain sailing though. As a result of the last assault, I resigned from my job. I’m ashamed to say that I was embarrassed about people knowing what had happened to me; it felt like my only option. All eyes were on me whenever I had time off for appointments and surgeries, which was an uncomfortable feeling. My confidence plummeted and I spiraled. I sought help, and with time, I realised I had nothing to be embarrassed about.
I struggled initially because I felt like a fraud. Having read my impact statement out in court, people presumed I was ok, but I was reliving the abuse through flashbacks and nightmares — I was snappy, constantly doubting myself and my choices. Even now I’m still very hypervigilant and get days when the fear takes over and was diagnosed with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) and suffer flashbacks and nightmares as a direct result. I have learned to manage it by recognising the triggers and by being kind to myself. If I have a bad day, I ground myself by doing the 54321 grounding technique and treat myself to a Costa. It’s in these times that I remind myself how lucky I am. That feeling eases my anxiety and puts everything back into perspective. The abuse was so chaotic; I appreciate and recognise the peace I now have.
Ongoing health conditions
I wanted to take a holistic approach to the CPTSD rather than medication — a completely personal choice having tried trauma therapy and later, hypnotherapy. The flashbacks and nightmares are a lot less than they used to be and I’ve learned to process those moments and find the trigger.
I have lost my sense of smell due to the subsequent surgery I had after the final assault, which has impacted me more than I realised. It is a daily reminder of what happened, and I have had to learn to adapt my life, yet again, to one without smell. I have to be careful with sell-by dates of food as I can’t tell if something is out of date; I have to stay in the kitchen when cooking to ensure nothing burns; I have had to get extra smoke and gas detection alarms and rely on my daughter at times to help too. My taste has also diminished, so I can’t enjoy food as much as I used to.
My life is filled with family time, campaigning, raising awareness and university work — I love it! I have a goal and for the first time, there is nothing stopping me.
I’m content and happy on my own and still don’t feel ready for a relationship, and that’s ok, I’m doing what’s right for me. I’ve undergone a lot of personal growth including improving my confidence, my self-worth and self-awareness, and I’m working on being the best version of myself for my children and me.
I have learned a lot through reflecting on my own experiences and through the learning and voluntary roles I’ve done.
My children have also healed and are living a happy full life, mainly thanks to the support of Juno’s Children’s Workers. The service they provide is essential and has changed my children’s lives, especially in my son’s life. He no longer has anxieties around what he witnessed and heard in the past, he is more confident now than he has ever been, and it’s down to the work he did with his support worker. He still speaks about her today!
Empower Nottinghamshire: for domestic abuse survivors
About a year ago, I met an amazing woman, a fellow survivor, at a Juno fundraiser she was organising. We had had the same Support Worker who had invited me along. From then on, our friendship has grown and I’m honoured to now call her my friend.
During one of our now daily chats, we hatched Empower Nottinghamshire: A website that we want to be used as an information hub for survivors no matter where along their journey they are. From our own joint experiences, we realised that there is no one place that has all the information you may need. Throughout our journeys, we were clicking link after link and forgetting or couldn’t find the information again.
Empower Nottinghamshire will have information on lots of different aspects: Police processes including a breakdown of jargon and keywords often used, information relating to social services, the court processes for both family and criminal courts including definitions, explanations and examples. There will be a list of legal aid solicitors, an area that will explain the legal forms that are sometimes required and where to get free help completing them. Information on housing your rights, local council information, and a list of food banks throughout Nottinghamshire. In addition, there’s an area about children’s support services and a wellbeing area, which has information on mindfulness and links to different practicing hypnotherapists, counsellors as well as grounding techniques. There will be so much more on there too, including blogs. There is also a quick exit button on all pages. It is due to go live on February 13th.
We will also be taking donations for local refuges across Nottinghamshire to aid them in helping families. We are so excited to be launching something that can and will help many women.
Something else we are also looking into is speaking with different organisations and agencies to give the ‘victim’ perspective, because a lot of the time, especially through the criminal justice system, the victim is often forgotten or victim-blamed. We want to change this to empower survivors to have their voices heard.
I didn’t choose this path my life is on, and yes, if I could choose, I wouldn’t have wanted to endure what I have had to and will have to. I will, however, turn the negatives into positives and live my life to the absolute fullest and use the voice I now have. It’s far from over. I have no doubt there will be further family court hearings, but I will continue fighting for my son’s protection and will deal with whatever comes with my head held high and the truth I have always spoken. I won’t ever be his ‘victim’ again.
Today I stand tall, I don’t feel shame, I’m proud of who I have become.
As cliché as it sounds, I feel my freedom most when I’m dancing around the living room with my kid’s music full blasting, jumping off sofas, squealing, having fun, because at those times I realise how much our lives have changed. We could never have done that before. That’s freedom. We can do whatever we want, whenever we want; the seemingly smallest moments mean the absolute most.
I want to publicly thank Juno and especially my Support Worker (you know who you are), I say this from the bottom of my heart. I have strength because you helped me to see what I couldn’t, you listened, believed, never judged, and educated me. Without you I wouldn’t be alive today, my children wouldn’t have their Mummy. From our first meeting through the highs and lows, across the years, you have been there every step of the way with me.
I’m not a statistic because of your unfaltering support and belief in me. I will be forever and always grateful to you. “I am no longer a Victim I am a Survivor!”
The survivors in these stories wanted to share their experiences of domestic abuse to help other women realise abusive behaviours and explore routes to support. They also wanted to tell readers that although they are in much better places now, the impact of the abuse does not end with a court sentence.
“The police often say things like, “you’re not in that now, why do you keep bringing it up?” Well, because of the triggers, the memories, the fact that you still have to work through issues daily. I still have some weeks where I don’t sleep for four or five nights, but sometimes I sleep soundly for weeks. The ongoing mental health impacts of domestic abuse are so understated. Being in a constant state of flight or fight is hell.” Author of Fairytale Foe
“There are still ups and downs, it’s not perfect, but it’s much better than it was. It’s about getting the right balance. My personal ongoing issues are around mental health, repairing and healing. Everyone has different tolerance levels and we all still have our everyday battles.” Author of The Look of Love
Below is a list of resources based on topics discussed in this blog post. Further resources are also available here.
This blog post is Part Three of a three-part series documenting the journeys of two survivors of domestic abuse. Part One, The Look of Love and Fairytale Foe, explores the first incidents and realization of abuse and routes to support. The Look of Love Part Two and Fairytale Foe Part Two describes support for survivors, the process of leaving and continued abuse. The Look of Love Part Three and Fairytale Foe Part Three describes the after-effects of abuse and the support received by survivors and their families.
Juno Women’s Aid runs the 24-hour domestic and sexual violence Helpline in Nottingham. We provide specialist domestic abuse services and programmes for women, children and teenagers living in Nottingham City and south of the county. For more information and support, call our freephone Helpline 0808 800 0340 or visit our website.