I still remember the day the IDVA (Independent Domestic Violence Advisor/Advocate) from Aurora New Dawn walked in. I was numb and unreachable; an empty husk of a human being. Three years of battling an abuser, three years of battling the police, the courts and sadly the big national domestic abuse charities. My overall understanding of my situation was that I had brought it upon myself. They say no (wo)man is an island. But I felt alone, beyond fear, beyond feeling.
10 minutes into the meeting I felt a fleeting emotion. For the very first time, I had been given information about my situation that made me feel a shift in power. I had a person in front of me being chillingly honest. Perhaps I should have been terrified, but in a world of shifting sands where I had felt I couldn’t trust anyone to protect me, I finally realised that the onus was on me. Not to physically protect myself but mentally and in my actions. I felt I could trust this person and the organisation to empower me to continue a fight I was about to give up on.
3 years ago, I had met a charming man who within 6 weeks had begun a campaign of violence and terror to such a degree that when the IDVA informed me that I was in the top 25 percentile of people likely to be murdered, the parallel lives I had desperately been trying to maintain collided and shattered. Leaving documents addressed to my children, on my laptop, with instructions on who to go to, on the mortgage, utilities, insurance, in case of my death. It was prefaced with the words “I would never, ever take my own life”.
Memories of having the abuser enter my workplace. Of sitting in an office with panic alarms and CCTV. Of colleagues respectfully asking for me to be removed from their offices for their own safety. Of Victim Support refusing to see me in their offices because of the degree of violence perpetrated by the abuser. Of my children living in constant fear, of having to pack them off at the drop of a hat. Of watching my beautiful children wilt by the day. Of the endless texts, calls, stalking, and harassment that was my life. Of the having to isolate from my parents, siblings, and friends for fear of their safety.
One of the most damning behaviours I had experienced once I had made that decision to contact the police was that of being treated like a child, incapable of making good decisions. Now, I was being treated like an adult with choices, however daunting they felt at that moment. This is not suddenly going to turn into a fairy tale. It turned into a full on battle, non molestation orders, court appearances, the lack of convictions, being cross examined in court, but even without convictions that feeling of power began to grow. For every knock back Aurora New Dawn had other tactics to advise on. I grew in confidence and I got angry. I realised that putting mental, electronic, and physical distance between the abuser and myself gave me the time to properly digest information and to make better decisions. I began to realise that I was worth so much more. When the abuser received a custodial sentence he continued to contact and threaten me. However, by this point reporting to the police had become routine. Keeping an audit trail of these behaviours is what had helped get the conviction.
Eventually, it was my change in behaviour that caused the situation to abate. The most terrifying part of this journey was to stop contact with the abuser. To not know where he was or what he was doing. Of not feeling in control of mine and my children’s safety. Without Aurora New Dawn I would never have been able to make that leap of faith.
Nowadays, I live an incredibly normal and fulfilling life. I no longer jump at sudden noises, I don’t flinch at sudden movements, I don’t spend nights frozen in fear and dread. I laugh, I have friends, I see my family and best of all my children have turned into happy healthy adults. What happened to the abuser? Who cares? I certainly don’t.
If I were to give any advice to anyone in an abusive relationship. It would be…
Be kind to yourself, you do not deserve what is happening to you. Contact a local Domestic Abuse charity; they will have excellent knowledge of the local police, probation, courts, social services and have contacts with many other agencies. You have to develop a good relationship with the police even when you feel they don’t understand the situation. They do and they know that for every time you reply to an abusers call, text, email or have contact, the likelihood of you getting a positive outcome gets progressively worse. Guilt is your greatest enemy, you are in an extraordinary situation and that often means you have mirrored unacceptable behaviours of the abuser to stay safe. Accept that and make the changes when you are able to. Use all of the services available to you. Sign up to online support groups and forums. When you are having a middle of the night crisis and there is nobody to talk to, there will be someone online who can listen. Don’t isolate yourselves from family and friends. If you work let them know what is happening. They have a duty of care to keep you safe whilst you are in the workplace. On a final note, it doesn’t matter whether you are in a physically, mentally, financially or sexually abusive relationship or whether it is online abuse, none of it is acceptable.
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