As part of her journey through the work with the FA Kate is also doing all her footballing coach qualifications and now runs a U12 girls team herself.
I spent some time interviewing Kate for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW2021).
Here is that interview:
Shonagh – What would you say Kate to a victim reading this now?
Kate – I think the first thing that I would really want them to understand is that it really isn’t their fault. It really helped me when I was part of the group work when other women gave me examples of what they had experienced at the hands of their abusers. I could relate to that and now when I volunteer for the group work now, I try and do the same. It resonates with victims.
Shonagh – So what helped the most when you disclosed your experiences?
Kate – What helped the most with me was people being genuine with me. Being interested, understanding what I was saying and wanting to help, rather than just being seen to be helping, but not actually giving a shit. We can always tell the difference when someone is being genuine with us. With Aurora it worked well for me because it is just a normal conversation… you already feel as a victim that you are a bit abnormal anyway, because of the drip, drip affect of what my ex had done to me. My personality was stripped away, and I ended up fighting against my natural personality and gut instinct.
Shonagh – So what you need from professionals is people being honest and realistic and down to earth?
Kate – Yes, just giving you a chance to be honest and just to talk. Even if it isn’t to do with the abuse, just a space to gain confidence in speaking to people again, that connection with someone outside of the abuse is so important and that is what has been missing for such a long time.
Shonagh – I remember when you started group and I could see your anxiety in connecting with anyone, just walking in the room and making eye contact was such a struggle because of what you had been through. Your self-esteem was shattered.
Kate – Yea it was massive walking into that room. Even just the chit chat was so hard. I wasn’t used to that at all anymore, it wasn’t my reality. When you live with an abuser it is a bit like getting hacked, you don’t realise that there is anything wrong until things start shutting down and there are all these glitches on your hard drive.
Shonagh – That is such a good analogy.
Kate – Yeah the other one I use is the ‘Kerplunk effect’ – All these drawers are being pulled out and the marbles are dropping and all of a sudden my mind can declutter and I can focus on, well, on me to be honest.
Shonagh – So what hasn’t helped from people around you?
Kate – God I don’t know where to start… Just not having that genuine support. So considering the situation and the fact that both myself and my ex were in the forces, it became really difficult. At times I felt really vulnerable and at risk, but I did have Aurora advocating for me and my line manager was excellent, she really supported me. That friendship with my boss really made all the difference, her and my other friend were amazing, they knew something wasn’t right. I remember walking to a medical appointment and I just had this moment where I realised what was happening and I burst into tears, but without them I wouldn’t have had that moment, I trusted them so much.
Shonagh – So that made all the difference just that simple act of believing you?
Kate – Yes. And at that medical appointment I was able to talk to the doctor and he was able to give me advice. It was really interesting actually, because before the abuse started, I never went to the doctors, but by the end I was there all the time. My body was obviously physically responding to the abuse, I had the most excruciating pains in my legs, I thought it was shin splints, but it wasn’t. Even the medical appointments my ex used against me in the end, claiming they were the one needing support for stress…
I had miscarriages and everything, but nobody asked me anything, it all led me to not have any faith in anyone… if they looked at my medical records they would have known there was something not right there, but nobody asked me anything until I outright told them that day when my friends helped me.
Shonagh – Yes health professionals should routinely ask their patients if they are experiencing domestic abuse and this still doesn’t happen enough. There are so many opportunities missed because of a lack of professional curiosity.
Kate – Yes and all of my symptoms were psychosomatic because I was holding in so much trauma, I wish someone had asked me about it.
Shonagh – So tell me about how you feel when you think back six months ago when you first started the Athena course?
Kate – God it feels mad. Especially now that I have gone back to support the new women coming through. It was so weird to hear them talking and thinking back. It made me realise I said those exact same things. At first it really knocked me back, but it also helped, I just wanted to reassure them. They even said the same things we all say like “Mine isn’t as bad as anyone else’s…” and I was like fu**ing hell this is ridiculous, why do we all blame ourselves. I just want those women to get more confidence like I did…
Shonagh – Do you see a difference in yourself now?
Kate – I do, it is hard to take on the compliments sometimes. I think other people see the growth more than me. The girls football team has been everything for me, it has given me such a purpose and a focus, I love it so much and am like a real Mother hen with them. I absolutely love it!
Just when I feel shit about stuff, I concentrate on the girls team and think up random ideas and it makes me feel so good. I want to do so much stuff for them. The confidence and focus it has given me has made me go through a storage unit of my ex’s old stuff and get rid of it, I wouldn’t have been able to do that without the work I do with the girls. They inspire me, they are only young but it makes me energised each time I work with them.
Looking back at photos with my ex I am like a statue just standing there. I have nothing in me, I am just like a ghost. I know I can’t get back the woman I was…
Shonagh – Do you want to? In fact, do you even have to?
Kate – No I don’t think I do actually. I have grieved a lot. I don’t want to be put in a box anymore, I just want to be Kate, I just want to be me. I am slowly getting there…
Shonagh – Do you feel happier in yourself?
Kate – I do, I know I am crying now, but generally I am so much happier.
Shonagh – You are so entitled to cry, it is a journey and there is no quick fix to trauma, especially having been subjected to it at the hands of someone you love. It really irritates me when people expect victims and survivors to be over stuff, you take as long as you need to, to grieve for what happened to you. I understand, just because the relationship has ended, no matter how many years ago, you are still in pain.
Kate – Yes and I have to process that pain. All the stuff in my head because I did love that person. I didn’t even know how to act, and everything has changed. Just making decisions was difficult. I see a future now though and I didn’t before.
I am just thinking about what I want to do careerwise as I have left the forces. But I won’t settle for a job I don’t want. I have already had a few jobs offers which is great. It has taken me ages just to stop thinking about what my ex would think about my career choices, but I am not in that space anymore so I am able to start narrowing things down better and do what is right for me.
The best thing is I will be able to carry on all the stuff that I love, all the footballing stuff that I never even thought would exist before in my life, that is the stuff I want to hold onto because it just fills me up and makes me so happy.
Shonagh – Is there anything else you want to say?
Kate – Yes. Whatever is going on and whatever the fear is please talk to someone. Talk to a friend if you can, real true friends will be there no matter what. If you can’t talk to your friends, contact an organisation like Aurora or anyone that you can trust. Also remember sometimes it takes a few times to leave, it is all part of the confidence of it. When I finally was able to do it, I just felt ready and it stuck.
It has been over 2 years since I left my ex, I wouldn’t say I’m over it, think I’ve just put it in to perspective and made ‘me’ my priority… I hope after reading this other victims and survivors will know they are worth much more than the abuse they have experienced and they can make themselves a priority too.
A huge thank you to Kate for sharing her story.
*not her real name
If you would like to support our female only group work and you are able to donate you can do so here:
Do you want to get in touch with us?
Want to help us raise awareness?
Want to donate to our cause? 💜