victims speak out with their voices

Victims’ Voices

At Aurora, clients are and always have been our central priority. As such, we wanted a space for victims and survivors to have their voices heard. Every experience we hear, whether published on this page, sent to us as a comment on social media, or told to us as part of a longer narrative through our service provision, serves as a stark reminder as to why we are here and why we do what we do. We are forever grateful for the trust that our beneficiaries instill in us and thank them all for giving us the privilege of working with them through their journey.

This page is therefore dedicated to all victims and survivors, both those who are with us and those who are not. We thank them for their bravery, tenacity, and endless strength. #TeamAurora #ForTheVictimsAndSurvivors

If you want a piece of your work to feature on this page please contact us at info@aurorand.org.uk (poetry, prose, rants… we accept them all)

Content

Stories

Stay strong and feel like you belong

I came to the Aurora Programme not wanting to do it and I felt so alone. But by the second session, I felt so welcome into being part of a little family, and girls don’t be alone, we all can help each other and become strong, together or on our own. We’ve all been through the bad and rough times, but lets stick together and never get hurt again, and now we will never get pain again. So don’t stay in the dark girls, break free from the abuse and violence and start afresh with a brand new beginning and end.

Thanks to Aurora, I’ve got brand new friends!!!

Stay strong! And feel like you belong!!

My story of domestic abuse and freedom.

I was working at a nightclub when I met my ex. There was an instant attraction and we started seeing each other almost immediately. He seemed to be besotted with me and showered me with attention and compliments. I remember my mum saying to me one day “he is so handsome Lis” and I was over the moon – I had found my perfect partner.

When I met my ex I literally had the world at my feet. I had already travelled a lot and had a fantastic, full-time job at a big company with great prospects. My evening bar job was just a way to have fun and earn money at the same time – I was ambitious, intelligent and had a great reputation within the company I worked for. I was extremely close to my family and had a varied set of friends as well as my best friend of over 10 years. (I quickly gave up my evening job as he wanted to spend more time with me – how lovely !)

Things between myself and my ex developed very quickly and within weeks I was staying at his flat most nights, just popping home to grab new clothes before going to work. I was on top of the world – I had everything, a great job, lots of money, great prospects and a great boyfriend !
If only I knew what was to come ……..

The first sign of things to come happened a short while into the relationship. We were at a party with my ex’s friend. It was a foam party and I was wearing my sister shoes so I didn’t venture into the foam as I didn’t want to ruin her shoes ! I stood at the bar having a great time and got chatting to an Australian guy – I had lived in Australia for a year so we were chatting about the places I had visited. He asked if I wanted a drink and I said I was with my boyfriend, he bought all of us a drink and I didn’t think anything of it – we were just chatting. My ex came up to me and I said that this guy had bought us a drink. His mood dramatically changed and soon after we left the party. By the time we got back to his flat he was in a terrible mood, I had never seen this before. He stood over me berating me and pointing his finger – enough to scare me. There were alarm bells ringing in my ears, so very loud. I got up and said that I was leaving, I had no intention of ever returning as I did not like the feelings I was experiencing. At that exact moment his electric went off, he was sat there upset, with no electric and apparently no money. I couldn’t leave him like that so I said I would take him to the shop to get some electric put on his meter key. Again, I was planning on dropping him off and never seeing him again. I ended up staying the night, he apologised and I pushed it to the back of my mind. If only I had listened to those alarm bells.

He rented a new flat a few months into our relationship and I moved in with him. It was a bit fast but I was in my early twenties and was living at home, desperate for my own independence. Strangely though our moving day was not filled with the excitement I had envisaged.

It was only a couple weeks after moving in together that he physically hurt me for the first time. We were having an argument and he pushed me. I fell onto a wire magazine rack and it cut my back. I couldn’t believe that he had done it, I was astonished but he didn’t seem the least bit remorseful. I had that uneasy feeling again but again pushed it aside and considered the event an accident.

Within another few weeks he had beaten me so badly that I already feared for my life. Random, unprovoked, prolonged attacks came thick and fast. Police were called on numerous occasions but I always stated that everything was fine. There was one incident where I managed to run outside during an assault. I ran into a local shop thinking that there is no way he would do anything in public. He came into the shop, literally picked me up and took me back to the flat. I was screaming for help but everyone just stared – what could they have done ? I felt so humiliated and powerless. I was also terrified of what was to come. Eventually the police knocked on the door. I was a mess – marks all over my face, neck and body, tear-stained and shaking. They took me into one room and my ex into another. Still I said that I didn’t want to press charges, that everything was ok.

Why did I say that ?! Because I was terrified. I felt that I could never get away from him and that if I ever tried he would kill me and hurt my family and friends.

We lost the flat as he was not paying the rent and moved to one the other side of the high street. That flat still haunts me. The first two years of the relationship were filled with awful violence, police visits, control, infidelities, mounting debt and unsuccessful attempts to leave. I was continuously covered in bruises, aches and pains, some days I could not brush my hair. I lost all my energy, confidence and personality. I withdrew from all social situations. I lost me. I remember my boss calling me into his office one day and saying “tell me how I can help you, what can I do ?”. Typically, I said I was fine.

I lost my fantastic job so had to find a job with someone who would not ask for references – I lost my blossoming future the day I left that job. I considered taking my own life for the first time but my mum had thought something was up when I texted her and came round. She drove me home and once again I returned to that awful flat.

Then I found out I was pregnant – a mistake that came from being on antibiotics whilst being on the pill. I was told that if I got rid of the baby he would kill me – something I totally believed was true. Ironically, he almost killed me when I was 3 months pregnant, by suffocating me with a pillow. I was struggling for breath and everything went black, I felt myself lose consciousness and I gave up. I honestly thought that was it, that I was going to die. He must have felt it too and panicked because he released the pressure. I went to the doctors and said I had passed out so that he would check that my baby was ok. Luckily he was fine. I got an STD when I was 30 weeks pregnant and my ex accused me of sleeping around – really ?!

The day our son was born my whole world changed (as it does when you have your first child), he was my priority and I was determined to make the best of our family unit for my son. The violence calmed down a bit but what with the fear and the fact that I now had a child with him I was completely under his control. However, he seemed to dote on our son and I saw genuine love there. Unfortunately my ex did not like the focus I had on our son, as it took it away from him and when the violence returned it was just as severe. We had to have sex every other night (something that lasted for the whole 9 years I was with him) and I dreaded him touching me. I even dreamed about going to bed with a knife under my pillow. The only things that kept me going was my son and my thoughts – I knew he could never touch my thoughts and I used to dream of being free with my son.

My son was 2 when I made my first attempt at fleeing to a women’s refuge. I can remember a few days of feeling free, of being a proper mum (without all the instructions, criticism and monitored attention). My son was able to toddle around, get dirty and to do toddler things – something he was not allowed to do with his dad due to the designer clothes and his dads insistence that getting dirty would make him ill. It didn’t last, I received a letter from him (through my mum whom my ex had manipulated into thinking he was truly remorseful) saying how sorry he was, how he was jealous of me, how he was abused as a child, how things would be different. I returned a few days later. The day I returned I knew I had made a terrible mistake but felt I had made my bed and should therefore lie in it. I couldn’t put my son or my family through anymore ups and downs. I resigned myself to life with my ex and vowed to make the best of it.

The violence continued and the control got worse – I managed to run out during one occurrence and rang the police as my son was still in the house and my ex was extremely wound up. I knew he had a knife in the house. I hid in a bush until the police found me. They went to pick up my ex and charges were pressed. That should have been it ! I was back at home with my mum and my son. The court day came and I was not required to attend, however I got a call to say that I was needed at the court. I turned up and was told that my ex was asking for me – they were unaware that I was the victim. They put me in a safe room where I stayed until they were certain my ex had left. However, it was not good enough, my ex knew I was at the court. Driving back to my mums I saw my ex driving at full speed towards me, on the wrong side of the road. He swerved and came to a halt blocking my way. I went back with my son that day.

We bought our first house. The violence had calmed down a lot, with just the odd slap, hand over the throat, throwing things etc. I know this sounds horrible but compared to what I had been through it was nothing, but the control had reached an unimaginable level. I was told what to wear, when to eat, when to sleep, when to bath. I had become his puppet, I said what he wanted me to say and acted how he wanted me to act. I was empty. My only joy was my son and the time I could grab with just him.

I became increasingly worried about how my ex was treating my son. There were a couple of incidents that made me question if he was being physically abused and the control was starting to affect my son’s behaviour. The thing is I just didn’t know ! I couldn’t tell whether my concerns were real or whether it was just my warped, abused view of the world that made me see abuse when it wasn’t happening. One day I came in after popping to the shop, my ex was already in an agitated mood as we had forgotten something shopping, hence my trip to the local shop. My son was crying and my ex was acting strange. My son had a big bump on his forehead and my ex was shouting, saying that my son had tripped up the doorstep and banged his head on the doorframe. All I could do was to try to calm the situation down but I felt very uneasy. The next day, I was brushing my son’s teeth before school (he was 6) and he told me that dad had done it. I felt sick but I had to stay calm, I didn’t want to scare my son and make him clam up. I took him to school and asked to speak to the teacher. I told the teacher what my son had said and her response ? “Oh don’t worry, children often blame their parents for their accidents.” This just reinforced my worry that I was imagining the abuse.

A short while later my 6 year old confided in me again : “dad scares me sometimes, he gets crazy”. That was it, I knew we had to go. And that was the day that I can honestly say my 6 year old son saved my life. I would never have left if it wasn’t for his courage to voice his fears to me. I would never have left just for myself – my needs were unimportant at that point.

I made my second refuge attempt a week or so later. My son had just turned 7. This time it was different – I am not sure how but I knew this was it, for good. I vowed to make a new life for ourselves wherever we were sent. My boss, colleagues, friends and family all supported me. I did not tell them where we were going as I knew my ex would badger them.

And we had done it – my son and I started our lives all over again. We made a new life for ourselves. It wasn’t easy. I pressed civil charges so that I could keep my son safe, I did not want my ex getting contact rights and I went against his application to have parental responsibility. I did not have the strength at the time to press criminal charges regarding the violence. I just wanted my son to be safe and to get on with our lives. I know I should have pressed criminal charges, to save others from suffering at his hands but it was not my priority – my son was and rightly or wrongly I did not want my son to have a dad in prison for hurting his mum. The court case was incredibly difficult, my ex denied all my claims of violence and even suggested that I was to blame for my sons broken arm. It was his word against mine on literally every count of violence (controlling and coercive behaviour was not a crime at that time) and knowing how manipulative my ex could be I felt I could not possibly compete. Luckily the doctors, police and health visitor reports scanning the whole 9 years of the relationship helped my case as they were littered with injuries, police attendances and disclosures I had made regarding the fear I had of my ex.

On the summing up day, my ex did not turn up. I sat in the chair with my solicitor, paralysed with nerves as the judge gave his judgement. He threw a few incidents out (mainly the infidelity and control) but agreed with me on each and every count of physical violence. Most importantly he denied my ex direct contact with our son. The tears were pouring down my face – he believed me !

My son and I rebuilt our lives a day at a time. I had another son but unfortunately the relationship with his dad was not healthy either. I became involved in the local community and got a job I loved. The relationship with my son had its ups and downs – I tried to over-compensate for the guilt I felt for keeping him in such a damaging environment for those most important years of his life. I had a few short-term relationships before deciding to focus on myself and my boys. We were happy, I was working, they were doing great at school, we were going on holidays and my eldest was heavily involved in football.

Fast forward 14 and a half years from the day I arrived at the refuge with my son and a small bag of his favourite toys and clothes and I am now happily married to the most wonderful, loving, caring, supportive person. My son is 21 years old. He is a warm, friendly, capable, outgoing young man and we have a fantastic relationship. I am so proud of him. My youngest is 12 years old and he is a joy to be around – I met my husband when he was 5 so he has had a much more stable upbringing. I am safe, I am loved, I am cared for and most importantly I am free to be me. I run my own business, supporting women to rediscover their true selves and learn to love themselves again after an abusive / toxic relationship or after spending years at the bottom of their to do list.

I will never forget my past – but I have managed to put it behind me and I now use my experience to help others find the freedom, love, success and happiness that they deserve. I have stopped trying to make sense of why it happened to me, I have stopped blaming the past for where I am in life, I have learned to love myself, to value, respect and appreciate myself. Most importantly I have changed the way I think about my past – rather than seeing it as one of weakness, humiliation, embarrassment and guilt I now choose to see it as one of strength, resilience and courage.

And if I can do it anyone can !

I know how scary and uncertain the future may seem, I know how it feels to just want to run back to the relationship because that’s what you know, which somehow feels safer, to feel sad and sorry for your ex and even miss them but not being able to admit that to anyone because you know they would think you are crazy. I know what it’s like to be bringing up children racked with guilt because of what has happened, because you can’t afford a lot, because you live in a refuge / temporary accommodation. I know what it’s like to just want to be in a normal relationship. I know how hard it is to start again but I promise you it is worth it – your freedom, your happiness, your future, your children’s futures depend upon it. Think of yourself a year from now after taking small steps each and every day to move forwards, to rebuild your self-confidence, to look after yourself more, to be YOU and then compare to where you would probably be a year from now if you had never left or had returned. There is no comparison ! You had the strength and courage to take control and leave, you can give yourself the life that you deserve – one of love, respect, appreciation, happiness and freedom. It is waiting for you, at the end of that black tunnel of uncertainty and the unknown that you face when you first leave.

Creative Contributions

I want to live and not just exist

By Jo

We are not victims

We are survivors

And what we’ve been through

It pains deep inside us.

You keep us by your side

You wouldn’t let us go

You constantly beat us

And let the whole world know.

You were the master

We were your slave

We did as we were told

So we wouldn’t get the blame.

We had no life

We had no voice

‘cos in our relationship

We didn’t have a choice.

We have been abused

We have been in pain

But I’ll tell you somethin’

It’s never happenin’ again.

We are now FREE

We are so strong

We have the strength to carry on

With our life

The way it should have been

We can be heard

And now be seen.

Aurora can help you too

Today

By Maggie

Today, as the sun has risen, I have awakened.

Just like a phoenix rises from the ashes,

Strong and confident,

Making my own decisions in life,

And I am proud to say I am a survivor of domestic abuse.

Next step…

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