How are you? Hope you are ok and healthy and full of laughter, love and happiness.
I want us to reflect on the past year. I want us to talk about our domestic violence situation that somehow, we ended up facing together.
Let me introduce myself to you. First an apology, I thought you knew me, or you had met me previously.
I am you in the present and you are me in the past – I am the small voice in your head that had tried so many times to talk to you and pleaded with you to wake up and face the reality. I am the voice who kept pushing you within – and never gave up on you. I am the voice who set the alarm off and tried to show you the red zone you had tried to fight to cross. I am the voice who told you the truth that you would not want to know or face. I am the voice who pushed you to fight for yourself dignity and for your children. I am the voice who when things went very bad argued for you to face the situation and set your priorities right. I am the one who told you to challenge the system and not allow them to take your children away. I am the voice who told you not to fall for your X’s trap and shift the attention from him to your children’s wellbeing. I am the voice that told you ‘don’t feel ashamed of yourself’. I am the voice who told you ‘you have not done anything wrong’. I am the voice who told you to keep thinking about the most important thing in your life – your children. I am the voice who said to you ‘don’t be afraid of change’. I am the voice who told you things in your life are about to take a whole new direction: it will be full of hurt, tears, emotions. You might even feel like there’s no way out – but you will survive. I am the voice who finally – when you listened – held your hand and said *we* will be ok.
Dear A we are happy, content. We are in a good place and safe; our children are safe, happy and healthy.
Thinking back, I have no idea how we ended up in this big mess; we are no different from millions of women out there who go through the same experience every second, and sometimes the outcome is total sadness and lost. We are the minority who after a big battle – yes I call it a battle – because it felt like I was fighting parts of myself from different sides; and I was in the middle with my children trying to make sense of it all.
Everyone was trying to tick a box and mark me as job complete. I felt I was just another number within millions of other numbers. I had to deal with my X’s package – with everything came the manipulation, the controlling, the disrespect and the knocking of confidence – the physical abuse. By the time I listened to my inner voice I was a shadow of myself – that I even me, myself, I did not recognise. By the time I opened my eyes, I had felt what was the point of even getting out. I was isolated, ashamed – because deep down I knew I was lying to everyone around me; I was lying to myself. I was afraid of change: I believed I can’t live, I can’t survive life without him. I was basically dependant on him.
But one day something happened, and everything, changed. That thing that drove me was my baby girl. All it took was to ask myself: ‘do I want her to think or grow up thinking this is the norm’? Of course not.
During the ordeal I did my best to put up with the verbal and the physical abuse, and stay calm – because I didn’t want the children to witness it – or even feel there was something wrong. But after my X started to use the children to humiliate me, that’s when I listened to my inner voice, and from that moment the rest is history.
But my biggest challenge has shifted from my X to local authorities such as: police, MARAC, CAFCASS, social services, the council, the benefit system, legal team, family court etc…
Once I googled to find out who could offer me help. They become the challenge, they become the danger that I was fighting. I felt instead of helping me, listening to me, finding out what is it that I wanted from them – I was judged. It was like I was talking to myself. I was treated like the perpetrator – and I felt they were looking for faults; they shifted the whole situation and focused on my kids. They even tried to take them away; no sympathy. I felt they just wanted to take my children and close the case.
Again, my drive to fight this was my children. I had to stay calm and gather evidence myself, to protect them.
The only organisation/body I felt were trying to offer support, was my GP – because they were prepared to communicate with the legal team – if they needed their input.
No counselling was offered to me. All I needed is for someone to listen, and for me to feel they understand when I talked. I can feel/hear the pain in my voice – so why can’t others hear it?
That’s what I kept asking myself – when I reached out for help.
Until I dealt with it – and I got myself out of it.
I decided I will build myself again from scratch and get my old self back. The me before I met my X. I got a job and started working at Shelter. After nearly 2 years at Shelter, I moved over to the ICM Programme and I consider myself very lucky to have joined. I can’t tell you enough, that I really feel like I am learning new skills every day. I was introduced to the Women’s Voice group as soon I started my new role.
Women’s Voice is a group of women come together every week and share their experiences. Joining the group helped build my confidence in myself again. I feel I am going through a healing journey with those women. We all have similar experiences with different beginnings and endings. We are strong, ambitious, kind women – who refused to stay silent. We are women who are talking from lived experience; and if sharing my story will benefit one woman, I am happy, because nobody is immune. Domestic violence could happen to any one of us, regardless of background, culture, beliefs, income – even gender.
Joining Women’s Voices, to me from the first week, was a healing journey – and still to me is a healing journey, which I am so grateful for. This opportunity – to be able to meet and speak to other women, so I now know I was not alone in this. I don’t have to hide away and feel ashamed.
The Women’s Voice group gave us a chance to speak up, and challenge the system, and ask for change. The system should adapt to what we want, rather than what they want us to do. We are human, we all are different; we all have different story, we should be treated individually. All we want is for the authorities to listen, and not to judge us.
I am a staff member of the ICM Programme Team who has benefited from joining the Women’s Voice group. I am proud to take part, and I would like to say how amazing that funds are used to support this kind of project.
From one dear friend, to another.