Survivor stories

Inspiring. Raw. Complicated. Real. Hear from survivors in their own words about experiencing, escaping and surviving domestic abuse.

Stories of women and children we’ve helped

Melanie attended one of Refuge’s support groups.

“After I left my abusive partner, I used to beat myself up with guilt. I needed to let go. Coming to the support group every week and listening to all the other women made me realise I am not alone. One woman started talking about what had happened to her kids, and that was the breakthrough for me. This woman was still standing strong – ‘that’s what I can do’, I thought. She was an inspiration.

Socialising with women who have been through what you’ve been through gives you hope that you can move forward and start making something of your life. Some of the women stopped hobbies that they loved because of the awful things happening to them. Now, one has taken up sewing, another is going to the gym again. It is about saying, “Who am I? What do I like to do?” When you’re with an abusive partner, you forget who you are.

When I first started going, I didn’t say much. I just listened. Gradually I started speaking more and opening up to the other women, who gave me confidence. The Refuge team said I had a good understanding of the different forms of abuse. They told me I was bubbly and friendly and that they thought I would be good at leading a coffee morning.

I enjoy helping people. I know where they’re coming from because I have been there. I can see myself in the other women. At first they’re fearful and sad, like I was, but then they slowly start to blossom. You really see the transition. It’s nice to see the women come out of themselves. It’s also given me so much self-confidence.”

Isobel was supported by one of Refuge’s outreach workers.

“When I met my ex-husband, I had my own business, my own flat, supportive friends and family. I was confident and self-assured and independent. Domestic violence was not something I ever thought would happen to me.

He was controlling from the beginning. I was constantly walking on eggshells. I was undermined and humiliated in a million different ways. But whenever I tried to leave, he would reel me back in, telling me that he would change and that he wanted us to be a family. One day a normal conversation suddenly turned into a frenzied attack. He punched me to the ground, kicked me in the back, and then threw me across the room – all in front of our two children. I called the police, and eventually they put me in touch with Refuge.

One of Refuge’s outreach workers, Anna*, began supporting me. We talked about everything I had been through and she helped me to understand that Ben’s behaviour was a deliberate pattern of control. It was not my fault.

I can honestly say that nobody in my life has done more for me than Anna. Together, we made a plan to keep me and the children safe. She held my hand, sometimes literally, through divorce proceedings and child contact battles. She gave me the language I needed to describe what I had been through. It’s like she gave me a secure base, from which I could begin to rebuild my life.

Now things are so much better. It isn’t easy to break away from a violent partner; I don’t think I could have done it without Refuge’s support. Refuge saved my life.”

Maya stayed in one of Refuge’s safe houses.

“I have been moved to the point of tears on several occasions by the kindness and compassion shown to me by the staff members.

Your refuge worker is diligent, caring, flexible, considerate, empathetic, and discreet, and has a wonderful sense of fun. The latter, in my opinion, is not to be trivialised in an environment such as this. She has a calming manner and there seems to be nothing she is unwilling to help with, including advocating, researching and generally being helpful in any way that she can.

She offers sound counsel regarding procedure and if asked a question that she is unsure of, she explains this and endeavours to secure the correct information. She is very interested in the social betterment of residents also, and is always finding interesting and constructive things for us to do. I cannot speak highly enough of her and her work ethic is to be aspired to. I admire her greatly.”

Marta used Refuge’s specialist service for Eastern European women.

“It was very good for me to receive this support. This project helped me so much. If it wasn’t for this project I would have gone back to him and I would have been killed. I want this service to continue – there are plenty of other women in my situation.

I was lost, to be honest, when this happened. I didn’t know my own name. She [the IDVA] offered me support and advice. My son needed support, he was very scared. I had support, he had support – I felt released.

If this service didn’t exist I would still be with my husband. I wouldn’t have shared my pain, my hurt. But now I have a better future; my kids can have safe lives. I know I will manage every kind of situation. I know I’m independent. I can sleep calmly, knowing that when I wake I will still be alive.”

Bella was supported by one of Refuge’s youth advocates.

“I am glad I have a youth advocate helping me through my problems. I feel like I can talk to her and she will listen to me without judging me. She helps me understand my feelings and is really helping me with all my court stuff and how it all works. Having a youth advocate has helped me feel calmer and able to cope with my situation.”