Stories of Hope and Survival: Day Four
Hello, my name is Rachel and I was a victim of domestic abuse.
My story starts back in 1993 when I fell for Darren, he was charming and funny, with a dry sense of humour, he made me laugh. We soon became close and after a year I fell pregnant with our son. I already had a son from a previous relationship who was 2 years old when I met Darren.
My abuse started when I was 7 months pregnant. We were having an argument, he lifted me off the floor by my throat. Darren could do this as he was 6ft 7in and 22 stone, he was massive. He trained in the gym 5 nights a week. He only released his grip when I turned blue. This shocked me and I wanted to finish with him, but once he fell to his knees and begged for forgiveness and cried like a baby I soon forgot and forgave him, until the next time.
Yes, there were many more next times. As time went on and I got to know him more I realised he suffered with his mental health, and he was also brought up in an abusive home.
I was controlled and suffered mental and physical abuse, which consisted of; many arguments, hot bowls of stew being thrown at me, my clothes being thrown out the bedroom window, doors being ripped off, sly punches to the back of the head, spitting in my face, and I think the worse was being spoken to in public like something he had just stepped in. After years of this abuse, I decided to leave.
I did leave him for a whole week and I felt liberated, but that soon changed as he bombard me with text messages and phone calls, bouquets of flowers and cards and not to forget the pleading and crying. He always promised he would change, but it never lasted much longer than a week or two.
The older I got the less tolerant I became of his behaviour and abuse. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when he slit his wrists in front our son Jack; this was after he strangled me. The date was Saturday 9th July 2011. I thought if he could slit his wrists in front of Jack what else was he capable of, and this scared me.
I left and went to stay with a friend. I filed for divorce (which was something I never got as far as before) and I put the house up for sale. All of this shocked Darren, he then took a different tactic to try and woo me back because the pleading this time fell on deaf ears. He took an overdose, quite a big overdose, and was in hospital a few days. This time I knew that I was serious because I never reacted to this.
During the next six weeks Darren appeared in Court for assault and was granted bail. My home was reinforced, I had a panic alarm installed, the Police arranged for my bedroom to be turned into a panic room. This was in case he broke his bail restrictions and came to the home.
All this was not necessary though because he didn’t come to my home. On Friday 19th August 2011 he came to the hairdressers where I worked, armed with a shot gun. There was a battle in the salon, and he did shoot me. Thankfully I was mentally one step ahead, after he hit me on the head with the butt of the gun and I fell to the floor, I had the sense to pull my legs up onto my chest which took the shot!! He shot twice, the first one hitting me, the second skimming my ear.
After the shooting when he put the gun down to reload, I grabbed the gun and held onto it because my life depended on it!! He couldn’t retrieve the gun, so he then proceeded to stamp on my head and rained me with punches of sheer muscle. Thankfully I didn’t lose consciousness and was aware when he had fled the shop.
After a few hours, later in hospital I was told that Darren had committed suicide. Yes I was relieved, but it should not have even got to this point. I spent six weeks in hospital, I had a major operations on my leg, which was saved even though initially I was asked to have it amputated. I was finally discharged on 23rd September 2011.
Our son Jack had distanced himself from my family as he wanted sympathy for his dad’s death which he couldn’t fully get from us, so he was staying at his paternal aunties house. Jack had disappeared; on Monday 26th September 2011, around tea time, I was told that he had taken his life.
This was when my world fell apart. I could handle the shooting but losing my son, this was something else. Since this happened I have got stronger. My case is tragic; I never thought for one minute that leaving my abusive husband would result in me losing my precious son. I want people to know abuse does not just affect the victim; it affects the whole family, children, parents and friends.
I’ve removed the victim label and I now enjoy the peace and freedom I so wanted and deserved. I will not drink that bottle of poison called bitterness, because the only person it will affect is me.
I have a new life that I embrace with both arms. I have a man by my side that is the most loving, kindest and supportive man I have ever met. We only get one go at life and we need to live it and not just exist in it. I have learnt not to become fearful of a new life; fear is something that we create.
Become the Victor and not the Victim.
Welsh Women's Aid: A Day in the Life (Data Administrator, Rhiannon Maniatt)
Welsh Women’s Aid: A Day in the Life
My role includes developing and implementing organisational databases, collecting, collating and analysing data and producing reports.
This time of the year, my days are full of data collation and analysis, and my role is vital to demonstrate the impact of our work and the importance of domestic abuse services across Wales.
Once my morning of number crunching is done, it’s time to prepare this month’s newsletter, which people from all over the world read. I then monitor our website and social media accounts and with over 1000 likes on Facebook, and over 4000 followers on Twitter, it’s necessary that we respond to queries and let people know about the good work that is being carried out all over Wales.
This afternoon, I’m reviewing our Children Matter training service through feedback received; we receive positive comments from professionals who attend our training, which really brings home the importance of our work and the value we provide.
I guess if you don’t like working with numbers, reports or computers, my job must seem really boring. Luckily, I am in my element, and love it! I see all of the statistics from our member groups, and all the ways that women have reported being affected by abuse. You can’t prepare yourself for the sheer amount of women who have been hurt or abused, just for being women. We need to do everything we can to end violence against women and girls, awareness and information needs to be highlighted and shared – The 16 Days Campaign can help to do just that.
Welsh Women's Aid: A Day in the Life (Policy Officer, Becky Jones)
Welsh Women’s Aid: A Day in the Life
As Policy Officer for Welsh Women’s Aid, my role is wide-ranging and involves responding to government or public consultations that will have an effect on women and children experiencing domestic abuse and the specialist services that support survivors. I work with our member organisations to gather information and research subjects in order to provide evidence-based responses and briefings. These help inform government policy-making, and are used by local services, and organisations such as the Police, Health Services and Housing Services. Essentially, it is my job to help ensure Welsh Women’s Aid continues to be the lead organisation in Wales in terms of robust knowledge and information and ensure domestic abuse and its effects, continue to be high on the political agenda.
Something that I am currently working on is to ensure that front-line services inform the development of the Welsh Government’s ‘Gender-based Violence, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill’ and making sure a gendered approach is recognised in the Bill, which is vital to ending violence and abuse.
I am also gathering information on the impact of the Spare Room Subsidy (aka Bedroom Tax) on single women in multiple bedroom properties. It is not an option for refuges to turn women away if the room is too big, because this is emergency accommodation, and to force a woman to remain in the home could have potentially fatal consequences.
The 16 Days of Action campaign is very important to me as it gives us the opportunity to highlight the work that we and our members do, what services are out there and highlight how everyone can get involved and learn about the part they can play in ending violence against women and girls.
Stories Of Hope And Survival Day Three
You scream at me
I start to shake
I've seen that look before
I've cooked your dinner
The way you like it
The house is clean and quiet
What have I done to make you angry?
Have I not tried to be good?
I don't understand
Please don't hit me
I will try harder
honestly I will
please don't awhhhhhh.
I love you
I really do he shouts,
But you just won’t listen
If only you would do as I ask,
I wouldn't have to give you such a clout
To make you show some respect,
To show you who is boss
It’s only for your own good I get no pleasure from doing this.
Get here now you stupid cow
let me break your spirit
so you will get too weak to ever leave me
I will keep you from your friends and family so no one will ever see how I mistreat you get here now I tell you, you worthless piece of shit
How I ever fancied you I will never know, no one else will ever look at you so be grateful that I stay
For tomorrow I will change the rules I made today
[Name has been changed to protect identity
Welsh Women's Aid: A Day in the Life (Day Two: PA to the CEO Emma Harris)
Welsh Women’s Aid: A Day in the Life
PA/Executive Support Officer
A large part of my role revolves around our CEO’s schedule and work priorities, and supporting our Board of Trustees so that they can effectively govern the charity. I coordinate meetings, organise diaries and ensure our CEO is fully prepared for each meeting or event she attends. I also support Senior Managers and coordinate the day-to-day running of our head office, regularly liaising with managers in our regional offices to keep on top of any issues and ensure the smooth running of the organisation.
My working day starts with dealing with emails and calls that have come in, which range from dealing with phone systems being upgraded, to confirming our CEO’s attendance at a conference and organising her visits to local services. 90% of my job is about being organised, communicating well internally and with other organisations, and staying on top of all tasks.
We have a Trustee Board meeting coming up, so I take the opportunity to get feedback from all managers on their actions following the last meeting, using a tracking spreadsheet, which is really useful for keeping everything on track, and gives the managers and Trustees an overview of tasks completed and outstanding -I love spreadsheets! In between working on different tasks – like fixing office equipment, getting value for money from our suppliers and sourcing quotes for printing materials - I keep an eye on emails and calls as they come in for our CEO, if she is out at meetings or visits, and coordinate her Outlook calendar.
Back office functions may not be glamourous but are vital in ensuring Welsh Women’s Aid operates efficiently, and allows my colleagues to carry out their roles working to help survivors, service users and our members.
The 16 Days campaign is a great way of engaging with the public, and I always find it truly inspiring to attend events where survivors of violence against women and girls are able to speak out and tell their stories.