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  • 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.

    Rachel, 2014

  • Welsh Women's Aid: A Day in the Life (Data Administrator, Rhiannon Maniatt)

    Welsh Women’s Aid: A Day in the Life
    Data Administrator
    Rhiannon Maniatt

    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
    Policy Officer
    Becky Jones

    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

     

    Molly-2014
    [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
    Emma Harris

    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.

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Contrary to theories of domestic violence that portray battered women as helpless, most women surviving in abusive relationships leave many times and routinely act in conscious ways to try to minimize the abuse directed at them and to protect their children.

 

Research shows that women are victims in 95% of domestic violence cases. To the extent women do use violence, it is generally in self-defense. Reports of violence against men are often exaggerated because abusers will accuse their partners of using violence as a way to avoid or minimize their own responsibility. In addition, men who do experience domestic violence have more access to resources to leave violent situations than do women.

 

Myths and Realities

There are a lot of things that people say about domestic abuse that are wrong.

Myths serve as convenient excuses for abusers not to take responsibility for their behaviour.

There is no excuse for domestic abuse.

"It was a one-off, he’s really sorry and it won’t happen again"

Once a man has started to abuse it is likely to happen again. Abuse is rarely an isolated, one-off incident. Usually it is part of a pattern of controlling behaviour, that becomes worse with time.

Controlling behaviour is things like telling someone what to wear, who to see, being very possessive and jealous, and undermining another's self-confidence and self-esteem continously. Violence or the threat of violence is used by the controller to get his own way.

Men often say they are sorry after incidences of abuse, they may make promises and say they will never do it again. Often women who have left home return to abusive partners because of these promises. There may be a period where the man appears to be non abusive by being attentive, charming and helpful.  However most abusers will abuse again, and this phase of being nice soon changes to the old pattern of controlling behaviour.

"Abusers are violent towards their partners because of unemployment, drugs, alcohol, childhood experiences etc"

Domestic abuse takes place irrespective of income, lifestyle, sex, race, class, age, religion, sexuality and mental or physical ability.  Factors such as unemployment, alcohol and drug dependency and so on,  do not cause domestic abuse but contribute to exasperate the abuse.

There is no excuse for domestic abuse and violence.

"Domestic abuse only happens in certain communities; usually in working class, Asian or black families and there is the most domestic abuse on council estates."

Domestic abuse occurs within all communities: every class, race and culture. It is no more prevalent in one community than another.

There is no typical abuser and there is no typical abused woman. Domestic abuse can affect anyone.

Women’s Aid has supported women whose partners were builders, social workers, ministers, solicitors, teachers, psychiatrists, politicians, bus drivers, plumbers, armed forces, electricians, engineers, factory workers, doctors, police officers, civil servants....a wide range of occupations.

Most women who come to Women’s Aid for support have no other problems in their lives other than those caused by their partner’s violence and abuse.

"It’s not violence, they just fight."

Repeated violence is often accompanied by continual emotional abuse and threats. The fact that some women may attempt to defend themselves by resisting physically during an assault should not be taken to mean that the violence she is experiencing is "mutual fighting".

"Violent men just can’t control themselves, they must be mentally ill."

Most violent and abusive men are able to control themselves not to hit or abuse their partners in public or in front of others or to cause injuries that are visible.

Most violent men are abusive to their partners and children but never to anyone else.

Most men who abuse are able to function without violence in society, in the workplace and in all other contact with people.

We are all responsible for our own behaviour. For a lot of people it is easier to believe the myth that abusers are mentally ill than to accept that they know exactly what they are doing when they assault, rape or torture their partners or children. Abusers are responsible for their own actions, and behaving in aggresive ways or resorting to violent acts is intentional.

"Women choose this type of man"

Women are not aware when becoming involved with men whether they are violent or not, there are no signs. Most women’s experiences show that in the beginning of the relationship men are very attentive, loving and caring.

"It’s just the odd domestic tiff, everybody has arguments."

The difference between the occasional argument and domestic abuse is that domestic abuse is deliberate behaviour which is used by the abuser to exert power and control over the other person.

A range of different controlling behaviours are used in abusive relationships. They include depriving someone of sleep, criticising their appearance, telling them what to wear or where they can go, controlling who they are friends with or denying them access to their family, locking them up, threatening them with violence, hitting them, raping them or torturing them.

"Women get enjoyment, pleasure or satisfaction from their experiences of domestic violence"

Women’s experience has shown that this simply isn’t true. Domestic violence frightens and disempowers women. No-one wants to live in fear.

"She must get something out of it, or else she would leave."

There are many reasons why a woman stays in an abusive relationship but none of them are related to getting something out of the violence and abuse.

Often a woman is too frightened to leave, her partner may have threatened to kill her, the children or the pets. He might even have threatened to kill himself  if she goes. Research shows that most domestic murders take place at the point of leaving or after leaving and when a woman is in another relationship.

A woman may be worried about uprooting her children or having to leave them behind or having them taken into care if people find out about the abuse.

Many women blame themselves for the abuse, they think it is their fault. They may lack the confidence to leave or feel guilty and shameful about having allowed the abuse to happen to them and their children.

Many women are still unaware of the help and support available from agencies such as Women’s Aid and the Police.

Often abusers withhold money from their partners so women have no money with which to escape.

The woman’s abuser may have stopped contact with her family and friends so in a crisis she feels she has nowhere to turn.

Emotional abuse often leaves a woman feeling powerless, she may think she is not strong enough to leave, and / or strong enough to survive on her own once she has left.  She may worry that she wouldn’t be able to find somewhere to live or get money to live on.

Emotional abuse often leaves a woman feeling worthless, she may believe the lies her abuser has told her and think that no one else will want her or no one will understand or believe that she has been abused.

Many women are still emotionally attached to their partners despite the abuse. This does not mean they enjoy the violence but they may think that their partner will change or that they can stop the violence and make the relationship work.

Many women do not realise how common domestic violence and abuse is, they think they are the only one experiencing it.

Some or all of these reasons lead many women to believe that there is no way out of the abusive relationship and that they would be better off staying with their partner and putting up with the incidences of domestic abuse. Women cope by finding ways of appeasing their abusive partner by being ultra sensitive to his moods of behaviour.  This helps reduce the violence but it is short-lived as the abuser will always find something that 'upsets' him so that it justifies his abuse and violence against the woman or his children.

Some women may be carers for their aging or disabled member of the family (for example Asian women looking after aged parents in an extended family network). Escaping the violence would mean leaving dependents to fend for themselves and perhaps the risk of abuse from the partner.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse and you need help and information regarding your options, contact a Women’s Aid group now.

"We shouldn’t interfere, it’s a private matter."

The abuse of an individual is not a private matter, 25% of reported violent crime is domestic violence. Most incidences of domestic violence still go unreported.

Domestic violence is a crime, we cannot go on ignoring it.

"She’s not really being abused, she’s just using it to be re-housed."

Women usually minimise rather than exaggerate their experiences of violence and abuse.

Very few women are re-housed quickly. They may have to spend many months in refuge or bed and breakfast accommodation before they are given somewhere new to live.

"People who are violent towards their partners must come from violent families."

Many people who are violent towards their partners come from families where there is no history of violence. Many abusers have brothers and sisters who are not violent and abusive. There is no typical abuser.

Within many families where violence has occured, individuals choose not to be violent.

"It's not just men, there are loads of violent women too"

Statistics show that 97% of reported incidences of domestic violence and abuse are perpetrated by men against women.

However domestic violence can occur in same sex relationships and can be perpetrated by members of the extended family. In a very small number of cases (3%) the perpetrators of this abuse are women.

Welsh Women's Aid maintains that domestic abuse is the result of the continued inequality between men and women in society.  Therefore, society tends to condone aggressive acts from men in the long term and boys are raised to assume control over women in all areas of work, home and relationships.