“I moved into Refuge 5 months ago and although I have had my down days I have definitely had more highs.”

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It was August 2013 when I met my perpetrator. He was charming, funny, all the girls fancied him and I was so flattered out of everyone he could of picked, he picked me. In hindsight, the controlling and bullying behaviour started straight away. He said he didn’t want to use condoms so I asked him when he last had a STI check. He was furious. How dare I ask him such a thing. I felt embarrassed and guilty that I had upset him but the reality is – it’s a perfectly good question.

I first tried to leave him in August 2017 but he convinced me I was “insane” and if I left him I would lose custody of our daughter. I even went to the doctors for help over my mental health but I was perfectly fine – I was just a victim of pure manipulation. The doctor didn’t realise this and prescribed me anti-depressants which made me extremely tired all the time and ill.

In December 2018, it had finally hit home I was struggling to handle the controlling abuse. I decided to ring the National Domestic Abuse helpline and spoke to an incredibly kind lady who asked if I had ever thought about going into refuge. I was shocked as I had always associated refuge was for those fleeing physical violence. I said I would think about it. Christmas and New Year had passed and his behaviour escalated to a whole new level and I knew I had to get out. He forced me to perform a sex act on him on Christmas Eve. Having to wake up on Christmas Day and play happy family was a new form of torture that I will never forget. I wasn’t able to keep it together the whole day and when I did cry I had to pretend it was because I was so happy.

I rang the National Domestic Abuse helpline again and asked if they could do a refuge search for me. They gave me four numbers in total, the first number I rang didn’t answer. The second answered and through the tears I asked if they had any spaces for myself and my daughter. Luckily they did and asked about my situation. It was the first time I had told someone everything my perpetrator had put me through, and I mean everything. He was flushing away my contraceptive pill (I forgave him for this because my daughter is incredible and I get to keep the prize now!), he had ruined many friendships, ruined my career, had taken £4,500 off me, he take my mind. The kindness I received back was overwhelming. I arranged to stay at a friends house that night and fled to Refuge the next day.

I remember feeling sick and terrified but three smiling reassuring faces were there to greet my daughter and I. They helped with our luggage and in our room was a hamper filled with beauty products – it looked like Boots had be raided! It was all kind donations from the public so if you’re reading this and have ever donated anything, even if you think it’s really small, thank you. My daughter had a toy box filled with brand new toys and she settled in instantly. I can honestly say I have never experienced kindness like I have received since being in refuge. The other ladies living here were also really welcoming asking if I had a meal I could make from my food parcel and someone made me a cup of tea. My daughter played with the other children while I just processed the strength I found to leave him.

I moved into Refuge 5 months ago and although I have had my down days I have definitely had more highs. I have laughed, danced and found my personality since I’ve been in refuge. My daughter has blossomed and her bad behaviours have stopped. She had found a real love for music and her favourite band is Madness which is brilliant until someone moves in the refuge with House of Fun on full blast!

We still live a relatively normal life. My daughter is in nursery and loves it. I’ve always worked so initially struggled with the mentality of not working but I have completed courses in Cooking and Gardening. I have also participated in Freedom and Power to Change courses which I have found extremely helpful. It’s emotional and eye opening but will help you come to terms with the abuse you’ve suffered and will improve your confidence dramatically.

I’ve moved into my own house and although I am excited to move on – I am also extremely sad to be leaving such a wonderful group of people. The women I live with and the staff have helped me become myself again. Sure it does drive you mad when someone leaves their dirty dishes for a day, but it’s when you realise you all love UB40 and weren’t allowed to listen to them because your ex thought they were shit and you put ‘Baby Come Back’ and dance around like lunatics. It’s when you’re struggling and someone puts the kettle on, its when Love Island comes on and you’re laughing at your new found friend shouting at the TV to go on the Freedom programme, it’s when you explain that although Australia is in Eurovision it’s not in Europe, it’s all the children running around the house playing Hide and Seek that makes the Women’s Refuge. I will forever be thankful the first number I rang didn’t answer.

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