16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence
Domestic Violence My Story - Part Two
Once again my lady from Women's aid spoke on the phone and made a plan of where we would meet, we agreed on a cafe out of town, somewhere that I was familiar with but not too far away. I would have to have an alibi as to where I was going and roughly how long I would be. On meeting her again there was no awkwardness, conversation came easy and she reassured me that it didn't matter that I hadn't made contact since our last meeting some two years previous. I remember her saying that some women would attempt to leave their abusive partners several times before successfully going it alone. We sat and talked over coffee again for a long time and discussed again what my options where. She told me pretty much the same as before but I think I was at a place where I was more open to any help I could get. We discussed the possibility of renting privately. It would give me more control as to where we ended up but it could be more difficult as I would be on benefits and a lot of landlords wouldn't accept that. We discussed the financial side of things as once I left I would no longer have access to the car and depending on where we ended up living possibly not even a job. There was also the possibility of being housed in temporary accommodation while putting my name down onto the council waiting list. It was a huge amount of information to take in again and my son and husband where totally unaware any of this was taking place.
I went away from my second meeting with a lot of information to think about. I confided in my family and a close friend that lived nearby. I started to put a few belongings aside at a friend’s house in preparation for when I had decided what course of action I was going to take. Over the next few weeks I started to make some plans. I knew I had to put some distance between my husband and myself so I planned a trip down south to spend time with my family. It would be two weeks breathing space and time to get whatever I needed to do organised. I met up with the women’s aid councillor again to discuss my trip away and to chat about what I was going to do. I told her that I thought I would have to leave without my son and hope he would want to join me once I was in some accommodation and back on my feet but I knew that was taking a huge risk. My son was always my biggest concern. I never thought for a second that I would even consider the thought of leaving without him but I was desperate and the more I thought about it the more I feared he would hate me for taking him away from his dad. After all, he had no idea we were having any problems in our relationship.
I was going to have to sit him down and talk to him before my trip, I couldn't simply go away on a 'so called holiday' and not return to our home. I was terrified of telling him the truth and how he might react. If he became very upset he might even tell his dad what I was planning, but I had no choice. We were chatting one day and I began by telling him that I was very unhappy and that I felt nervous around his dad because he was often quite angry with me. To my shock he said he understood and that he often heard his dad shouting and thought he was angry most of the time too. He told me that although he loved his dad very much he was quite scared of him when he lost his temper. When he told me there had been an occasion a few weeks before where his dad had lost his temper and laid his hands on him, everything changed in an instant. I was going to leave for good and my son would be coming with me. I found a new strength I didn't know I had and for the first time I knew for sure we were doing the right thing in leaving and no matter how hard things got we would get through it together. Hurting me was one thing but scaring our son was something I would not stand for.
Within a matter of a couple of days the Women’s Aid office had organised a meeting with the council to help get us on the property waiting list and to discuss where we would go on returning from our trip. It was yet another cloak and dagger meeting and although I felt physically sick at the thought of what was happening I managed to stay focussed. I had total faith that when the time came and I needed them that Women's aid would be there for us. We were offered to be taken to any meetings I needed to go to as I didn't always have use of my car and relying on buses in the highlands wasn't always a viable option.
Our meeting went well and we were made aware that there was the possibility of some temporary accommodation becoming available in the next couple of weeks and my son and I were being considered for it. I packed two holdalls of clothes and a few personal items such as birth certificates and passports, all the things I had been advised to pack. She had thought of everything! All the things I would need to help us make a claim for benefits until I was settled and back at work. On my return to Scotland I wouldn't be going back to work. We were literally starting our lives again with 2 bags full of clothes. There was no going back now, plane tickets were booked and my family were waiting to help us in any way they could over the next two weeks. I took one final look around my home and kissed my dogs goodbye not knowing when I would see them again and left.
In the two weeks that followed I was able to organise a lot. With help I made a claim for Universal Credit. Women’s Aid helped me with everything over the phone and even though there was several hundreds of miles between us she was always there to give me advise and point me in the right direction. Two days before we were due to return to Scotland I received a call to tell me the two bedroomed temporary property had become available for us. It was a massive relief, my tummy had been churning non-stop for almost two weeks wondering where we would be going. I was finally able to tell my son where we were going and what he could expect, it had been tough living in limbo for both of us.
On our return we were greeted at the property by a lady from the council. We signed a temporary tenancy agreement and were given the keys to the house that was going to be our home for the next 5 months.
It wasn't easy to start with, we had no money coming in and literally the clothes we came away with. My family had given us towels and duvets and some toiletries but it was really tough not having our familiar things around us. The house came with the essentials to live but not with any home comforts like a TV. It was a shock for my son, he was scared and felt vulnerable. He missed his dad, his dogs and his bedroom. He didn't have his toys and looked like a fish out of water. We didn't have a land line or any internet connection and it made us feel a very isolated to begin with. We missed all the things you take for granted. By this point I had told my husband we would not be returning. We were staying close by but he didn't know where exactly. I was very scared as to how he would react to what was happening and Women's aid took every precaution to ensure we were safe.
The first few nights in our new temporary home where the hardest. We were still waiting for our Universal credit to start and had no money. Women's aid supplied us with food parcels to keep us going for the few weeks that followed until we began to receive an income.
It was hard at that time to imagine how our lives were going to pan out, it felt a little hopeless at times and although it was what I wanted/needed to do there was still so much I missed about our old life. I missed my husband at times as he was all I had known for many years and suddenly being responsible for my son and myself felt really alien and scary. Both my son and I missed our home and he really began to struggle with the situation. Women’s Aid kept up their visits every week and they continued to support us through any struggles we had. My support worker attended any meetings I had with my solicitor and citizens advice, often just for the moral support. She helped me to fill in any forms I had and there seemed to be mountains of paperwork to get through. Women's aid arranged for a lady to see my son once a week so he could talk about anything he had on his mind. Over the weeks and months that followed he got that he would really look forward to his sessions with her. She was a lot of fun and didn't put any pressure on him to talk. He became confident and relaxed around her and began to open up about how he felt and I started to so a massive change in him. He could tell her things that he didn't feel he could open up to me about. It was someone that was there purely for him and it was nothing more than a blessing. I can't emphasis enough how much that helped him and how it helped our relationship with each other
Some 11 months on from making the decision to go it alone and things are quite different. After being offered two properties and turning them down due to the location we were finally offered a new 2 bedroomed housing association flat close to my sons school. Women's aid helped us access an organisation called New Start. They supplied us with new carpets, curtains, white goods and everything we needed to make our flat a home. I have a new job in care, only two days a week for the time being until my son is a bit older but it is step in the right direction. We both continue to have the support of Women's aid. My support worker is still in touch with me every week and continues to support me with anything she can. She still attends meetings with me and is always there with practical advise. She often introduces me to websites that would help with things like cooking on a budget or anything she can think of that will make our lives a bit easier.
I often wonder how different our lives would be if I hadn't made that call. I'm not sure we would be as happy and content as we both are now. Maybe we would still have left but I don't think we would have been as confident and in such a good place emotionally as we are now. I have more confidence than I have ever had in life and it is down to the fact that were given more than just practical help. We were given a lifeline and the continued support has ensured that when things get tough we don't feel alone, there IS someone there to help.
If you have been affected by any form of sexual violence, you can get help from the following organisations:
Women's Aid: Access the website on www.womensaid.scot to find your local women's aid office, call the helpline on 0800 027 1234 open 24 hours a day, or email: email@example.com
Police Scotland: Call 101 to talk to a specialist officer and report the crime.
Rape Crisis: Access the website on www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk. Phone the helpline free any day between 6pm and midnight on 08088 01 03 02 or if you are deaf or hard of hearing on minicom number 0141 353 3091. Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org