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Knowsley women share their experiences of surviving domestic abuse

by Cathy Sheel

Following the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls (also known as ‘White Ribbon Day’) Knowsley Council is continuing to raise awareness of this important global issue and the support available to Knowsley residents who may be experiencing domestic abuse.

Here, *Josie shares her experiences of domestic abuse in her own voice.

“For 12 years I’ve been dealing with his behaviour.

Looking back, my self-esteem probably wasn’t where it needed to be.  I carry a visible physical disability from childhood, and although it’s part of me, I can’t say it has been an easy road, especially when I was younger.  Even when people don’t say anything about the way you look, you imagine what they might be thinking.

When I first met *Simon, I was bowled over.  Here was this man, tall, good looking, life and soul of the party, popular, and he was interested in me!  We went out, he seemed to want to show me off, we were always in company with others – my life had opened up!  I fell pregnant quickly, and we were both over the moon, but then his behaviour changed almost overnight it felt like.

In the blink of an eye, he changed his personality, he would go missing overnight, he would come home still drunk, and wouldn’t answer questions about where he had been.  Then it happened.  At five months pregnant he hit me for the first time.  In the grand scheme of things and what followed in the years to come, it wasn’t the worst incident, but it was enough to make me scared.  Scared for me and scared for my baby.

When my first son arrived, things improved for a short while.  But when the old habits came back, I started to worry again.   After my son’s first birthday party, *Simon went out and got drunk and it immediately put the old routine in place, the slaps and comments about me being “fat” and references to my disability came thick and fast.    Around a year after this, I ended the relationship for the first time. I knew it was for the best, but I obviously had to have regular contact with him for the sake of our son.

Slowly but surely, we found each other again.  I remember it was small things at first.  I offered a cup of tea while he was playing with our son, then he would ask if he could stay for tea, then he took opportunities with childhood illnesses and said he didn’t want to leave and asked if he could stay overnight.  I thought he was trying to be a good dad – and that’s an attractive feature, isn’t it?  When we got back together my family had reservations; I hadn’t even told them about the violence, as I knew they’d be telling me not to let him near me, but they knew I wasn’t happy.   I was lonely, our son needed his father, and things were sometimes better and easier when he was around and we were a family.

Fast forward another seven years and we have three beautiful sons and a daughter.

Three beautiful sons and a daughter who ended up having no real response when their father hit their mother because it became so much part of the household regime. Violence when the children wouldn’t be quiet, violence when there was no money, violence when drunk, violence when sober. Dad there, dad not there, police, flashing lights, injuries…it all blurs into one, sometimes I can’t remember everything, other times it hits me when I’m not expecting it to.

I’ve had to deal with police, social workers, GPs and schools.  All of them have been supportive in their own way, but nothing can take away what I’ve been through or what my children have been through.  I have very much felt like “a victim of domestic abuse” at times.

I have ended the relationship, and it is better without him.  He’s still there, in the background and in my head, but I am safe and that’s what I try to focus on most days.  When I want to speak to someone now, I know where to go, and I have been assured everyone heals at their own pace; it’s not always a case of, “end the relationship, end the abuse” but at least I’m taking steps and I can imagine my life differently now.

Because I know him so well, and I’ve finally realised with help that I am a SURVIVOR of domestic abuse, I have prepared for the day he thinks he can start the cycle again. I’m better informed now because of support I received from my domestic abuse service.  I’ve resisted taking formal action up until now, but I am prepared to do it if necessary – and it might be necessary in order to protect my children.

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself that my son didn’t “need his father”, what my son needed was two parents who could commit to keeping him safe and had his best interests at heart at all times.  What my son needed was to know that it wasn’t normal for a man to hit a woman under any circumstances.  What my son needed was to live in a home where his mother wasn’t constantly on edge, second guessing every decision she made.  And, what I needed, was to remind myself that I was enough, and I was a good mum, I didn’t have to carry things by myself, and I could achieve things if I gave myself the chance and asked for help along the way.

My hope is that anyone reading about my life, who feels they understand what I’m describing might just be encouraged to reach out a little bit, find out a little bit of information you think might help you, ask some questions, even if it’s “for a friend” but make sure you get access to information that will help you for when you are ready to make a change.”

*Josie *Simon: not their real names.

If you’re a Knowsley resident experiencing domestic abuse or you know someone who is, you are not alone, and help is available.

In an emergency, please call 999, otherwise please contact:

Knowsley Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub

Tel: 0151 443 2600

Or

Knowsley Early Help Hub

Freephone helpline on 0800 073 0043 and ask for your information to be passed onto the Early Help Hub and one of our staff will call you back. Or you could complete the online form by clicking the ask for help and support on this link.

Or

The First Step (Specialist Domestic Abuse Service)

Tel: 0151 548 3333

Website: www.thefirststep.org.uk