Did you know that there are specialist teams within Knowsley who work with victims and survivors of domestic abuse to keep them safe from harm and move on with their lives?
Knowsley’s specialist teams worked with people who have many difference experiences of domestic abuse. And whilst there are some common behaviours and ‘signs’ of domestic abuse, each case is different and requires a bespoke response each time.
As part of the 16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence, we’re sharing anonymous stories from people who have been supported by our teams. The case studies show the impact of domestic abuse and the bravery of the victim/survivors they work with.
I had been with my partner for 35 years – since we were teenagers – and I had never known being with anyone else. I wouldn’t say we were always happy, but over time and within your bubble, you can end up normalising things – I suppose kind of tricking your own brain.
At the same time, I wouldn’t have told people what was going on. Deep down I knew it wasn’t normal, but I was fearful of the reaction I would get from others. Fearful of how they might look at me, treat me or talk about me behind my back.
If you would have asked me what domestic abuse was, I would have said violence and someone causing you injury. That wasn’t what I was living with, and so I didn’t consider myself to be a victim of domestic abuse.
That’s not say there wasn’t conflict in my relationship. There was. Often physical too. However, it always stopped short of what I would have deemed domestic abuse, at the time.
My ex-partner was very controlling. He made every decision in the household and had say over my children, my money, my working pattern, use of the family car. He took away my independence.
The abuse and control weren’t just aimed at me but also our children. Our lives revolved around what he wanted. When it didn’t, there was anguish, tears, frustration, and a constant threat of consequences in one form or another. When you have that for a long time, it takes away from your character. You think you’re not worthy of something more.
Looking back, I can’t believe the situation that me and my children were living in. But the control and abuse grew subtly over time. It didn’t start over night.
My ex-partner completely controlled the mood in the home, he was regularly verbally aggressive, would drink excessively, had his own mealtimes that would often interfere with the children’s routine – it was all designed to create the maximum impact on the rest of us. There were times over the years where I had encouraged him to include himself in family events – birthdays, Christmas etc, but in response to this, he would take himself into isolation and ignore me and the children.
Another method of control he exerted was through the household finances. He did not contribute financially, other than a token gesture every couple of weeks, which meant it was down to me to ensure the children had everything they needed for life and school. But he was still a beneficiary.
For example, I needed to ensure that we had internet for the children to do their homework. However, he would share the cost and therefore it was down to me to meet the cost of that bill, and me alone.
Often, I was in a quandary about picking up more hours at work as this meant leaving the children at home with their father, and I knew that he wouldn’t attend to their needs and might be drunk.
There were also some deliberate things he did to have psychological impact on me. He would go into my bedroom and move little things. Just enough so that I knew someone had been there, just enough to make me feel uneasy – to remind me that he would do what he wanted. I also knew it was so he could keep a check on me, look for any paperwork that might reveal something. It made me feel constantly on edge.
When I first started to think about the idea of support, I didn’t actually know what kind of support would be helpful. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in terms of taking action, but things had escalated in the house, and I was frightened of the children getting hurt. His drinking was increasing, and the children were becoming more defensive of me. Sometimes having to physically defend me.
After some consideration, I did decide to take formal action. It was not quick, and it definitely was not easy. You second guess yourself at every turn, and at certain points, I absolutely thought it was pointless to try sometimes. However, I came to see that what I had been living with was abuse.
When it came to formal legal processes, my ex-partner lied and took no responsibility for the suffering both me and children had experienced. It also became even more apparent that his patterns of behaviour were abusive after he moved out. He tried to control the children by sending them messages and demanding that they show me. Putting them in the centre of our separation.
Through the process I came to see that I was capable of taking back control of my life. I did know right from wrong and that the way my ex-partner treated me wasn’t normal. But most importantly, I learned that I was equipped to tackle a situation and undertake a process that at one point seemed terrifying.
The support I received from the Safer Communities Service and Early Help Support was vital to me being able to leave the relationship and protect both myself and my children. I also accessed support from Housing Solutions, the Police and specialist solicitors.
Three years on, I can see that I’m now a completely different person. I have confidence – and I should have confidence after what I’ve been through! I act independently and I feel confident to make decisions for myself, for the family home, and for the children. I can make plans for the future with the children, such as holidays, and we have a totally different weekly routine.
I don’t worry as much in terms of general anxiety and I feel that the children are coping much better. Overall our mental health has drastically improved.
As a family we look forward now. We’re about welcome my first grandson into the family and we can celebrate events such as Christmas. We’re in control of our own lives and you should never underestimate how good that feels. I am stronger, I sleep well, I can invite friends and family into the house, and me and the kids have programmes we watch together and our own routines.
The small things are the big things, you know.
Where can I turn for help?
If you, your child, or anyone in the family are at immediate risk of harm, you should contact the police urgently, call 999. If you are not at immediate risk but are concerned, please contact one of the services listed below:
Knowsley Council Safer Communities Service (Specialist Domestic Abuse Service)
Tel: 0151 443 2610
Knowsley Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub
Tel: 0151 443 2600
The First Step (Specialist Domestic Abuse Service)
Tel: 0151 548 3333
Helpline 0800 107 0726
Worst Kept Secret Helpline: 0800 028 3398
Refuge (includes information for men) 0808 200 0247 (24 hours)
The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors – 0808 801 0327
National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline 0800 999 5428
Samaritans (24/7 service) 116 123