This is the story of one woman who lived in silence with domestic abuse for 36 years, and how with the help of Foundation and a place in a refuge, she was finally able to move on and start a new life without fear…
Mary (not her real name), met her partner at 15, married him at 16 and started to be emotionally abused by him within 6 months of the relationship. His jealousy, mistrust and misplaced suspicions led to lots of verbal abuse, which he only carried out behind closed doors.
The physical abuse soon followed, starting off with a punch to the face resulting in a broken nose – despite his apologies and promises that it wouldn’t happen again, this behaviour continued throughout the early years of their marriage. Mary found herself lying to cover up his misdemeanours, but believed he would change – and while the physical attacks reduced after 6 years of marriage, the emotional and financial abuse intensified.
Mary became more and more isolated and anxious, eventually deterring friends and family from visiting or calling, as it always led to more verbal abuse. He would rarely let her go out without him, and in the end she was so ground down that she stopped trying to have her own life.
Around two years before coming into the refuge, Mary’s husband had a serious illness and was hospitalised for several months; when he was discharged, he needed a high level of support and Mary became his full time carer, so social services became involved.
Once Mary’s husband’s strength returned he again became physically violent, on one occasion attempting to strangle Mary and leaving severe bruising around her neck – when her social worker noticed and asked Mary what had happened, for the first time in 36 years of living with abuse, Mary confided and was referred to the refuge. At this point, Mary started to realise that her life was actually in danger.
When Mary arrived at the refuge, she told us that she was feeling guilty about leaving her husband as she took her marriage vows seriously. Her self-esteem was extremely low and she was being treated by her GP for depression and anxiety, but after a short time in the refuge, she began to open up and talk to her key worker about her experiences.
Once Mary had settled in, she started to receive support on both a practical and emotional level from her key worker. As her self-esteem and confidence grew, she started to talk to other residents; finally realising that she wasn’t alone, Mary told us that this was the first time that she felt accepted and had friends that she could be totally honest with.
Mary became involved in the day-to-day running of the refuge and was especially supportive to any new families when they arrived – she also attended our Freedom training and Confidence Building courses.
Mary is now in full time employment, and an active member of a befriending and awareness-raising group for women who have experienced domestic violence. She’s continuing to make many new friends and is preparing to do a parachute jump for charity – which she tells us she would never have dreamt of doing before!