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There’s often a link between sexual and domestic abuse: children that are subject to sexual abuse can find themselves in a cycle of low self-esteem that carries on into adulthood. Believing they’re not capable of being truly loved, they can often end up in abusive relationships as they grow older.

From rape to domestic violence, these victims can find it hard to access the support they need to break the cycle – but here’s the wonderful story of a Foundation client that has managed to do just that.

Sue’s story – in the beginning...

Sue* first came to stay at the refuge a couple of years ago, fleeing from domestic abuse. During that first stay, she built a trusting relationship with her key worker that gave her the confidence to disclose that she’d been sexually abused by several close family members over a number of years.

This time, Sue was referred back to the refuge by the police following a physical assault by her latest ex-partner, Mike*. He was arrested and bailed on the condition that he didn’t approach or try to contact Sue in any way. She told her key worker that she’d been with Mike for 18 months, meeting him shortly after leaving her previous violent relationship.

Mike was emotionally abusive from early on in their relationship, after Sue allowed him to move in with her – the controlling behaviour and jealous accusations turned into physical abuse after just 4 months. After being in the refuge for a short time, Sue told her key worker that Mike would often force her to have sex following his violent attacks

The cycle of abuse that Sue had found herself in had led to her turning to alcohol, and when this was identified after a few days, it was crucial to address it, both for her and the sake of the other refuge residents – she went on to ask for support and was referred to a specialist organisation in our area that deals with drug and alcohol misuse.

Another complication to the case was the fact that Sue and Mike’s child had been taken into foster care due to the domestic violence – it was at this point Sue learned that Mike was a convicted offender and known to the police as a very dangerous and violent man. Sue asked her social worker if her baby could be returned to her as she had now left Mick and was living in the refuge, but they were still seeking interim care orders due to concerns that Sue would be unable to protect the baby if she had further contact with Mike.

A setback in Sue’s story

After a week at the refuge Sue stayed out for 2 nights without informing staff, later admitting that she’d been to see Mike as she missed him. Despite the abuse, she felt he was the only person who had ever shown her any love, but after he started calling her names and pushing her around the room, she returned to the safety of the refuge.

The next time she stayed out she said she was at her mum’s, although staff suspected another return to Mike. However, she did say on her return that while she missed him, she wanted her baby back, and as she felt he’d never change, she knew that meant not going back to him.

Tragically, after a chance encounter in a pub, Sue reluctantly agreed to share a cab and get talked into going for a drink with Mike – it ended with him raping her, leaving her with severe sexual injuries.  When she escaped and made it back to the refuge, she was given support by residents and staff, examined and cared for, and made a full statement to the police the next day – Mike was arrested that night and placed on remand.

The results so far...

As is often the case, Sue initially blamed herself for what had happened, and was worried we wouldn’t believe her. With her key worker’s support, and thankfully a very sensitive and calm female police officer, Sue made her statement.

After being given information about Rape Crisis and similar, specialist organisations, Sue asked her key worker to contact a counsellor on her behalf: an Independent Sexual Abuse Advisor visited her the same day to answer her questions and offer practical and emotional support.

Approximately 1 month later, Sue was re-housed from the refuge and Foundation continued to support her through our Floating Support Scheme, which was gradually increased as she became less involved with the refuge.

We’re so pleased that we managed to facilitate Sue’s escape from her abuser, and we hope that the tailored support she received from ourselves and our partner agencies will help her to create more positive relationships in the future.

(*Names have been changed for confidentiality)

If you're a victim of domestic abuse, Foundation can provide confidential help. Call 0113 3030150

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