I came to women’s aid in 2019, I had left an abusive relationship with my children and was directed to women’s aid for help. When I first came to women’s aid, I had no idea that my relationship was abusive. I am not shy about sharing the fact I, as many others had thought domestic abuse was just physical.
I went online and took part in the” freedom programme”, this gave me knowledge of the many “hats” an abuser can wear. It gave me information about the kind of things an abuser does, the tactics and lies they tell to belittle us, and I soon realised that my ex fitted most of what I read. After I had gained this knowledge and I felt less to blame for the situation. My IDVA (individual domestic violence advocate) informed me of another programme, which I could attend as part of my DV recovery, which was an in-person support group, “the power to change” it was once a week for a couple of hours. Where I was given powerful information that effectively changed my life!
I completed the 12-week programme and learned how and why abuse happens, how to move on from it and how to be independent again. I gained confidence sharing my story and listening to others in similar situations. It was a very close and supportive group and the lead IDVA was amazing in supporting everyone when they had a bad day, it became my safe space. The one place I could feel comfort & support without feeling judged. At the end of the 12 weeks, I asked the lead IDVA, if I could continue to come along and help, I was willing to make coffee or photocopy the hand outs and worksheets, basically anything to continue the feeling of confidence and independence that I got from attending group. The following week I came back to the group sessions as a volunteer, it was very different from being a client. I had a duty of care to the women who spoke, women would ask me for advice, and would ask for me and disclose incidents in their lives. I would sit and listen; I would encourage openness to the IDVA’s and get them the help they were looking for. Even though the topic of domestic violence is a grim and horrid one, I take comfort in knowing that my experiences can help others, even if its just a beacon of hope that “if I can get out and live happily, then anyone can”.
Recently I was approached by a member of staff at women’s aid, to become a peer mentor. I jumped at the chance, as through the covid-19 lockdowns, I wanted to do more to help those in need. I am excited to be apart of something so amazing, and I hope that my varied life experiences can help others see that we are all warriors, we are all fighters and if we have hope and determination, we can do anything! Be anything!