The theme for International Women’s Day 2017 is #BeBoldforChange. We hear from one woman who has taken the bold step to tell her story, to influence change and speak out about her experience of violence and abuse.
I first used Welsh Women’s Aid in 2010 after fleeing a violent and controlling relationship. I attended the drop in service and I instantly felt welcomed and relaxed. The staff were non-judgmental, warm, friendly and approachable. I felt I could open up, talk honestly and be believed. My perpetrator had spun his usual web of lies, manipulating services such as the police and housing meaning I had nowhere else to turn and had been left sleeping in my car.
Welsh Women’s Aid were wonderful and referred me to a specialist service where I stayed for 12 months with support before I moved on to my own tenancy in a flat. During this time I attended the Freedom Programme at Welsh Women’s Aid where I learned vital knowledge about the signs of abuse including coercive and controlling behaviour.
I moved on with my life and met a new partner and had my beautiful son in 2012.
But what I thought was a loving relationship was masked with subtle jealousy, control and manipulation. Not your standard typical ‘violent’ relationship, but much harder to spot ‘coercive control’. I already had the tools to notice this behaviour and I ended the relationship in 2013.
However, the control continued through contact with our son. In addition to this his family were bullying and intimidating me. Something I wouldn’t have been able to notice without already attending the Freedom Programme.
As I began to pull back some of my own control, he made threats to take my son from nursery and not return him to me and he called the Police accusing me of harming my son. This time the Police were much more understanding; the training and wider knowledge of domestic abuse, I felt, were finally being recognised and the PC who attended could recognise the controlling behaviour not only from him but his family too. This encouraged me to build on the strength and confidence I was regaining to deal with him.
I approached Welsh Women’s Aid again in 2014 and the welcome was again second to none! I was referred to target hardening for alarms on my windows and doors as threats were made for him and his sister to come to my home. They also set up an appointment with a local solicitor to start Family Court proceedings. Something I was very scared and intimidated to do. But they helped me every step of the way along with the very nice and understanding solicitor.
I decided I wanted to attend the Freedom Programme again as a refresher and to use this to build my confidence. The knowledge I gained from this programme is literally lifesaving! We could share our stories together, and laugh….oh how we laughed…. and cried! To know that you’re not alone is empowering and reassuring that it’s NOT your fault. I made friends with women who had experienced similar situations who I am still friends with today!
In addition to this a follow on programme called ‘Power to Change’ has been introduced. I decided I would like to attend this. Again I cannot fault this course, what an absolutely brilliant way to build on confidence and assertiveness. From learning about the signs of abuse to then move on to learning about yourself. How to rebuild you as a person once you have left negative situations, to gain power and knowledge to move on with your life and concentrate on YOU! KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!!!
In addition to this I have attended and still do attend the ‘Friendship Forum’ at Welsh Women’s Aid. A time and place to gather together, have a catch up and a chat. It included creative writing workshops with a local Poet – which was highly enjoyable and successful- health and relaxation with beauticians and self-defence classes!! Always something new to experience and enjoy.
I am glad to say I am now in a really healthy and enjoyable relationship which I believe I wouldn’t be in without the knowledge and confidence I learned from the help of Welsh Women’s Aid.
In addition I am happy to say I am now a volunteer for the service as I want to give a little something back for all the help, support and genuine warmth I have received from Welsh Women’s Aid. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them!!
Anyone affected by domestic abuse, sexual violence or any other form of violence against women in Wales can contact the Live Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800 or via its webchat provision for 24-hour, confidential information and support, and help to access local services across the country.