Each week for my Summer Stretch Challenge I’m shining a light on the charities I’m raising money for. This includes Julian House, who provide direct support to our most vulnerable groups, such as the homeless and domestic abuse victims.
It’s on the domestic abuse front that really resonates with me. I experienced domestic abuse as a child. It’s only by looking up the definition of domestic violence and how to recognise abuse that I realised my Mum, brother and me were victims.
What is domestic violence and abuse?
Refuge, the national charity, describes domestic violence as any violence or abuse that is used by someone to control or obtain power over someone else. What really hit home for me was the definition that you are being abused if you alter your behaviour because you are frightened of how someone else will react.
Living in fear
I lived through most of my teenage years in an abusive family environment. My Mum met and married my step dad, moving in to his family home. My Mum, brother and me were a strong family unit, however, I was painfully shy. I looked forward to living with a positive male role model to help me come out my shell.
Sadly, the façade of a warm and friendly step dad soon ebbed away to reveal his true self. A controlling, manipulative individual with a temper so volatile, you did not know what mood he was going to be in from one day (or minute) to the next. It often felt as though we were walking on eggshells to avoid making him angry.
Although the painful memories are understandably hazy, I remember my Mum and step dad having countless arguments. Often late night, as my brother and me lay in bed listening, mostly directed towards things we had said or done that day. It was upsetting to hear the arguments. Even to this day, I avoid conflict as much as I can. In fact, as conflicts arise, I have flashbacks of feelings from those long, dark nights.
It was the violent outbreaks and threatening behaviour I remember most vividly, and still affect me to this day. One time my step dad became so angry that he ripped the lounge door from its hinges. He was mainly physical, although his intimidatory behaviour had psychological effects. It was only our collective strength that saw us through. After one such violent episode before Christmas, my brother ran for help from my aunt who thankfully lived nearby.
My Mum had already been planning to leave my step dad, but wanted to do this at a time when we could escape and never come back. His violence towards me on that occasion was the final straw, and she vowed to him that we would leave.
Thankfully, within a few months we were in a new home. The five years of hell were finally over. We only saw my step dad once more. That was once too often.
From my research, I now know there are many practical and psychological barriers to ending a relationship with a violent partner. It’s often not advisable to give an ultimatum to leave – it’s not a single act, but a process that takes time. You may be surprised to learn that on average a woman will leave seven times before she makes the final break.
Letting someone know you’re there for them; no matter what they decides to do, will support, rather than force the decision.
I would like to say that I’ve come to terms with what happened, and moved on. But, at no point did we seek help from organisations such as Refuge and Julian House. Consequently, the emotion still feels very raw and I get upset just thinking and writing about it. Even after so many years, I will find a way forward by calling Refuge’s national helpline to see what kind of support they provide.
I know that my situation is nowhere near as bad as for some. The statistics speak for themselves. 1.6 million women in England and Wales live in an abusive relationship. There has been a 77% increase in calls to Refuge’s helpline during the lockdown period. Abuse most often happens behind closed doors, and so can easily go undetected.
Show your support
It’s why supporting charities such as Julian House and Refuge is so important. They have faced the double whammy of a significant shortfall in donations and a dramatic change and increased demand for their services during the lockdown. If we don’t donate to maintain their services, at best, they will be left with little choice but to reduce their services. At worst these charities may no longer exist.
All of the charities have launched emergency appeals for urgent donations to make up the significant shortfalls. Now, more than ever, these charities need us. Whether national, or local and independent, they don’t necessarily have the resources to raise this money on their own. As a result, I’m doing my bit to help out. At a time when there’s so much doom and gloom, I’m shining a positive light.
Please show your support… and help our most vulnerable members of society.
Help and Advice