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Jodie's blog: March 2020

4 March 2020

To mark International Women’s Day 2020, Jodie (a pseudonym) has come forward to tell her inspirational story of overcoming horrific domestic abuse to become a strong, confident woman.

Jodie is an inspiration to the people she supportsJodie is an inspiration to the people she supports

I wasn’t surprised to read about official statistics revealing that between June 2018 and June 2019, nearly 24,000 people in England were made homeless because of domestic abuse. Upset, disturbed, troubled, but not surprised. Because the same thing very nearly happened to me, and I’ve had to fight to be recognised as a strong, confident woman.

Ten years ago, I met my abuser. Of course, I didn’t know then that that’s what he’d go on to become; at first, he was the most attentive, loving partner I had ever had and he truly swept me off my feet.

And then things started to change. He began to question me when I went out with my friends and became extremely paranoid that other men were going to “look” at me. The first time he hit me was when I’d decided to go out with my friends despite his objections. The next morning, he cried when he saw my black eye and he couldn’t stop apologising to me, saying he couldn’t remember what he did and swearing it would never happen again.

With the benefit of hindsight, I can clearly see this was the point I should have walked away, but at the time I believed him – I wanted so desperately to believe him – so I stayed.

The abuse worsened as the months went on. Name-calling, punching, slapping, being spat at, kicked, locked up. The first time I left was when he beat me in front of his then two-year-old son, and when I returned the little boy to his mother she disclosed that she, too, had suffered years of abuse.

Leaving him was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but at least I had somewhere to go.  Shocking figures from the Women’s Aid report ‘Nowhere to turn 2018’ state that while waiting for a refuge space, one in ten women slept rough, while 46 per cent sofa surfed.

My abuser didn’t stop there. Even though I had left he still retained his control over me, calling me to his home after harming himself, breaking into my house, calling me more than a hundred times a day. I involved the police at this point, but each time he did something and was questioned, nothing happened. I felt completely helpless.

Looking back, I know I’m not the only one this happened to. Disturbingly, a further Women’s Aid report this year revealed that more than 61 per cent of women were refused a refuge place, and nearly a third were declined access to community-based services – without the authorities taking action, what are women supposed to do?

It was at this point I found out I was pregnant following a contraception failure. I wrestled with what to do but decided to keep my baby. Pregnancy was hell, I was forced to endure constant threats, and it wasn’t much better once I’d had my daughter.

After months of wearing me down, he convinced me he was ready to be a father and I decided to give him – another – last chance. It wasn’t long before things returned to our twisted version of normal, except it was now even worse because I had a tiny baby who relied on me for all her needs – needs that weren’t being met due to the chaos that surrounded me.

The final straw came when, while I was holding our daughter in my arms, he grabbed me by my hair and threw me to the floor. That was the first time that I cared not only about what happened to my baby, but also what happened to me. I told the police everything, and completely justifiably I then had heavy intervention from a variety of services.

Following yet more devastating abuse from him, I was eventually advised to flee and move out of the area. I had to leave the place I’d grown up in, leave all of my friends and family, change my name and make a new start in a new town.

When I arrived in 2012 I linked with a service run by Sanctuary Supported Living and looking back, that’s the point at which my life began to turn around. My project worker was amazing; she and the social workers I was engaged with inspired me to go to university to complete a social work degree, and I graduated in 2018.

My troubles didn’t stop there. I still had to go through protracted child contact proceedings in court, and despite everything, my ex was initially granted some unsupervised contact with our daughter. It was only when he went on to abuse a new girlfriend in front of our child that contact ended.

Although my abuser changed my life in ways I could never have imagined, it also changed for the better. I used the abuse I experienced to motivate me into helping others, and I am now a support worker at the service that helped me so much.

For people experiencing abuse, there are so many barriers to finally breaking free from the cycle, and the fear of homelessness shouldn’t be one of them. The Women’s Aid survey from 2018 reported that 54 per cent of women who approached their local housing team for help had been prevented from making a valid homelessness application; this is utterly shocking.

I’m really pleased the government has confirmed that an enhanced Domestic Abuse Bill will be brought back to Parliament; I was devastated when it fell after the general election. I hope the protection it will offer to victims of domestic abuse, along with the £16.6 million recently pledged to domestic abuse refuge services, will make a real difference.

I am one of the lucky ones, but there are so many women out there who aren’t, and I hope the day soon arrives when help is more readily available.

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