16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Volence – 1

posted by by Theresa Wilding on 25th November 2020

A YWHP client’s story: I came to the project after a pretty severe mental breakdown and the breakdown of my relationship left me facing homelessness. A few days beforehand I had attempted to end my life. I had no hope for the future. My life was full of chaos; I was living with an abusive […]

A YWHP client’s story:

I came to the project after a pretty severe mental breakdown and the breakdown of my relationship left me facing homelessness. A few days beforehand I had attempted to end my life. I had no hope for the future. My life was full of chaos; I was living with an abusive partner, who would throw me out of the house with my belongings almost daily, take away my keys and threaten to kill me if I didn’t leave immediately. Some days I was chased out of the house with a knife, simply for not washing a dish properly, or for disagreeing and using ‘back-chat’. I didn’t have contact with any family due to childhood abuse, and didn’t even have contact with friends at this point. I was completely alone and isolated and trusted no one. 

When I first came to the project, I was afraid. It was the first contact I had had excluding my partner for a really long time. I wasn’t used to people talking to me, asking me if I was okay, or caring about my well-being. I was extremely wary of the support workers in the safe house. I was constantly eaten up by paranoia- thinking they hated me and didn’t think I deserved to be there. I was also afraid of sharing any information with them about my ex-partner, who I had been living with and was still spending time with most days. 

My support worker started to pick up on the toxicity of my relationship with my ex-partner and would try to point it out to me and encourage me to see her less, or to take better care of myself. But I was so in denial that any concern she showed just made me feel angry, or guilty, and extremely defensive. In the first six months of living in the safe house I spent very little time there. I tried to get out of going to groups, of engaging with my support worker and of staying at the safe house. I slept there most nights to avoid breaking any rules, but I would leave as soon as I woke up and stay with my ex-partner till later that night. 

During this time, I felt extremely guilty for receiving any help. I didn’t feel I deserved it so I rejected it as much as I could. But at the same time, it was such a relief to have a place to come, full of warmth and stability and caring people, whenever my ex-partner kicked me out of her apartment. Instead of roaming the streets, or sitting, freezing in parks, I could come back to a safe place for however long I needed to. 

Despite me being unwilling to talk to people, to take advice and to engage as much as they wanted me to, my support worker never gave up on me. She kept trying and trying to gain my trust, to get through to me, to show me that she cared about me, and to get to know me. I don’t think most people would have kept trying for so long, but I am so grateful that she did. 

A few months in, I started the ‘escape the trap’ programme. I think this was the first time I started to question if my ex-partner was abusive. Before that, I was completely in denial, but hearing other people’s stories and seeing how similar they were to mine brought me slightly out of that denial. I still wasn’t ready to speak about it, or fully accept it, and I was still spending most of my time with my ex-partner, but it was the first crack in my rose-tinted glasses that led to them eventually shattering completely. I would share stories with the group about my current relationship with my ex-partner- things that were happening regularly at that time, but I would pretend I was talking about someone else, a different abusive partner from years before. Although I felt guilty for being dishonest, having the freedom to finally TELL someone was really therapeutic. For that, I am incredibly grateful for the escape the trap programme, despite being so reluctant to engage with it. 

Another process that has changed my life since joining the project, is the therapeutic work I have been doing with their counsellor. I have suffered with my mental health since I was a child, and have seen many different counsellors, psychotherapists, and tried lots of different types of therapy, but I have never once felt comfortable enough to open up to a therapist, to show my true self and let them get to know me. I’ve always been extremely reserved, and struggled to trust therapists, and have therefore never really made much improvement before. But with the therapy I have received at the project, I met another person who refused to give up. She never pushed me, or got frustrated with me, never judged me or blamed me for anything. Sometimes if she could see me getting uncomfortable we would just sit and play games, or draw. She didn’t care how long it would take, she knew that she would eventually earn my trust and she never stopped trying to help me. Having that therapy has changed my life, and still continues to. I have made unbelievable progress since I have been seeing her and I can now say that I am excited for the future, which is something I’ve never really felt until now. 

It wasn’t until spending about 9 months with the project that I finally gained the courage to speak out about my ongoing abuse from my ex-partner. I called my support worker in tears after receiving death threats and realising I couldn’t live in that situation anymore. She immediately came to see me and calm me down, she advised me on how to handle the situation and promised she would be there whenever I needed anything. And she was. I felt such a huge relief after opening up to her that I never went back to my ex-partner, despite spending three years going back and forth before that day. Since then I have been rebuilding my life, focusing on building healthy relationships and looking to the future. I have never felt this stability and positivity before and I certainly never would’ve experienced any of this without the help from the YWHP. 

From coming with me to do food shops, doctors’ appointments, helping me apply for benefits, helping me engage with other people by coming to groups and trips, to just sitting with me and making me laugh and telling me about her day, my support worker has helped me more than anyone ever has. I am so grateful for her constant support and for always seeing the good qualities in me, way before I could. She has helped me so much to improve my confidence and independence and I look up to her in so many ways. I hope one day I can help people and impact their lives as much as she, the other support workers and my therapist does every single day. 

I have never met people that care so much about their job, and their clients. I feel like I have found a family with the YWHP, and that is so much more than I ever could have asked for.

YWHP client 3/9/2019

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