May 21, 2020
Anna’s domestic abuse story
Anna has been using our Ruby@Turnaround domestic abuse service for the past year. After accessing Women’s Turnaround, a support service for women on probation, issues surrounding experiences of domestic violence surfaced and Anna was signposted to Ruby@Turnaround for specialist support. Anna’s life as she knew it was completely torn apart by domestic abuse. After returning to her abuser following a serious police incident, social services were forced to take Anna’s two children for their own safety. She’s now got a new baby boy and is rebuilding a relationship with her ten-year-old daughter who’s living in foster care. Anna says she’s found the strength to do this from the support she’s got in group sessions and counselling over the phone during Covid-19. She’s finally feeling more positive about life after years of living in regret.
Perhaps the biggest change in Anna’s perspective and in her ability to move forwards as a result, is her new-found kindness to herself. Before, she felt like she was completely in the shadows, she felt so much guilt from her past decisions and losing her children. Anna’s mental health seriously declined to the point of her experiencing a breakdown. Today, she recognises that she was under a spell and being controlled by somebody else. Her actions are not a reflection of her as a person but of her circumstance. She now finally feels that she has more control of her life. She’s learning new ways to be kinder to herself, to overcome her trauma and to move on with her life and she’s feeling happier with every new step she takes. During Covid-19 she’s relishing the opportunity to focus on her son, to have some time out for herself and to rest, away from the noise of life. Whilst she does this she’s still supported by our open-minded, specialist team.
Anna is 27 years old and lives in Liverpool. She spent her life growing up between houses, from her mum’s house to her nan’s house, back and forth. She remembers seeing drug use happening in some of the places she lived as a child. From the age of 16-18, Anna lived in a children’s home. At first, she found this really daunting but did make friends. She said it made her stronger. Today, Anna lives with her son, Anthony. He is just nine weeks old. They live on the same street as her nan and she has support from her if she needs it. Anna is enjoying being a mum again. She has a daughter aged ten and a son aged seven. Her son is adopted and her daughter lives in foster care. Anna’s children were removed by social services for their own safety after Anna experienced serious domestic abuse that put her life in danger. She’s now free from this relationship and looking forwards to the future but still seeks support to manage the trauma of these experiences.
When asked the reason why she wanted to talk with us, Anna says ‘Shelley is the reason…I don’t know if I’d still be here today without her.’ Shelley is one of our specialist domestic abuse practitioners who offers emotional and practical support to current and historic victims of domestic abuse. During Covid-19, support has continued over the phone and Anna says that Shelley deserves praise for all that she does and her kindness. She also wants other people to learn about the services out there to support you, which she wasn’t aware of before. Anna still feels strange talking about her experiences, she talks about it openly today but it’s often difficult to face what happened, to recognise that this was her life. Although she now understands that this wasn’t just her choice. The emotional abuse that she experienced led her to behave in ways that are unimaginable and to make decisions which she couldn’t think about making today. Shelley has helped her to see that this was not her fault and to be kinder to herself. ‘You’ve got to be ready for this support to work’, Anna says. She feels ready to face things now and move forwards despite the anxiety that she’s still working through.
Anna first found out about Ruby@Turnaround when she was using the Women’s Turnaround service as part of her probation. She was talking about her most recent relationship and some controlling behaviours with her counsellor. Her counsellor flagged these with her and said that these could be warning signs. At that point, there had been no physical abuse and low-level emotional abuse but it helped Anna to stop and think. She decided she wasn’t ready for a relationship and these conversations triggered memories of her history of domestic abuse and her previous relationship where she experienced severe domestic violence. Her counsellor referred her to Ruby@Turnaround in order to talk about and process the trauma of these experiences and make positive steps with her mental health and wellbeing.
Anna’s ex-partner, Paul* and father of her second child was abusive during their six year relationship. When Anna first met him she remembers him being the lovelist person ever. She was twenty at the time and says that their relationship was formed around drugs. Paul got Anna into drugs and they would spend their time together using drugs and escaping from life. In Anna’s mind the relationship wasn’t that serious and in the first few months she formed a relationship with another man. It was at that point that Paul’s abusive and controlling behaviours began to surface. He was so angry with Anna and made her feel so guilty for what she had done. She hadn’t understood that their relationship was exclusive. At this point Paul’s emotions took over and he started harassing Anna. He would sit on her doorstep for hours and refuse to leave her alone. He did this until the point that Anna felt so sorry for him that she had to take things seriously and progress their relationship. On Christmas Eve she spent time with Paul’s family and things escalated. Paul got so angry that he threw her Anna’s daughter’s presents out of the window and they argued. Then he was physically violent towards Anna for the first time, he hit her and then smashed the house up. So, Anna had to drop her daughter off with her nan for Christmas day for her safety. Anna felt so guilty to have made Paul feel this way. So, when he said the only way they could make things work was to move away, she did it. She was then isolated from her family. Then, once they’d moved, Paul said the only way they could stay together is if she had a baby. Anna felt like she really needed him with no family around, she didn’t want to lose him so they tried for a baby. When Anna became pregnant Paul would leave her for hours on end on her own in the house. He would go out until late at night and Anna felt completely alone and trapped. She now realises all of these moves were to increasingly isolate and control her.
One night, Anna was waiting in the house for Paul to return with her daughter. He had been on a cocaine binge for a few days and arrived back at the house in a state. He was angry and aggressive towards Anna in front of her daughter. He lashed out, saying he had slept with one of Anna’s friends. Anna was understandably angered by this comment and retaliated, saying she had seen one of his friends whilst he was gone. This was a lie but she felt so belittled by him and hurt that she wanted to hurt him back. At this point Paul exploded. He punched Anna in the face, so much that she couldn’t see out of her eye, he knocked her to the ground and her head smashed against the wall. He had knocked Anna out. She doesn’t even remember this happening. Even when she was on the ground, Paul kicked her in the head, putting her life at serious risk. Anna was four months pregnant at the time and the only witness to this horrendous abuse was her four-year- old daughter. Paul ran away at this point, climbing over the fence. This was the first instance of extreme physical abuse. Anna still can’t believe that this happened to her.
Anna was too scared to tell someone what had happened but she phoned her sister a few days later on Facetime – a cry for help. Whilst on the phone, her daughter shouted: ‘look at mummy’s face’. Her family now understood the level of abuse and pleaded with Anna to get him arrested. He promised Anna to never do this again, so she didn’t want to press charges, she trusted him. They moved to a new house and made a fresh start but the physical and emotional abuse continued. Paul would threaten to tell social services that Anna wasn’t looking after her children properly. When Anna’s son was born the violence came to a head one night. Paul smashed up his son’s toys and in a rage and threw a TV down a staircase at Anna, which narrowly missed hitting her. The force could have killed her and that’s when she decided she had to call the police. Paul was arrested and had to serve a prison sentence. Paul turned up at Anna’s house as soon as he was released and she took him back. Anna’s children were taken by social services for their protection. Anna was really struggling to cope with everything, her mental health was declining rapidly and she felt so lost. She was using drugs as a way to cope with this but this was only worsening her feelings of paranoia and anxiety. Paul played on these and continued to torment Anna using psychological abuse during her lowest moment.
Paul would put Anna down, he wouldn’t let her go out, he would threaten to kill himself and he would share personal photographs of her online and make up lies about her to their friends. Anna was struggling to cope with all of this. He had complete control over her. She had got to a point where she didn’t want to go out and show her face. She felt so anxious. Paul then began warning Anna that people were following her and would kidnap her and Anna believes that he set people up in a van to follow her. The two were separated at this point and a van was parked up outside his flat which followed Anna on her way home from work. After Paul had warned her that someone was after her, she was so scared. She ran as fast as she could down hidden alleyways to escape them. She was terrified. Anna had a complete breakdown at this point, she was suffering with panic attacks and her anxiety had taken over. This is the point when Anna finally broke all ties with Paul, she saw what we he was doing to her and had to get out. She moved herself away as far as possible, sought employment as a carer and took some time for herself, leaving everything behind. She was so scared by what she had become and needed to take this time for herself. She was gone for four months, away from all family and friends. She had lost trust in everyone she knew and constantly thought she was being followed. Her mental health deteriorated so much at this point and she was struggling with post traumatic stress disorder which wasn’t fully addressed until she started attending counselling with Women’s Turnaround.
‘from a happy, normal little person my whole world was turned upside down’.
When Anna finally got the support available to her, after being reluctant for a while she remembers thinking,
‘I’ve never been this person and I want to get myself back…I’m slowly getting there.’
‘Ruby has given me my confidence back. I’m not the most confident person and it’s helped me be able to look after my son and make the right choices for him. I’m not ready for a relationship yet but I am learning.’
Anna has now been able to rebuild relationships. At first, she struggled in the groups, especially with opening up about her family life but then she learnt that she didn’t need to speak, she could just sit there and listen and benefit from that. The support available is completely up to the individual, their needs and preference. The domestic violence course with Tina has really helped Anna and she’s also been able to access counselling and CBT therapy. It has really helped Anna to able to better understand the different types of abuse and abuser. It also helps her to meet other people like her too. She’s been able to get support around managing her substance misuse separately.
During lockdown, Anna has been able to focus on herself and the baby. She has actually enjoyed feeling in a safer place and having the time out. She feels so sorry for anyone stuck in a domestically abusive relationships now and wants to give people the strength to get out. The best part of her journey and making positive changes in her life has been starting a relationship back up with her daughter. She’s doing this over the phone during lockdown and laughs about how her daughter’s voice has changed and she’s so much more well spoken now but she still knows she is the same person and is there for her. She’s so excited to be able to meet up with her again soon and progress with her life. Whilst she’s got more time at home she’s hoping to revisit her beauty skills after stopping a college course when she felt unable to cope. She’d love to do this professionally when things are back to normal.
One thing that Anna can say is that coming to Ruby@Turnaround has completely changed her outlook on life. She’s being kinder to herself and feels she has so much more to give to her son.
For support with domestic abuse, in non-emergencies you can contact the National Domestic abuse helpline on: 0808 2000 247. Or in Merseyside, you can call our Ruby@Turnaround team on: 07714289180.