Lancaster and Morecambe domestic violence victims speak out on their experiences as a new peer support group is set up to help those in need.
“I thought I was going to die.” These are the chilling words of one domestic violence victim who is fighting to give women a voice, a choice and a better chance of survival.
Yasmin* is one of three volunteers leading a new peer support group in Morecambe for women who are victims or survivors of domestic abuse.
Speaking at the relaunch of the group ‘New Beginnings’ Yasmin spoke of her lucky escape from her ex who tried to kill her.
She said: “I did think I was going to die, he went into a complete rage and tried to strangle me.
“It happened in front of my children, the police were called out. At the time I wasn’t thinking about me, I was thinking about my children, how are they going to grow up with a dad in prison, so I dropped the charges.”
He went into a complete rage and tried to strangle meYasmin*
According to Safelives each year around 2.1m people suffer some form of domestic abuse – 1.4 million are women and 700,000 are men.
Safelives also say more than 100,000 people in the UK each year are at a high risk of being murdered as a result of domestic abuse.
An estimated 130,000 children live in homes where there is a high risk of domestic abuse.
Yasmin said: “My daughter was about 10 when it happened. She doesn’t talk about it, I think it has affected her in terms of trying to have a relationship with someone.
“Domestic abuse can build up slowly over the years, you don’t realise it is happening until you get that first punch in the face.”
Volunteers Yasmin, Gail Butler and Jan Ellison are running the group and are hoping to create a safe place for women, to come on their own or with their children.
The group is run in conjunction with Home Start, a charity who help families with young children deal with whatever life throws at them.
New Beginnings is not run by professionals but does have professions on hand to offer advice.
Gail said: “I think some women find it easier to speak to others who have actually been through it, I am not saying there is something wrong with the professionals, just this may be easier for them.”
As well as the new peer support group there is also the Freedom Programme which is open to women across Lancaster and Morecambe.
Created by Pat Craven the 11 week programme gives women the opportunity to examine the roles and attitudes of abusive men.
A programme coordinator of the freedom programme, who did not wish to be named, spoke of her abuse 20 years ago which is still fresh today.
She said: “I went through lots of things, physical abuse as well as emotional. It got to the point where, if I didn’t get out of the house, he would have killed me.
“Domestic abuse is different for everyone and it takes 37 times or attempts for somebody to leave somebody.
“There is no right way or wrong way to leave, it is down to you.”
What other victims had to say:
Jan Ellison, who helps run New Beginnings, spoke of her experience 25 years ago when she had to move to Lancaster with her children.
She said: “I lived in my car for a week until I was helped by Womens Aid in Lancaster.
“My husband was very violent, especially when he was drinking but I loved him. We had our own house, he worked, we didn’t have any financial problems but deep down he had problems. It took me a while to realise, we were together for ten years. In those days it was different, I can remember going into a police station absolutely petrified and they said ‘oh go home he would have slept by then.’
“From my own experience it took me a long time to trust people again. My children are fine now but it did affect my son, he had behavioural problems in school.
“I don’t think domestic violence is increasing, I think we are just becoming more aware of it.”
Gail Butler, who also helps run the group, suffered emotional abuse and explains how her abusive ex left his mark on her children.
She said: “My ex controlled me, wanted my money, he used to smash my house up, he cut me off from my friends and family, he just cut me off from everything.
“I was with him for 13 years. I couldn’t leave him because he had control of my kids, my money, my house, everything.
“He had a girlfriend, it got to the stage where he would dress my boys up in dresses if they did anything wrong.
“My eldest suffered from it all, he has had some mental health issues, he overdosed and didn’t used to go to school.
“It made me realise how much he affected my kids and that’s when I realised I have had enough.”
Cecilia Lamount’s wounds are still fresh and like Gail she too realised the effect her abusive relationship was having on her children.
She said: “It was all about the emotional abuse for me. I didn’t realise his influence until I lost my boys, he played with my feelings and I thought, I don’t want that in my life anymore.”
New Beginnings runs every Wednesday from 9.30am-11.30am and for further details contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01524 414871. Visit www.freedomprogramme.co.uk for more information. Yasmin* is a pseudonym to protect the victim’s identity.
More advice at:
Women can call 0808 2000 247, the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge (calls from a landline are free).
Men can call the Men’s Advice Line free on 0808 801 0327 (Monday-Friday 9am-5pm; calls are free from a landline and most mobile phones) or ManKind on 01823 334 244.
Lancashire Well Being Service visit www.lancashire.gov.uk/health-and-social-care/your-health-and-wellbeing.
Safe Net visit http://www.safenetservices.org/.