Escaping domestic abuse

After years of living as a victim of domestic abuse and battling depression, Mrs T couldn’t cope any longer. Following advice from her doctor, at aged 69 she decided to leave her home and seek asylum at Stonewater’s South Asian Women’s Refuge (SAWR). Here, Mrs T shares her story and reflects on the misconceptions she had about supported housing.

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I can’t remember when I was first prescribed anti-depressants. Over the years, I’ve struggled to push out any negative and harmful thoughts about myself – it’s not easy to do when you live with someone who hurts you as often as my husband did.

My sisters would often call to check how I was doing. They’d always express their concern about me, they knew I wasn’t safe. I didn’t want to continue like this anymore, I knew I needed to make a change, but I didn’t know how. Everything was tied up with my husband, including my money and home.

I went to the doctors to have my check-up and as he asked me questions, I couldn’t stop crying. He just spoke to me, telling me there were services available to support women in similar situations to me, but I couldn’t imagine anyone else going through what I had. Or for as long.

I left the doctors with my prescription in one hand and a leaflet in another. I contacted the number for the Domestic Violence Association and after enquiring at a few places, I was notified there was room for me at a refuge in Bedford.

I wasn’t even sure what a refuge was. I pictured a small room with other women, like me, squashed against one another. Despite the bleak image I had painted in my mind, I felt I had no other option than to at least try, so I packed my things and made my way.

Not only did I get my own room, but the team at the refuge put together a support plan tailored to me and paired me with a coach with whom I would have weekly one-to-ones and discuss how I was doing. I was also assigned a psychiatrist and made aware of different clubs and activities I could participate in, and joined a knitting club as a result.

I’ve not been here long, but looking back, I know now that making the decision to leave was the hardest and bravest thing I’ve ever done. Despite my nervousness, all of the coaches and support workers at the refuge have done their best to make me feel comfortable.

There hasn’t been a single day I’ve been here that I’ve felt alone. The support workers are never too busy to talk, and they’ll always do what they can to make you smile on the days you’re not feeling so bright.

I still speak to my sisters regularly. They remind me in every conversation how important it is to keep making the most of the refuge’s support.

Whenever I’ve seen either of them, they’ve even complimented me on my appearance. I can’t tell you the last time someone said something nice about how I look, but they always say that I look like I’ve been given a whole new lease of life. It’s things like this that always make me feel grateful for the refuge and help me recognise how far I’ve come.

I can only hope more women like me become aware of the options available to them. It’s changed my life and while there’s still a lot for me to learn, I know I’ll get there with the help of my coach.