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Carol – a true story

They say domestic abuse victims suffer 40 incidents on average before they feel it has reached crisis point.  People often say ‘If it happened to me I would leave, so why don’t they?’

So why don’t they?  Why didn’t I?

It is that steady drip, drip of emotional abuse that is so utterly disempowering.  Constantly being told it’s your fault – if only you would do as you were told none of this would be happening.

Constantly feeling sick at the sound of his key in the door. Threats of violence towards the children and being told he would take them away and leave you penniless. Constantly being woken in the night to be reprimanded for something trivial until one is fearful to actually go to sleep.

A year on, I still wake in terror, such is the imprint.  Imagine just a day of any one of these incidents and the impact it would have and now multiply that by at least 40.

From being an articulate, intelligent, outgoing person I became a shadow devoid of any sense of self. It is the psychological and emotional abuse that is so utterly soul destroying, so hard to define and so hard to disclose.  I used to pray that he would black my eye so I had something tangible to show for the abuse.

It is a long, long way from feeling unsafe in your own home to actually packing your bags and running.  But running to where?  I have young children and I had no money of my own because typically all our finances were managed by my husband and I had no immediate family to support me.

Someone in my community – and I still don’t know who, but bless them, put a flyer for Jewish Women’s Aid through my letterbox in an envelope marked with my name.  That made it more real for me – someone else could see what I could see.

I remember thinking as I went into the JWA office ‘How did this ever become MY life?’  It all felt so unreal.  But finally speaking my truth to someone who understood what I was talking about, and was kind and understanding was cathartic.  I realised I had options and there was support. This was not a journey I had to do alone with my children.  There was hope.

The key worker at JWA gave me practical help regarding benefits and finances.  At that point even filling in a form was beyond me – words just swam on the page and I struggled to make sense.  The possibility of a place at a Jewish refuge was given.  Ultimately, I chose not to take it for reasons particular to my case.  I was offered advocacy support by JWA and referrals to other agencies to get support for the children.

Opening up to JWA freed me to confide in one or two people in my community and this gave me somewhere to run to with the kids when it all kicked off at home.  A friend gave me her house keys to come and go as I needed, day or night.  Another gave me an envelope of money with the instruction to use it for ‘fun times’ with the children – a meal out, a trip to the cinema – anything that would make them feel like normal children again and not battle weary soldiers.  Shabbat lunch invitations came in a steady stream and that was especially lovely – just to be around other people for a while and to forget what we had going on at home.

I am humbled by the support I received from JWA and my friends.  Being believed, accepted, supported and understood was vital. It brought strength and comfort and for me and my beautiful children and it was the start of our recovery.

I share this with you in the hope that if you ever have a suspicion that a friend or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse you will henceforth appreciate the things that can be so very helpful and be able to reach out in some way.

 *Names and some details have been changed to protect anonymity