Claire and her children were subjected to years of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband, but finally plucked up the courage to leave.
She accessed our Domestic Abuse FAST (Families Are Special Together) programme which helps families understand the impact of abuse on their lives. It helps to build a family’s confidence and self-esteem to move on from the abuse they have experienced.
Claire talks frankly about her experiences and how the programme has transformed their lives – we’ve changed the names of the family to protect their identity.
“When I realised how bad the domestic abuse was in my home, I ended the relationship and tried to get help. I was too scared to go to the police, so I felt like I just had to deal with it.
Because I had access to cannabis I smoked quite a lot – probably about 10 joints a day, maybe more if I’m honest. I was on a lot of prescription drugs too.
I was always at home by myself. I was very anxious. I really needed a lot of help.
Then my son disclosed that my husband had sexually abused him, at that point I wasn’t scared any more. I went to the police and had him arrested. But I still couldn’t get any help. Nobody would help.
My son Tom had disclosed this abuse, he was going through his GCSEs, he was getting bullied at school and he was self-harming. I didn’t realise how poor my parenting skills were, because I’d experienced it my whole life. That was my normal.
Living in chaos
It was all really chaotic and it felt like I’d lost control of the situation.
I was living in chaos. I didn’t brush my teeth, laundry piled up, the house was a mess, all I could do was get ready and go to work. It was a really hard time. If social services had seen the state of everything back then I’d have lost the children. But because I went to DARE that didn’t happen.
The first day I did the programme I came home and tidied up. It felt absolutely brilliant to have a living room back! It didn’t go past the living room for some time, but it was a start. I do tidy up and brush my teeth now!
I wasn’t opening any of my letters. So I had bailiffs chasing me. Children North East helped me get in touch with Citizens Advice.
“I’ve been lucky enough to make the break”
During this time I was also going through court proceedings, but I couldn’t get legal representation because I earned too much. I lost my business, so I started washing dishes, but I still earned too much on minimum wage for just 16 hours a week which I still don’t understand.
We’ve moved out of the city to another area and we absolutely love it. The best move I’ve ever made. I’ve been lucky enough to make that break, some women can’t. The violence continues for them.
I’ve embraced the programme because my case was so dramatic that we just had to leave. I would never have got to where I was without the team’s help. They gave me coping mechanisms throughout all of this.
I had absolutely no knowledge of domestic abuse which is why it should be part of the curriculum in schools. Parents are too damaged, they’re already in the generational cycle of abuse, they don’t understand. I didn’t understand. You think it’s totally normal and it’s not.
I met a new guy and we had an absolutely great few months together but it didn’t work out. He lied, he lied big time. If it’d been a couple of years before, I wouldn’t have been able to say goodbye to him for lying. But I’d learnt so much from the programme and I’m much stronger now. I amicably ended the relationship. It proves to me how much I’ve grown as a person. It doesn’t scare me anymore.”