Isolation is such a powerful tactic of abuse that many women experiencing domestic violence do not talk to anyone else about what’s happening. They often think that they’re the only one – that they are to blame for the abuse. Even friends and family may not see the abuse, and the abuser will often behave completely differently around them.
“When I started to talk to some close friends they were saying to me – oh, it’s not true, he’s such a lovely person, he’s look after you; when I see you with him he’s just lovely…”
– Anna – age 42, with an adult daughter. White Polish ethnic origin. Journey from private rented in London to rented social housing in a town in a rural area.
When women arrive at a domestic violence refuge, or another service where there are other women who have experienced abuse, the first contact with other survivors is often as important as any of the formal services.
“I was actually surprised! I was shocked because [laughs] – I didn’t think it would be like this! So that was a relief to me – that I had somewhere safe to go with my child. And I had somebody there to listen, without judging me; without looking for any other cause besides what I’m telling them – to understand where I’m coming from. It made me feel so at home and at peace – I cried – that was the first time I cried.”
– Gloria – age 41, with a 1 year old boy. Black African ethnic origin. Journey from private rented in a South Coast town to rented social housing in a town in a rural area.
Amidst any formal service provision – and professional practices such as risk assessments – it is important to value that contact between women. It is vital to enable women to meet each other – often the first contact when they will be believed by someone who understands.
“We’ve been through a lot together; and I feel it’s nice – I’ve met some good friends here [women’s refuge]; which weren’t my plan! I was like – I’ve come here and I’m not here to make friends and I’m not here to make enemies – but I have made friends, and I will keep in contact with them – definitely. It’s nice – and the kids have made really close friends.”
– Violet – age 35, with a 6 year old boy. White British ethnic origin. Journey from owner-occupied in London periphery to private rented in a town in a very rural area.