Where can women escaping domestic violence find a sense of belonging?
The actions of an abusive partner or husband often force you out of a sense of belonging at home – even if you don’t actually leave.
As Gloria said in an interview for this research:
“He would bring his friends, and have fun – while I was just stuck in the bedroom; I was living in the bedroom – he didn’t want to see me in the lounge. […] So, to me – what was the point of torturing my soul in that house? I might as well leave and go and stay under a bridge where there’s nobody there to torment me.”
And if you leave, you may end up staying with friends or family (if it’s safe), stay in temporary accommodation, or go to a women’s refuge where you don’t know anybody.
You may have to share kitchens, bathrooms in the refuge – even if you don’t, you will be sharing other rooms and other space. That can be difficult – unchosen communal living – but it can also be a place of connection and support. Support for yourself, as you meet other women who have been through similar experiences; and also support for children – friendships, playrooms, and childworkers.
The shared space can become a positive space – a space of shared belonging .
In the participatory photography groupwork for this research, Shalom shared images from shared food in the refuge:
“Last week, me and some of the ladies – I went to show them Brixton, because they had never been – so we bought these crabs – because she knew how to cook them really well.”
“And these are mackerel – grilled mackerel – and these are like baked sweet potatoes, but they are a different kind – not the regular reddish kind – they are a bit longer, a bit tougher, and when you bake them they don’t just fall apart like the red ones do, you know. And that’s rice, and we had the giant prawns in the rice; and then broccoli.”
“We didn’t have any special thing to eat them, so we just cracked them open – we found a way around them, with hands – with teeth – with spoons; and then we found a way. It was really good – we had a laugh! We had so much – we couldn’t eat all of it! It tasted so good!”
“We didn’t plan it – it was a very random thing; but I think we’re going to plan it next time for the house. We are thinking that we should make it like a house thing; because this was like very random – I went to show them Brixton and then we went into the shops, and they wanted fruit, and then we ended up seeing the crabs – crabs! – so we got the crabs, and then the other things – and cooked it together.”
“We just laid everything out – so we could eat; and a lot of dancing and singing! – while we were cooking. It was a lot of fun!”