Friday, 11 December 2015

Hope for Domestic Abuse Survivors

My article (below) has been published on the charity website as part of their 16 days awareness programme  Domestic Abuse and Violence of all genders entitled - Hope for the Future

Please support this wonderful charity if you can.

You can view the published article here:

A Survivors Story

I have a lot to be grateful for right now:

A family that supported me when there seemed to be no hope
A beautiful daughter who has always warranted my hope and given me a reason to hope
A roof over my head where I have found peace and safety
Friends who have encouraged my hopes and dreams
Peace and sanity in a world where once there was no hope
A career that confirms hope exists and where I give hope to others
Happiness where there was once sorrow

But you see it has not always been like this. Thirty or more years ago my world was turned upside down and fell apart when I had to recognise and accept that the man I had fallen in love with and married was abusing me in every way possible.

Initially, it was verbally and emotionally but slowly over a long slow period of time he added mental, financial, sexual and physical abuse to the list of vile behaviours that, in my vulnerable state, I thought were normal in all marriages. So, over a twenty five year period this man gradually reduced me to a quivering wreck with no self-esteem or confidence and isolated me from family, friends and colleagues. Sadly, I thought this was how everyone lived. You see, no one ever talks about their marriage, do they?

It was difficult for me as no one in my family had ever been abused before (or at least we never spoke of it). I was the first and only divorcee in my family and still am. I was the first and only single parent in the family. Things like that didn’t happen in our family. The shame and guilt was too much to bear and I still have moments (albeit small now) of guilt and shame at what happened to me.

My ex-husband was charming in public but vile and frightening behind our front door. Who was going to believe that this eminent business man was abusing his wife in every ways possible? His grooming and coercion were indefatigable and he was able to groom those around us. I lost several close friends that swallowed his lies and deceit.

On reflection I realise, even if I had stayed, there was nothing I could have done to change his behaviour and attitude towards me. You see, nothing I did was ever right or good enough for this man. No dinner was ever delicious enough. No house cleaning was ever clean enough. My driving was never professional enough. My love and care was never warm enough. I never “looked” good enough. I didn’t contribute enough to the family. He told me I was nothing; no one would ever want me; don’t ever think of leaving; because no one will have you. Can you believe that I believed his propaganda?

I suffered in silence for over twenty years trying to make our marriage work and keep the family unit together until he made the biggest mistake of his life. He dragged me by hair across the kitchen and pushed me against the wall in front of my mother. Horror struck the whole family. Things had to change after this event. Someone, other than me and my daughter, had witnessed the other side of him. It was a life changing moment for me. This is when I became stronger and began to take some of the power back. But when we, the victim, become a fraction empowered it can become more dangerous and his words, temper and aggression increased. He was losing control; he knew I would leave one day.

And we did. My daughter and I fled. After loading the car with our bare essentials and gathering my personal papers, I collected my daughter from school and we never returned. I told no one, so no one would have to lie for me. I sent a short text to inform him his daughter was safe and we were finally free. But the abuse didn’t stop. The abuse escalated in the form of text messages, phone calls and stalking. This went on for years. We moved house several times, changed phone numbers, but somehow he found us and he threaten to kill me and kidnap my daughter on many occasions. Life was scary, unsafe and disconcerted but we survived.

I have now been free for 16 years. It’s been a hugely long haul. I have had to rebuild my life with my daughter from scratch. Remember we left with nothing, and I mean nothing. I have had to try to be as good a mother as possible in an impossible situation. Grieve for all the losses, both emotional and material. Put together a home again, from scratch; from a wooden spoon to washing machine, a duvet to sofa. Build a career from nowhere. Rebuild a life for myself. Find peace of mind, sanity and some sort of happiness and learn to trust again, which has been virtually impossible.

Thirty years ago many of the charities and support programmes didn’t exist and were not so widely available. Domestic abuse and violence was not talked about openly back then. I knew nothing of refuges and support groups. I have achieved most of this alone with the support of my wonderful family although many years later I needed trauma therapy and counselling to assist with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and I did complete the Freedom Programme.

31st October 2015 was 16 years since I fled; Halloween night. Finally, I feel I have come full circle and I am back to where I should be. My daughter is now twenty six, she is smart and intelligent and a beautiful person who I am very proud of. We are very close and take care of each other, nothing will ever spoil that. I have a beautiful cosy comfortable cottage in the middle of nowhere where I find happiness, peace and tranquillity every day. My career is perfect. I now work with victims of types of abuse all over the world, sharing my story through inspirational speaking at conferences and workshops. I live close to my family who are as supportive as ever. And there is my gorgeous black and white cat, Rosie, who has been a blessing in my life. All in all finally life is good and the hope I kept in my heart has been realised.

I have always been a positive person and throughout this ghastly ordeal I have continued to try to manifest and believe it would all come good in the end. I have always worked hard, stayed strong and had hope even in the toughest moments, hours, days and years that there was a reason why I had to suffer this ordeal. I now believe that I couldn’t carry out the work I do, helping, supporting, advising and caring for child and adult victims of abuse with the understanding, compassion and empathy that I have if I had not suffered this myself. You see, I get it, I know what it feels like; I can still feel, hear and smell the fear, I can relate.

I am a different person now for the better. I have learnt so much about people and situations and so, today and for the future, I will continue to turn the very desperate and negative experiences I have endured into positive work for others wherever and when I can. There is hope.

I will leave you with these amazing words:
Think you got the best of me
Think you had the last laugh
Bet you thought everything good was gone
You didn’t think I’d come back
I came back swinging
Thanks to you I got a new thing started
Thanks to you this was just my beginning
You messed up my dreams
But made me strong
Thank you

Elaine Hook

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