The Other Side

There is nothing like a daily struggle to keep your head above water, like spending your days paddling furiously beneath the surface just to stay alive, while the enemy reigns down, relentlessly.

Coping with domestic abuse is an enormous and frightening challenge that victims are waking up to every single day and being forced to face in order to simply live.

These are the same people who look forward on New Year’s Day, and see nothing.  Who will have watched the clock strike midnight last night and felt hopeless, alone, and certainly felt nothing at the changing of the years.  People, weakened by their circumstance, who have absolutely no idea how strong they truly are.

This message is for them – from the other side, from freedom.

Your life can get better.

 You can find your sanctuary.

 It doesn’t stop here for you.

 And it is not too late.

Who you are and what you have suffered at the hands of others does not define you, nor does it define your future.   You have every reason and right to live a better life than the one you’re living today, and anyone telling you otherwise is fallacious and cowardly.  Stop listening.

I thought I would never, ever feel better.  I was so consumed in the life I had accepted that there were days when I didn’t even want to feel better.  Even long after he was physically gone, I wanted to be alone in my misery and stay there forever. And ever.

I dipped in and out of those emotions for almost four years until one day my strength rose like a fucking phoenix out of nowhere and hounded me until I looked it in the eye and saw myself staring back.

My clarity had arrived.  My hang-on-a-fucking-minute-what-are-you-doing moment.

The moment that I realised I was better and deserved better than the life I was living, in the shadow of something – someone – I couldn’t change or control.

I had done the hard part.  Leaving.  And the next part.  Surviving.  But what was I doing now?  Merely existing.  Drifting lifelessly in and out with the tide, caring about very little, and certainly not at all about myself.

On the same day that I woke up, I realised who I was, and perhaps even more importantly I realised who HE was, and who he WASN’T.

You are not your abuse.  You are not what they do to you, nor what they say to you.  Please stop listening.

I could never describe in this blog how it feels when you feel free again.  There are no words.  It’s incredible and emotional, overwhelming and scary too.  Letting go of the comfort blanket of grief is surprisingly difficult after so long… But what’s waiting underneath is a real-life human being with dreams and goals and hope and WORTH in abundance.  Someone who was there all along.  Someone who is within you right now, waiting for you to wake up.

It is time to stop listening, and start living.  I am proof that it can be done, and I wallowed in my circumstance like a pig in shit – believe me, if I made it, you can make it too.  Let this be the last New Year’s Day that you spend scared of your future.

Come on in, the water’s lovely over here.

National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline – 0808 2000 247

 Men’s Advice Line – 0808 801 0327

Thoughts and Thank You’s

I really don’t know what you call the anniversary of something that you would rather forget, but here we are four years on and I haven’t forgotten, but a lot has changed.

Four years ago tonight he was chasing me around my home, while my newborn baby screamed for me, and now, my newborn baby is a big, beautiful, sleeping four-year-old, and I am running from no one.

A lady at a women’s charity once said to me that I would find myself in a place where I neither loved, hated nor cared who, what or where my abuser was.  Where his existence would be a matter of indifference to me, where my life would proceed without him and happily so, and where I wouldn’t think of him or what he did to me every day and let it eat me alive.

She was right.  And four years later, I finally believe her.

I write tonight’s blog with a heart that is equal parts full, happy, heavy and hopeful.

Full, because I am loved now without condition.

Happy, because I found freedom.

Heavy, because so many women are missing out on both of the those as I type this.

And hopeful, because that is the very least they deserve.

The aftermath of an abusive relationship is a proverbial mountain.  It presents terrain and weather you can barely begin to comprehend; hills so steep your body refuses to function and nights so dark you sometimes hope morning will never come.

I won’t forget getting to the foot of that mountain, heartbroken and exhausted, only to find out that the journey had all but begun and feeling like I simply could not do it.

The strength required to break free of an abusive partner should never be underestimated.  There is a force of nature and fire in the bellies of the countless women who have done it, are doing it, are about to do it and especially of those who are lying awake right now, wishing they could do it and thinking they aren’t strong enough.

I found the strength needed for my climb in the faces and hearts of the people around me.  The people I didn’t open up to before he was arrested, but who rallied around me in the time after.  The lady I mentioned above, the charity she worked for and my friends and my family.

I also found strength in my son.  I have learnt more from him and parenting him through adversity than I ever learnt in my life before him.  He has taught me what matters, what doesn’t, what hurts and what heals and the best part is that we are just four years deep into that education.  I am a very lucky mummy and it took me a long time to see past the negatives in my life and realise that.

I owe him and everyone else who played their part in getting me to this point more than I could ever repay.   From the friend who set extra plates at dinner time and made sure I was fed, to the one who continues to answer my calls at all hours; to the charity who cared for my cats while I picked up the pieces to the family who painted on smiles to try and raise mine – to everyone, even when you had no idea you were helping me, you were and it wasn’t overlooked.

As this date has approached, I have been trying to think of ways to say thank you but there is no simple way to thank so many people, and so I have instead paid it forward by making some donations to charities close to our hearts.

The first is for £20 to Wood Green Animal Shelter, who fostered our cats without charge or question and enabled us to move away with one less thing to worry about.  Their fostering circle continues to support those in need and is an incredibly valuable resource to those escaping domestic abuse.  I hope our donation will go some way to supporting their work.

The second donation we have made today is for £30, to the women’s charity, Refuge.  We have purchased three emergency packs which will go towards providing three families in refuge this Christmas the basic essentials they will need on arrival.  This could include toiletries, clothing, toys or games and will, I hope, go towards making just a tiny difference to another mum out there who’s heart beats with mine.

We don’t have much to spare and so these aren’t earth-shattering amounts, but we hope they both make a difference to the recipients, and go some way to showing those who have shown us kindness how grateful we are.  Thank you!

Whilst I am moving towards the first Christmas since my son was born where I feel free of ‘him’, my heart simply aches at the thought of the thousands of women who will be sleeping in a refuge on the 24th of December.  Though warm and safe, they will be beginning this momentous journey, feeling lost and totally unaware that they have everything they need to get through it inside them already.  I very often feel a huge urge to travel the country and scoop them up in my arms to tell them that they are going to be fine, to hold their babies and promise them that their mummy’s smile will be back soon.

I will forever wish I could do more.

Whether you are reading this as our friends and family, a passer-by, or as someone looking for their own way out – from our house to yours this Christmas, we wish you a Happy one.  If it’s not looking good this year, keep your head up and keep moving forward.  Your happiness is waiting for you, I have absolutely no doubt about it and ask you to trust me on that one.

Please look after your nearest, dearest and neighbours this Christmas – domestic abuse doesn’t shut down for the holidays.

Take care x

Unlikely Friendships

Along this journey I have struggled to accept that this was my lot.  I struggled to comprehend how I could possibly deserve this life.  I felt alone in my feelings of how completely unjust it was that my experience of being a first time mother to my new-born son was being destroyed, block by block, by the one person who should have been protecting us.

Little did I know that 25 miles down the road from me lived Hannah, my spirit animal.  Another wounded lioness battling in all weathers to keep herself and her new-born cub safe from harm.   Her son was born six days before mine and our parallel nightmares unfolded in ugly synchronisation over the months that followed.  We just didn’t know each other existed at the time.

By the time a mutual friend saw the similarities in our situations and put us in touch, we were both deep into our journeys through this mud.  Our children’s fathers had both displayed the same controlling and sadly not unusual behaviour when faced with competing for attention with their own flesh and blood, and we had borne the brunt of it.  Punches, kicks, screaming, shouting and all in the presence of our helpless babies.

When I first started talking to Hannah, I simply could not believe how similar our stories were, almost to the day our lives had run the same course and here we were, coping and talking it out.  Hannah lived close but in a different county and there was stark contrast in the way in which we were dealt with as victims.  Hannah had and still has a wonderful Domestic Abuse advocate, she spoke so fondly and positively of him that I was jealous.  I didn’t have this, mine phoned me once and then seemed to forget about me.

I am sure that her advocate’s role was pivotal in Hannah finding the strength to close the door on her abuser far sooner than I was.  I think she would agree with me that the support network she had played a big part in finding that strength and it was this that I envied, however ridiculous that may sound now.  What is to envy about someone living in the same Hell just a few doors down?  Nothing, in hindsight.  She was as alone as I was at night when the babies were asleep and the skies grew dark.

The irony of that emotion, three years ago now, is that I sit here today instead filled with guilt.  Our lives have continued to run parallel until recently.  We have shared tales of court hearings in which our hearts broke simultaneously for our babies, we have laughed at how utterly ridiculous the system can be, we have cried and bitched and moaned and simply understood one another.  We have always wanted the other to find their freedom, but have always been comforted by the knowledge that we weren’t alone.

Within one month, Hannah and I both had contact hearings which proved to be momentous in entirely different ways.  Together but 250 miles apart we sat in court rooms and faced our abusers for the umpteenth time.  We fought back tears, not always successfully, and we fought our corners with a passion only found in the heart of a mother.

In my court room, that eventually played out with the case being dismissed.  It was no easy feat, but my result presents me with a real prospect of freedom, affirmation that I was right and hope.

In Hannah’s hearing a few weeks before, contact was awarded.

Hannah was told that not only was she to hand her heart over to her abuser, packaged in the body of an innocent three-year-old, but she was to do it with a smile.  To be amicable.  To support something that tore her in two.

How could this even be possible?  What is so wrong with this world that women who take beatings to the head and to the heart from violent, abusive men, could ever be forced to allow that man into their child’s life?

I don’t know what to say to her now, we haven’t talked since.  I had told her I would write a blog about our friendship, but I never expected to be writing it from this vantage point.  What do I say to her?  I finally got him away from us but you didn’t and I’m sorry?  There are no words.

Just as our journeys began the same, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the conclusion should have been the same too.  And here we are, hearts and minds in the same place but our paths have finally split after almost four years of running side by side and my heart breaks for her.

She is tough, resilient, a true mama bear and I know she will cope with what this new direction means for her and her son, but just because someone copes, doesn’t mean it’s ok, or fair.

Who knows what the future holds for either of us.  My journey isn’t over, I am still healing and learning to live again, yet Hannah’s journey is barely beginning in many ways and I hope when she reads this she knows I’m still here.  I hope she knows what a source of strength and hope she has been for me.  She has got on with her life, settled down with a wonderful man who has taught her and her darling boy what it is to be loved and I know that, in spite of everything else, going home to those two is going to keep her going.  She is admirable, beautiful, strong in all ways and I forget some days that I’ve never even met her.

Here’s to us Hannah, to our resolve and the way it empowers us.

Here’s to our futures, may they be filled with the big, bursting at the seams love that we deserve.

And perhaps most importantly of all, here’s to our sweet, tiny heroes.  The three foot angels who have mustered the strength of grown men and single-handedly picked us up every single day for four years.

“When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. You are connected to your child and to all those who touch your lives. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.”

― Sophia Loren

Forces of Nature

Yesterday, the application for contact of my son’s father, of my abuser, was dismissed in court and I wrote this.


I have spent 47 months running from a raincloud

Some days I have stayed in bed, being drenched, my tears lost in the rain

And others, I have awoken to bright, beautiful sunshine

While the raincloud waited in the wings


My raincloud swept me up by the heels and dragged me

Effortlessly, just as he did

And it told me how I was to feel each day

Depending on its mood, just as he did


It told me that I would never, ever be free

That for every beam of sunshine that pierced through, wounding it

More rain would soon come

And I would be humbled once again


For 1,421 mornings I have opened my eyes again and faced it

Wanting to close them again

And rolled over, turning away from the voices far bigger than my raincloud

Telling me that the sunshine is in me


The words of loved ones

The unspoken words of the tiny soul depending on my happiness

For his own

The words of hope and of reason


And it’s funny, because when you start listening

When your resolve begins to elevate you above the shackles of an imaginary raincloud

You have fleeting moments of clarity

And suddenly you find yourself, your old self


You walk into a court room full of people who terrify you

Yet your head is high, your shoulders are back

You look your raincloud in the eye

And you simply blow it away


The words, ‘case dismissed’ echo in your ears

As fragments of black and grey matter flutter helplessly around you

And you finally see yourself for what you are

A mother, and a force of nature


Face Me after the Fade


When you look at me, you stare intently

Eyes asking, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’

Your mouth isn’t moving, though

Because you don’t know what to say

And that’s okay because all I need is to know you’re here

And that I’m safe


The longer you stare, the more the bruises will fade

From black, to purple, to yellow

The blood has long since dried and washed away

The cuts are healed, renewed skin hiding the truth

The longer you stare, the better I look

The better you think I am


After a while, time will pass as it always does

And you will stop looking at me like that

There won’t be anything to see any more

He will be gone

My bruises will be gone

Smiles will frequent my face more and more

And you will smile back, safe in the knowledge

That I am doing okay


Face me after the fade


Ask me how I’m doing

And when I say I’m fine

Ask me again


For many months from now

Every night, I will wake up

Certain that he is there

Sweating, my heart bursting out of my chest

My mind screaming at me

That I can’t get out of this room

Or out of this life


Face me after the fade

Because my heart is still broken

The bruises have long disappeared

But some days I hurt all over

And everything you think is gone

Is right there where he left it.


Abused women are at least three times more likely to experience Mental Health issues than other women.  For those that escape, the emotional and mental journey is only just beginning.

If you are living with or coping with life after Domestic Abuse and struggling with your mental health, or if you just need someone to talk to, the National Domestic Violence Helpline is open 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247.

But what about the cats?

When the day comes that you realise you have to leave, that staying is scarier and more dangerous than the unknown, your mind will suddenly present you with a million reasons why that’s a bad idea.

Everything from the big things, your children and the mortgage, to pre-booked holidays and dinner plans.  Whichever day, week or month that you make that decision, there is going to be an imminent event or reason that makes you question yourself.

A big one for me was, what about the cats?

Like most pet-owners, my two pet cats are a part of the family.  Leaving them behind wasn’t an option, but neither was staying.

The night that he was arrested, the Police were under strict instructions from me to protect my cats from getting caught up.  I felt that he might hurt them in order to hurt me.  I was wrong, thankfully, and clearly remember the voice through the radio confirming that the house had been locked up with both of my girls safe and fed inside.

When I made the decision to leave the area altogether nine months later, I was terrified that whilst life was crumbling around me, I was about to lose my cats too.  I had no idea then that there are some truly fantastic support options for people who are escaping Domestic Abuse and who have pets to think about.

I contacted a local Animal Shelter in desperation only to discover that they had something they called a ‘Fostering Circle’ in place.  A group of wonderful souls who foster the pets of those in need, who do it for no pay, all whilst the shelter itself funds food for the animals.  Incredible, right?

My girls went off on a six-week holiday to an anonymous foster carer, where they were safe, loved and one less thing to worry about during a very trying time.  I remember the day I dropped them off vividly, I was heartbroken, riddled with guilt.  They were of course fine, perfectly happy and healthy when I collected them and took them to our new home six weeks later.  The relief was enormous.

If you are considering leaving your abusive partner but are worried about your pets, I implore you to look into the options in your local area.

Click here for detailed information and links provided by Refuge.

Click here for information about the RSPCA’s Pet Retreat.

Call the RSPCA’s Pet Retreat service on 0300 123 8278.

If you are unable to find anything suitable in your local area using these links, please call or email your local Animal Refuge or your Local Women’s Aid, someone will be able to help.

You do not need to leave them behind and you do not need to stay because of them.


Victory for Victims

Until now, I haven’t posted in almost six weeks.  I simply wrote more than I could cope with processing and needed a minute.

In that time, we have been back to court and, where the blog truly was filling me with a great sense of positivity and unity, I still find myself catapulted back to ‘old me’.

Everything about this hurts, and different things hurt more and less on different days.

Consistently painful is my abuser’s complete lack of acknowledgment for what he put and CONTINUES to put me through, and the price I pay in witnessing that attitude every time we are back in the court room.

Sentencing abusive men without addressing their abuse and properly educating them about what it means for their victim simply elevates them.

They walk away from their sentence with an entitlement that they should be respected and praised for doing their time.

They have long forgotten the details of what they did, and, while they lie in bed, free and confident that they paid their dues, she lies awake at night replaying her personal Hell.

Her nightmares haunt her day in and day out, fleetingly some days, frequently others.

With his freedom comes another reminder that her sentence is life-long and that victory for a victim is a little too rich a term.  There is no victory, but there is peace to be had if she is allowed the chance to have it.

How are we getting this so wrong?

The Takeover

I took it.

I took it all the way through my pregnancy, being screamed at, being threatened, being taken apart piece by piece.

And then when he was ready, I took a beating.

I took on his guilt.

I took on his sadness.

I took pity on him.

I took my own heart and put it out in the cold.

I took his and put it above everyone else’s.

I took my son away from him when I could take no more.

I took forever to realise I was not responsible for him.

I took forever to realise that I couldn’t change him.

I took good advice two years too late.

I took charge of my own happiness and I tried to take back control.

He took me to court and now he’s taking everything out of me again.

He’s sitting in a room 250 miles away taking away my strength.

It’s taking over my life again.

Taking my energy.

Trying to take my baby and I can’t fucking take it.

My best friend, my confidant, my sanity

I would like to raise a glass to the girl who has kept me upright for the last four years.  The one who shouldered the burden of all my troubles like a true friend and who my boy and I love dearly.

I have some truly wonderful, lovely friends who have been incredibly supportive and loving throughout this journey, they all deserve a mention, but for now this one is for Her.

The one who has kept me on the right side of sane while I have danced not-so-merrily along the very fine line between sanity and entirely losing my mind.

This is for the one who I text at 2am the night he attacked me, telling her nothing and everything when I told her something had happened and if I didn’t speak now I knew I never would.

This is for the one who had to read what had happened on the internet because I couldn’t communicate with her safely after that message.

The one who waited with baited breath when I begged her not to report it while I was at home with him and who promised to wait.  The one who would have ignored my pleas and put my little boy first by reporting his father, had the internet not got there first.

The one who he was always jealous of, the one who he made sure I was distanced from over time.

My rock.

She is the one person who knows everything, every little detail, the only other person on the planet who could tell my story in its entirety.  She knows me better than I know myself sometimes, and despite knowing when my choices have been poor ones, she has duly sat back to let me find out for my-stubborn-self the consequences.

And then she has been there to wipe my tears and pick up the pieces, every single time.

She has faced him when she has been as afraid and worried as I have, and has taught me to respect myself, to stop hating myself and to take pride in my own progress.

I am so truly blessed to have her amongst this madness.  Someone with the ability to detach themselves from the big picture, regardless of how she felt about him and simply, without question, look after us.  Her support has been unwavering, day, night, however erratic or ridiculous I have been and I will be eternally grateful to her for that.

Perhaps most significant of all, is the emotional and practical support she has provided when it comes to my darling boy.  She adores him and he adores her.  If you have read ‘this blog’ you will know I relocated some distance away to escape the abuse and she followed a year later, bringing with her an abundance of love and support.

There is no way we will ever be able to thank her enough, but I know that all she wants in return for her efforts with me is that I keep moving forward, that her little buddy remains happy throughout his childhood and these are things I promise to maintain in the very, very least.

We don’t live as close to her as we would like to any more and I miss her terribly.  I hope she knows just how much she means to us and how I will be eternally in her debt for the things she has done for us, big and small, over the past four years – and the 19 years of friendship that preceded this Hell.

A true friend.

I would be naïve to think that everyone is as lucky.  But, if you do have someone you can confide in, I urge you to speak – to speak honestly and openly and ask them to simply listen until you are ready to act.  When your life is blighted by another human being’s determination to break you, a problem shared is truly a problem halved – so share the burden.

If you don’t have someone you can confide in, firstly, I am sorry.  This life is heart-breaking enough without being alone and I wish I had enough of me to go around and change that.  I can tell you without doubt though, that at your local Women’s Aid  you will find a friend.  No, you won’t be able to just kick back, gorge on pizza and cry until you laugh but you will find someone to talk to, someone who gets it, someone who wants nothing more than for you to just be happy.  As someone who turned to them as well as my own friendship circle I speak from experience.

They didn’t interfere

They didn’t judge

They listened

They cared

Click here to find your local Women’s Aid services.

My Greatest Love

My little boy might never know the way he single-handedly saved me from drowning.

“You are my greatest love, My hearbeat, And in the calm between each one, The reason for the next

You gave me life, The day I gave you yours, And mine is worth living, Because of you only

I find my strength in your eyes, My reason in your tiny arms, And my hope in your innocence

For you, Anything and always

Every day for as long as it takes, I will rise above this storm, Carry you safe and high, Keep us safe and dry.”