It still amazes me that the greatest source of healing and support comes from women survivors of domestic abuse. I am often humbled when women are able to share their deepest pain with each other and I witness strong bonds and friendships blossoming. This is just one of the reasons I am so passionate about the work I do.
One of our volunteers wrote the following reflection of her interaction with one of our ladies after group one day, and I asked permission to post it here. The peer support is invaluable in our programmes and I am so grateful for a strong team of committed volunteers that support the work of No Feart.
This is why we do what we do! Warmest Wishes, Lynn.
After attending the Freedom Forever group, I sat on a couch at the building entrance and one of the other women from the course sat down to chat.
I was a victim of domestic violence and abuse by a boyfriend when I was 16, and it stopped when the relationship ended when I was almost 19. During the group, I realised that I had forgotten some of the intricate details of that life 20+ years ago. Perhaps my memory has blocked most of those years....or maybe I had simply healed over the years.
The amazing lady I chatted to has only recently left her abusive ex partner. As I looked in her eyes I saw sadness, fear and pain. I thought back to myself and briefly remembered my own misery and pain. As we chatted more I remembered how lost, alone and scared I was then. But the scariest part for me was that I had lost my identity. We briefly spoke together about this particular aspect of domestic abuse.
I didn’t know who I was after abuse. I no longer believed I had any value. I believed I was someone not worth loving as I had been told so many times how pathetic and ugly I was and that no-one would want me. If you hear something enough you believe it.
You see, I tried so hard to be “good enough” or keep him happy so he wouldn’t use alcohol or drugs, so that he wouldn’t hurt me. It was always worse when he was under the influence....and I soon learned when I was completely wasted myself or crashed out sleeping, that he didn’t hurt me so badly, or I didn't feel it so much, so I started to use substances more often to numb my own pain.
I also held the belief that if I would just keep quiet and stop challenging him on his behaviour and stop making him angry - I wouldn’t cause him to hurt me. It was “my fault” I drove him to hurt and abuse me. I deserved it. I believed that.
I experienced violence regularly and it was more severe at the weekend. In the latter stages it happened on week nights too. However, the worst thing he did was to spit on my face in a busy Main Street during the middle of the day. That has left the deepest emotional scars for me. People witnessed it and heard him shout lies about how I was a slag that cheated on him, to justify his behaviour. People stared as they passed the scene. I wanted to curl away and die as the shame and feelings of worthlessness poured over me but I remained quiet and could only drop my head in shame.
But I realised as the lady and I chatted that I had to really search my memory for the broken girl I was. That girl is so very, very different to the strong woman I have become today.
The lady asked me if you ever get over what happened. I was able to share hope and encouragement with my new friend that there is life after abuse hell. I was able to honestly share that many years on I no longer have the same fear, or wake up nightly with flashbacks or terror from another nightmare. But most importantly - I could assure her that she was no longer alone in her struggle and through No Feart she now had a support network of women survivors that understood completely what domestic violence and abuse does to destroy you as a person.
She cried - and we hugged. I also witnessed a slight smile and her eyes brightened as she realised she no longer had to battle alone any longer. Knowing you are not alone can offer strength to victims as they are often isolated with no support.
No Feart is so important for women to gain the education and knowledge, but in addition it creates a network of support with other women that understand the deep, dark hole you need to crawl up from when recovering from abuse. The Programme creates new friendships to journey with each other in to a new life where women can learn to re-discover who they are, and try to unlearn the untruths that their memory has somehow lodged in their minds.
Leaving a violent partner is only the first step of the journey, recovery takes support, compassion and friends to remind you that you are special, beautiful, intelligent and valuable woman that is strong. No Feart programmes are invaluable and really do save lives. If you know of a woman that could do with the help of No Feart, please do pick up the phone or email to get in touch. It does change lives.
EK, No Feart Survivor.