The following is the story of Laura – a Freedom Programme graduate who now volunteers for Saje.
“I was a victim of domestic abuse for 6 years. Abused both physically and emotionally, I was isolated from my loved ones, controlled and bullied. He convinced me that I couldn’t cope without him and that I’d lose my children. Because of this, I became severely underweight, depressed and, if it weren’t for my children, I would not have survived.
The journey up to my leaving began in September 2012 when I took my children and moved into a women’s refuge. After 4 months in the refuge, I moved into my own flat, and he and I decide to reconcile at Christmas. This only lasted a few weeks until I ended the relationship for good. However, the abuse continued; he followed me and bombarded me with hundreds of calls and texts. He’d show up at my flat angry and aggressive, resulting in the police being called several times.
Laura telling her story to the Women’s Fund for Scotland at Surgeons Hall, Edinburgh
In June 2013, I had been out with friends. Shortly after returning home, he broke in, drunk, and threatened to kill me. It was then that I made the decision to flee Jersey; 10 days later, my children and I started a new life in Scotland.
I heard about the Freedom Programme in Fife from a family friend who suggested I should go along to a local group starting in September. Reluctantly, I agreed and contacted Saje about joining. From day one I felt comfortable; they kept in contact until the group started and even provided a crèche. The thought of speaking to strangers made me nervous, and I felt anxious and ashamed.
The course was tough, but everything I learned helped me understand and begin to overcome the years of abuse I had suffered. I started to realise that the abuse wasn’t my fault; there were no excuses for the way he had treated me.
As my confidence grew, I knew that I wanted to help other victims of domestic abuse. And, at the end of the 12 week course, I was asked if I’d like to volunteer for Saje and become a facilitator. I began my training with Saje shortly after finishing the group, and facilitated my first Freedom Programme in April of this year.
As I greeted each incredible woman, I understood the courage it took to simply walk through the door. During the 12 weeks, I saw such amazing change in the women in the group – the strength they showed and the huge steps they were taking. And at the conclusion of the group, when I looked around, I no longer saw victims. Instead, I saw survivors. I was proud to be a part of the journey these women took.
Many of the women bonded during the Freedom programme and loved the idea of being able to meet in a casual setting. The coffee mornings are a great way for the women to get together for a chat.
Domestic abuse is still a very taboo subject because it predominantly happens behind closed doors. This is why it is so important to educate women of all ages on the subject of domestic abuse. When you know what you’re looking for, the warning signs of domestic abuse are so clear. If I’d have known back then what I know now, I wouldn’t have been a victim of domestic abuse.
I am still volunteering for Saje as a Freedom Programme facilitator, and in the future hope to become more involved. I’m passionate about helping victims become survivors. Thanks to Saje and the Freedom Programme, I am now a survivor.”