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Finding Freedom: Cheryl’s Story

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I met my husband when I was 14, and we had our first child when I was 20. I had three beautiful children, two sons and a daughter. My family is full of love, life and beauty.

My husband hit me for the first time the day after the birth of our first child, after I’d had a major operation.

I can pinpoint this incident to the year, date and minute that it happened- it was the start of a 21 year long tirade of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

Those 21 years read like a horror story. I remember having to sew up my own face to pick my children up from school, enduring rape, and being heavily beaten whilst my children stood witness. It was a dark, dark time in my life.

But my story isn’t a horror story. Six years ago, out of desperation, I sought help. I was referred to a Housing for Women refuge, and my life changed completely. To tell you the truth, I don’t remember exactly who referred me- it was a mixed up time and I was going round in circles with the council- but honestly, it was the best day’s work they ever did.

I was given a case worker to help me- and six years later, she’s still helping me with everything! And the Freedom Programme I was recommended was absolutely invaluable- it taught me about warning signs and helped me make sense of what happened to me and how abuse works. It helped me rebuild my confidence and realise how much more I can get out of life.

When I first came to the refuge, I was a week away from death. Now I am 47 and living with my daughter in a two bed house, and have recently been awarded a Special Guardianship Order over my ten month old grandson. I’m planning a few holidays.

In my future, I see freedom, being able to love openly with my children, and everything good about life- all because I got a house.

To this day, my daughter and I still say how lucky we are to have a house that we can call our own, to live safely and freely. I’ve got my confidence back, and I’ve got my life back.

To any women in the same situation, my heart is with you, and please, seek help. It’s there, and it will help you in so many ways. There are people here for you- they will help you.

To everyone else: please, please support these refuges and programmes. I genuinely believe that if Housing for Women didn’t exist, I would be dead now.

So many women and children are dying, not just at the hands of their abusers, but through suicide and other related causes, because there is not enough support for organisations like this. So many women and children are getting raped and beaten, constantly- as I know first-hand- and they need places to go.

 

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