Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Chronicle Live
Chronicle Live
Sophie Doughty

'We loved someone who abused us': Newcastle domestic abuse victim tells how charity's support saved her life

The lasting torment an abusive relationship can have has today been laid bare by one brave victim.

A Tyneside charity has launched a new initiative to help women and girls recover from the trauma or post traumatic stress disorder many suffer after experiencing domestic violence or abuse.

Staff at Newcastle Women's Aid have developed their own bespoke Recovery Programme called “Free to be Me” after recognising that some women need help to recover long after they have left the damaging relationship.

Read more: 'I want his name to live on': Richie Kilbourne's daughter names new baby after her tragic dad found dead in flat

Elaine Langshaw, who is Chief Executive of the city centre based charity, said: "The programme came about because of what survivors were telling us our own experiences of supporting women and girls. Quite often during a crisis the onus is all on the victim to, leave the relationship, the home and to safeguard the children and then possibly go through lengthy legal proceedings as well as suffering the many impacts that domestic abuse has.

"We recognised that it is presumed that when a survivor accesses a support service, then the perception is that, she should be fixed, sorted and ok. But this is not the case for the majority of survivors trying to rebuild a new life when their world has been turned upside down and they are left traumatised by what has happened and what the future may be.

Chief Executive of Newcastle Women's Aid, Elaine Langshaw. (Newcastle Chronicle)

"This led us to develop Free to be me, it is for survivors who have completed a package of support, are no longer in crisis and are ready to move on safely."

The five week course is made up of weekly two hour sessions, and the first Free to be Me programme started on March 1. Elaine said she hopes it will also help women at risk of becoming repeat victims of abuse.

"It provides the opportunity for survivors to rediscover themselves, regain their confidence, establish their own boundaries, and to plan for a future with themselves in control.

"It has been brilliant, the participants have so far gave such positive feedback and are getting so much from it."

One woman who has taken part in a Newcastle Women's Aid recovery programme has bravely shared her story. The 45-year-old, from Newcastle, asked not to be named.

Newcastle Women's Aid's new city centre offices (ncjMedia)

But with courage and honesty she has shared what it feels like to come out of an abusive relationship.

Here is her story in her own words:

"After years of feeling sad, confused, too sensitive, worthless, selfish… I decided that I could no longer stay in a marriage where I caused so much unhappiness.

"I had, already been told three years previously by a counsellor that I was in an abusive relationship but was not yet ready to recognise it. It was normal life to me, and all my, fault.

"The marriage ended supposedly amicable. And I was supposed to be ready to start a new chapter in my life, and I was told, 'obviously I needed counselling due to my behaviour', which I still believed. After months of CBT counselling that was not helping I started one to one sessions with a counsellor.

"Twelve sessions in, she suggested I might want to contact Newcastle Women’s Aid. I still did not think I was an abused woman, but it sounded interesting and might take me in a new direction.

"As I walked along the corridor to my first group session, I felt apprehensive –'these poor women would have black eyes, broken bones and be so sad.'

"I walked in to a bright and welcoming room where a group of women were drinking tea –' oops, I had come to the wrong place? No, I had not' and that day changed my life.

"It took me three sessions to start to realise that I identified with every story being told around the table – not being allowed to sleep in my bed for expressing an opinion, not being allowed to stop off at the toilet on a long car journey, being frigid and having mental health problems because I didn’t want to have sex with someone who was physically and emotionally hurting me, and even talking to people. The list was endless but the person was familiar.

"It took another two sessions for me to realise that this had been my life. How could these strong, intelligent women be or have been in abusive relationships? I call them ‘lightbulb’ moments when I realise something momentous… and I had one. I had been in an abusive relationship.

"How? Because every one of us had loved someone who abused us.

"I know without a doubt that if I had not come to Newcastle Women’s Aid I would not be here today. No one can understand why you want to end your life unless you have been there.

"My friends would say to me:

“I had only got divorced I should be happy, I wasn’t facing financial ruin so what was the problem?

“pull yourself together you have been unhappy for years with him

So why had I sat with a bottle of wine and pills out in front of me and prayed that someone would help me have the strength to swallow them all. I lived each day with my brain in a constant loop. Why didn’t I help him to be a nicer person? Why couldn’t I of kept my opinions to myself? Was my child damaged by the marriage? Why have I not one regret about leaving but still feel so bad? What is the point in continuing when I have a black void inside of me and my head feels like it is going to explode?

"The reason, because once a week I sat with a group of women who listened, shared and supported me and most of all knew exactly how desperate I was feeling. We worked through a programme of support with Newcastle Women’s Aid together, and the support went on and changed as I started to change.

"Two years on and I am happy. The nightmares are becoming less, I am gradually getting back to work, I am coming off the anti-depressants, drinking less alcohol and I now have around five hours of undisturbed sleep. I have lost weight, feel attractive again and I even danced to some loud music yesterday and laughed.

"I feel, Newcastle Women’s Aid saved me and they continue to be there for me. I have made new friends with some special people who understand me as I understand them. We went out together for the first time recently and unbeknown to me, some old friends were sitting at the next table. As they were leaving, they stopped and gave me a hug and said they had not wanted to interrupt as I was laughing with my friends! Who would have ever known, on the outside we look like a group of friends having, fun and we are… we are definitely heading in that direction."

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.