How domestic violence affected me

White Ribbon

Calderdale Council promoted the message ‘Say no to domestic violence’ at an event on White Ribbon Day on Monday 25 November – the international day for the elimination of violence against women.

 The focus of the event at Halifax Town Hall was how people are affected by domestic violence, and that nobody should ever commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women.

 The Council’s Leader, Cllr Tim Swift, and Chief Executive Merran McRae made speeches outlining the Council’s commitment to tackling domestic violence, and plans for the coming year. Chris Green, Director of White Ribbon Campaign UK(external link), talked about the need for everyone to work together to end violence against women, and presented certificates to the Council’s White Ribbon Ambassadors to mark their dedication to the campaign. Men wore high heels throughout the event to symbolise the concept of “walking a mile in her shoes” – the international White Ribbon Campaign kick-off walk. Readings from Cllr Marcus Thompson, the Council’s Communities Scrutiny Panel Chair, and Receptive Theatre highlighted the traumatic effects of domestic violence. Below, two Calderdale people share their stories about the impact domestic abuse had on them and how they tackled it – one is a victim, one is a perpetrator. 

The event may be over but the Council’s pledge to tackle domestic violence continues. It’s a serious problem that can affect people from any part of our community. The White Ribbon Campaign is a worldwide initiative that involves men in ending violence against women. The Council is marking its support for the campaign by emphasising its commitment to urge people to speak out about incidents and concerns, and to help prevent domestic violence in the borough.

 The Council is a White Ribbon accredited employer, which means it’s committed to identifying and reporting domestic violence; engaging men in speaking out about violence; and challenging negative stereotypes. Three senior managers have become White Ribbon Ambassadors, pledging to speak out about domestic violence and be positive role models for other people. 

 Calderdale Council’s Leader, Cllr Tim Swift, said:

 “Domestic abuse can have a massive impact on the lives of victims and their families. It’s not just about physical violence – it can also involve psychological, sexual, financial or emotional abuse, and other forms of controlling behaviour.

 “In Calderdale, in 2012/13, domestic violence was the main cause of homelessness – 20 of the 60 homeless people had to leave their previous home because of violence from a partner or associated person.

 “We want Calderdale to be a place where people feel safe, and we are doing all we can to tackle domestic violence. We work with other organisations to raise awareness of the issue and urge residents to speak out if they are suffering domestic abuse. Victims shouldn’t suffer in silence. There’s a range of places where people can get help and support – both practical and emotional.”

 Calderdale resident and Director of White Ribbon Campaign UK, Chris Green, said:

 “If the activity of Calderdale Council was repeated by every local authority, we’d make significant strides in tackling violence against women across the country.

 “It’s vital for men to support women by never remaining silent about domestic violence. We call on men who don’t want their daughters to become victims, or their sons to become perpetrators of violence. Sign up to our online pledge at link).”

 Many different agencies in Calderdale are working together to tackle domestic violence. For details of where to get help and support, please visit the Domestic violence page on the Council’s website.

 Note to editors:

 •           The UK branch of the White Ribbon Campaign began in 2004 and is based in Mytholmroyd, Calderdale

•           Attached images:

Image 1: Men don high heels at the White Ribbon Day event at Halifax Town Hall

Image 2: White Ribbon Day logo

 Sophie’s* story

 Sophie was domestically abused by her boyfriend. She is now getting support from Calderdale Council and WomenCentre(external link).

WomenCentre is a registered charity with a mission to improve the quality of life for women both locally and nationally. With centres in Calderdale and Kirklees, and as the UK’s largest women’s centre, it has nearly 50 years’ experience of women’s issues and women’s lives. Calderdale Council supports the organisation financially and refers people there to get the help they need.

 It was hard

I’ve been around domestic violence all my life. I saw it happen at home when I was growing up, so I knew what to look out for. But that didn’t make it easier when it happened to me. I knew it was happening, but I didn’t know how to get out of it.

 I loved him

There were lots of good things about my boyfriend Philip*. I loved him. We moved in together – him, me and Joshua*, my son from a previous relationship. Philip’s childhood had been tough, he’d had many hard times and I wanted to make him happy. I loved him. We had a daughter, Alice*, together. Philip smoked cannabis but that didn’t cause problems between us at first.

 He hurt us

Then it started. The cruel words. The attention seeking. The jealousy. The controlling. The threats. The violence. My panic attacks. My children screaming. He was abusing my son too. I didn’t see him do it, but I knew it was happening. I challenged him but of course he denied it. I told him things weren’t working, but he manipulated me to stay. I didn’t know what to do.

 It went on for 12 months. I wanted to leave him but I couldn’t. We’d been together for five years. I loved him. I couldn’t get him into trouble. I called the Police one day when he was damaging our house, but I didn’t tell them what he was doing to me and the kids.

 The last straw

 The day he hurt my son when we were out together was the moment I said “enough is enough”. I told my mum, and me and the kids moved in with her straight away. I felt bad leaving him – he’d had issues and no real parenting or support when he was younger. But I was relieved. I decided I was not going to spend my life helping someone who wasn’t going to help himself.

 Getting support

I have a family support worker through Calderdale Council. Philip made me feel worthless, but now I’ve got someone who’s always there for me, helping me to cope with being a single mum. She told me about WomenCentre. It was daunting going there at first but I love it. I’ve met other women who’ve gone through similar things, and I’m doing a course there to learn more about domestic abuse – for example, that it’s not just about violence – and the reasoning behind it. It’s helping me a lot and really boosting my confidence. 

 A new chapter

I’m building a new life for me and my kids. It’s great to see them happy. We have a stress free home and we are not frightened any more. Trusting other people is hard, and I still get anxious, but I’m using my experience to benefit me and others – I love helping women at the WomenCentre and want to go into a career in therapy.

Don’t suffer in silence

My advice to other women going through domestic violence is: Don’t bottle it up. Talking helps. It’s not easy but trust your instincts, speak out and get support. I want both women and men to know that domestic violence is not acceptable.

 Philip made me someone I didn’t want to be, but now I believe in myself.

 *All names have been changed.

 Mark’s* story

Mark is 25 and has been in a relationship for two and a half years. He has a young son. He abused his girlfriend and is now getting support from Foundation Calderdale to get his life back on track.

 Foundation Calderdale is based in Halifax and supports 150 offenders and vulnerable young people. Support includes finding and maintaining appropriate accommodation; achieving independent living; ending social exclusion and offering mediation for families to minimise the number of young people being made homeless. Young people also have access to Crashpad – Foundation Calderdale’s temporary emergency accommodation.

 People can self refer online at link) or call in to the office at 21 Bull Green, Halifax. Agencies can also refer.

 I was angry

 I had been in a relationship for a couple of years and we’d just had a baby. I think I was suffering from depression, and was smoking a lot of cannabis. When I found out my girlfriend had cheated on me, I got really angry and lost it – sometimes I get so mad I black out and don’t remember anything. I smashed a lot of stuff up. My girlfriend started going out with lads when she said she was going to her mum’s and was getting texts from lads too. It really wound me up. The second time I lost it I smashed things up again and slammed her into a door. The Police came. The third time I grabbed her by the throat, then I went to scare her by leaning forward but she leant forward too and I ended up head butting her on the nose.

 I needed help

 I ended up on probation and the Police put me on a cannabis awareness course. Social Services got involved and said that if my behaviour continued I would lose access to my son. While I was on the course I got talking to other people who were in a similar situation to me, and this made me think about things. I was encouraged to seek support and I went to the Basement Project and Foundation Calderdale. I decided I needed support with my issues and a place of my own to live.

 Getting my life back on track

 All the support allowed me to be around people with similar experiences to me, and I could be myself. My girlfriend and I were spending too much time together and I needed support to get my own place and keep off the cannabis.

 I’ve been clean for a month now and don’t feel as angry as I did. I still get angry but I’m no longer violent and I’ve been coping better. My girlfriend and I are back together but live in our own houses. Social Services are no longer involved and I play an active part in my son’s life.

 * Name has been changed.

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