Sunday, 31 August 2008

Refuges are there to help.

Women's Aid

I have found a tiny flat to rent and will be leaving the refuge a week on Monday. It has been a very tough, frightening, frustrating, depressing, hilarious, enabling and enlightening nine months.
When I came to the 'Refuge' My heart ached and still aches for my home and the life I left behind and my loneliness is still profound. It was a world that I would never have thought I would ever have first-hand experience of, at first, for me to be there, was totally incomprehensible.

However, I now know it has possibly saved my life and it has definitely given me courage. I now believe that I can probably deal with most things that life can throw in my path. .

As I leave this strange environment, I am truly sad to go.

Some of the women I will miss, but mostly I will miss my key-worker who has been a tower of strength to me. She alone understands the traumatised mind of the woman fleeing from a man who has stripped her of her self-esteem, robbed her of her pride, her home and of her possessions. She will stand beside you shoulder to shoulder and get every single thing you are entitled to. She will give you tissues when you cry, make phone-calls on your behalf when you are too shaken to lift up the phone. She will write letters for you. She will fill in forms. She will come with you to the doctors, the solicitors, the police, the counsellor and the court. She will help you find a place to live that is safe and she will talk to your new land-lord on your behalf. She will fight every single corner for you.

Then one day you will emerge from the refuge a stronger, braver, woman, your pride in tact, your abilities reinforced and with your head held high you will say to the world. Bring it on!

Goodbye dear A, and thank you. xx

Monday, 25 August 2008

'Ode to Melancholy.'

I was looking around at blogs on depression and I found this little gem of a blog. I really like the little gothic story 'The Grave Girl' Unfortunately I couldn't post a comment but I really wanted to, because it made me smile. A Blog about depression and it made me smile!

It is worth a look (-: Here

Last night I watched the film
The Lives of Others for the second time. It is a sparkling jewel of a film. It is haunted by a piece of music called “Sonata for a Good Man,” composed for the film by Gabriel Yared, it is  a suspenseful, ethically exacting drama, beautifully realized by the writer and director Florian Henckel von DonnersmarckYared’s piece is melancholy, elegant and complicated, as is the story and the acting is magical. The film was made all the more poignant because of the death of one of the central characters played by Ulrich Muhe,  shortly after filming had finished.

It is a work of fiction set in Socialist East Germany 1984, before the wall came down. It is a time when the Stasi spied on everything and everyone, when neighbour spied on neighbour and even friends and family were suspicious of each other. 

It is a film about Good Men, the human spirit and how love and in this case, art, can transform even the most hardened of Stasi officials.  It is about writing, it is about acting, it is about music and it is about truth.  It is about how this one man, who listens in on the lives of a writer and his actress girlfriend, rediscovers his integrity and in turn his true self. 

I really enjoyed watching it for a second time and liked the fact that watching it with a friend who hadn't seen it before made the pleasure all the more sweet.

Friday, 22 August 2008

The Good News!

Last night a very good friend had his sixty fifth birthday party. I am staying with him at present which is lovely. It is so good to be away from the refuge. I gave him a present of one of my paintings which he said he liked very much. He said the painting was very accomplished. Praise indeed! The one I have posted on here is one of my very first attempts and I have been playing around a bit since with techniques and colour.

All of this is totally self taught, so I have no idea if I am doing the right things. I must, however, at some point go to an art class of some kind, I want to learn about light and shade and how it works in painting.

In the mean time I nourish myself with his compliments and strive to improve.

The Bad News!

My week, up until last night, has been really horrible. I learned that the price of my flat is having to be reduced by £50,000 which will leave me very little.

At present, the depression I suffer from, stops me from working, so this is quite a blow. How do I bounce back from this on top of everything else?

I like to think of my depression as a creature that lives symbiotically, feeding on my pain, a life sucking parasite that one day, when I am happy, will just drop off, a shrivelled black thing, like a tick or a flea.

Monday, 18 August 2008

In order for me to post freely on my blog. I have taken off my photograph.  In order to speak openly I have to be anonymous.

A good buddhist friend of mine sent me the book 'The Artist's Way' I expect you have heard of it. Her desire was for me to continue to write even though I was in my enforced imprisonment. I mentioned this to my key-worker, however I also mentioned that I felt inspired to try painting by way of therapy. I had always felt a desire to have a go at painting. 

That very evening, outside of my bedroom door at the refuge I discovered, canvasses, paints and brushes and a message saying. 'Enjoy'..

So I did and I have.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Inspiration at last!

I just thought I'd share the fact that last night. I composed, edited and completed a short story that I intend to enter into a short story competition.

I'm pretty pleased with myself today, and the sun is shining.

So I can no longer say to myself, "The Summer's gone and all the roses...."

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The first steps towards freedom.

When I arrived at the refuge, in my room, on the chest of drawers, were two small wicker baskets full of shampoo, shower gel, soaps, toothpaste, toothbrushes and combs. There was freshly laundered cream bed linen, a burgundy bath towel, hand towel and flannel. The furniture was laminated pine, the curtains and carpets were burgundy and every thing was serene and welcoming. It was such a surprise to me.

Apparently all the refuges run by Refuge provide the same kind of essentials and similar peaceful surroundings, which I think is really important for traumatised women seeking a place of safety. For me it made the whole transition from home to communal living a much easier experience. I hope any women, who are reading this blog will be encouraged by this information.

The key workers are absolutely amazing. They are kind, helpful and empowering women and professional in every way. Confidentiality in everything is the key.

To begin with they give every possible help with practical things to do with claiming benefits, starting the ball rolling for rehousing, help you get a crisis loan if necessary and give advice on legal matters pertaining to your particular situation. They also provide, and some might say this is the most important thing, trauma counselling and help in trying to find a way forward after having been through such a horrible time.

Without their help and support I would never have survived this experience.

***One thing that any woman who is suffering domestic abuse should know is to always be prepared in case you need to flee at a moments notice. My key worker told me recently that it is vital that somewhere, with someone you can trust, you have a bag packed with essential things in it. These things are. Passports and birth certificates for yourself and any children. Your National Insurance number. This is absolutely vital for getting immediate help with benefits. Any legal papers or copies of police statements or any proof of domestic violence that might help you in the future. Deeds, or copies of deeds or solicitors letters proving ownership of property etc.
Also a change of clothes for yourself and any children.

In my opinion, Refuge is an absolutely necessary place, for women suffering from domestic violence or even for those who don't, to know about. I want to shout it from the rooftops, I want it to be talked about in schools. The more knowledge women have about places of safety the better. It is difficult, because the very nature of the function of women's refuges is that it has to be confidential.

But by contacting the 'link' above or by contacting the 'victim support unit' at your local police station, ' the citizens advice bureau' or the 'Samaritans' they will point you in the right direction of where to go for help. In times of danger call 999.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

"Our Deepest Fear"

This was given to me by my key worker to inspire me to continue writing.  I think, for women who have spent many years hiding their lights under bushels, it is a wonderful quote. Although I am not particularly a 'God' sort of person.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.' We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." (A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles", Marianne Williamson, Harper Collins, 1992. From Chapter 7, Section 3])

Friday, 8 August 2008

Without exception, the women I came across at the refuge, displayed such courage, such stoicism, such self-deprecation, it was a lesson to me in women's strength of character.

How can that be when they had put up with so much shit for so long? Surely they must be weak and pathetic victims?

This whole, women as victims idea, is so paradoxical.

These women were managing on next to nothing in the way of money. Some had two or more children to support. They had practically nothing in the way of clothes or possessions. They had left behind friends and family, in some cases for life. They had to adjust to communal living with people they would probably never choose as friends and yet bonds were formed.

Most supported one other, most would share their last penny, most would give wine, cigarettes and chocolate in times of need and most did it with a good and open heart and an enormous amount of humour.

One young woman had three children under five. Can you imagine keeping control of them in such a strange and weird environment which was stuffed full of rules and regulations. Health and Safety procedures had to be adhered to which was a nightmare for some of these young mums. They were not allowed to leave their children unsupervised. Hard to do when there are five other children running around. When you are trying to feed a young baby with six adults fighting for the cooker and the fridge.

Yes, I admire them for their 'determination to make the best of it' attitude. Yes, in my book, these women are courageous.

It is certainly puzzling.....

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

I became very close friends with a woman who had spent 23 years in an abusive marriage. She had fled at dead of night with nothing but a few smuggled items, leaving a son and two daughters behind. Her husband was a vicious, manipulative bi-polar sufferer. Who had not only run over her cat, given away her most treasured dog, beaten her black and blue but had also managed to turn her daughters against her so that they would not go with her. Her son had to move in with friends because males over 14 are not allowed in a refuge.

In order to be safe, she not only had to leave her home and all her friends, but she had to leave her children behind as well.

When I met her she had already been at the refuge for three months and in that time she hadn't seen her youngest daughter. This hurt her very much. She couldn't see her just in case she let something slip to her father about where her mum was living. She just couldn't take that risk.

He had threateened to kill her if he found her and she had every reason to believe this was possible. He had tried every method he could to try to track her down and resorted to every form of emotional blackmail to get her to come back. Using her children as pawns in his controlling games.

She was very traumatised.

This was a professional woman who had run a care home, worked all the hours God sent to keep her family (he wasn't working) and yet she had put up with years of abuse.

Why, you might ask?

Because she felt sorry for him, because she believed in her vows of for better or for worse, because he had done such a good job on her that she no longer knew her own mind?

He had managed to make her believe she was in the wrong all the time.
He told her every day of their twenty three year marriage that she was fat and ugly and thick and that no-one else would ever want her. In the end she believed him.

She was not allowed to sit in the same room as him. He cut her off from nearly all her friends and when she was at work he would make her come home at lunch-time to cook him dinner. He would ring her at work and threaten her if she didn't come home immediately and so she had to make up excuses why she had to pop out at a moments notice. She was in constant fear of losing her job over this.

She was suffering from OCD. Constantly cleaning and tidying.

Interestingly three of the women I met at the refuge also suffered from this dis-order.

One area of their life where they believe they have control I suppose. Ironically, the disorder, without them realising it, soon begins to take control of them.

She tried to get him sectioned once. She failed. When she was waiting for the doctors verdict he told to her in whispers what she could expect from him when she got home. After that particular beating she left him.

She returned a week later when her daughters begged her to come home. Telling her he had changed and that she was cruel for leaving him when he was ill.....

Friday, 1 August 2008

The Women

My room at the refuge was light and airy. It had two single beds in it and a cot. I was informed that if someone came with children I may have to move. Which I thought was fair enough. However I grew to love my room. My sanctuary, my one place of quiet, an escape from everyone elses pain.

There were four other women resident when I arrived.

One woman was from Sri Lanka. She had worked in a clerical position out there for the government. One night she was dragged from her bed and taken to a cell where she was tortured and gang raped for 2 days and nights. She fled to Denmark with her daughter and had a complete breakdown. When she recovered enough to cope with life a little she was offered work in England by a relative so she travelled here on her own to start work. But she was then beaten by her uncle and ended up in the refuge.

She was such a lovely, beautiful and funny lady. Terrified of the dark, frightened of her own shadow, yet she made me laugh my head off when she shouted at the television when people didn't know the answers on quiz shows. One night we got tiddly and danced and giggled into the early hours. She always called me sexy Sue and was a really warm and wonderful person. She was learning English language at A level at Evening class and I would often help her with her homework. She was so cheeky and I often ended up doing it for her altogether and wondered how she had managed to get round me. She moved out a few months ago now and I miss her very much.