“They helped me to leave, stay safe and get my life back.”
Mary, a partially sighted 82-year-old, requested our support earlier in the year. Her son and his two daughters had moved in with her, and were financially abusive, controlling and manipulative. Despite being in poor health, Mary was made to do all the cleaning and washing, and her son took her pension from her account. It was only when she could not get a reading from her gas meter and, confused, rang the police for help, did anyone realise that she was being abused. Essex Police referred Mary to us, because they didn’t know of anywhere else which could help her.
We met Mary in local cafes and another charity for older people. She told us that the house she had lived in for 50 years no longer felt like home because of the abuse she was experiencing. She didn’t want to live there a moment longer. She was also very lonely. We assessed her level of need and her risk, helped her to change her bank account and worked with her to find suitable sheltered accommodation away from her son. Mary is now living in her own flat. Her quality of life has improved, and she does not feel bullied anymore.
“I was helped to recover from the abuse I’d experienced.”
Jim had experienced domestic abuse at a young age. He was referred to us by social services. During counselling sessions, he told us about his childhood; how between the ages of 9 and 16 he was routinely physically assaulted by his stepfather, who used to punch him, use weapons against him and caused him to be hospitalised on more than one occasion. His stepfather was also violent against Jim’s mother and younger brother; Jim would frequently step in to protect his younger brother from abuse. Along with this came emotional bullying and belittling. Jim was even forced to watch his stepfather as he clubbed the family dog to death.
The abuse that Jim suffered has affected his mental and emotional development. He often reacts as a teenager would to everyday situations, he has a lack of stability in relationships, is often frustrated and has a low threshold of anger. Jim was also diagnosed with anxiety and depression.
We were able to match Jim with a male counsellor, who provided Jim with free counselling over 18 sessions. As a result, Jim’s current family situation is more stable; he is aware of how to parent his daughter more effectively, and his relationship with his girlfriend has improved.
At the end of his counselling Jim told us: “My life has never been better. I will always be affected by what my stepfather did; he ruined my childhood and destroyed my family. But thanks to the support of everyone at Safe Steps I know how to make my future better.
“I was helped to get my daughter back and to return to my own home.”
Aged 22, Gemma had been with her boyfriend for three years. He was verbally abusive, controlling and aggressive. He quickly isolated her from her family and friends, forced her to have an abortion and even contacted her landlord and cancelled her tenancy without her knowing. He also took her money; taking her to the bank when her benefits had been deposited in her account and demanding the she withdraw all her cash for him. Gemma found out that he had a history of violence against his ex-partners and had been criminally charged with rape.
Gemma fell pregnant again and gave birth to a baby girl. But her relationship with her boyfriend got worse. He made several threats to kill her, and one day, took her eight-month-old daughter and would not let her see her.
Desperate for help, Gemma contacted multiple solicitors but as she did not qualify for legal aid, she was unable to receive any support and she was not able to afford the initial consultation fee.
She then contacted Safe Steps. We found that her main concern was for her daughter, but her boyfriend also had the keys to her flat and she was too scared to return. The very next day, we helped her to obtain a Specific Issue Order, a Prohibitive Steps Order and a Non-Molestation Order. That afternoon, accompanied by a Police Officer and using the Court Order, one of our IDVAs was able to collect Gemma’s daughter from her boyfriend and returned her to Gemma’s care. Gemma then moved in with her grandparents while the Sanctuary Scheme changed the locks on her home, so that her boyfriend was no longer able to have access. Finally, with the three court orders, Gemma qualified for legal aid, so was able to receive assistance from a solicitor. This gives Gemma the legal representation she needs in order to safeguard herself and her daughter against further abusive incidents.