8 October 2020
A picture of Supported housing can, and does, make a real difference to people’s lives.

Our Sanctuary Supported Living support worker Jodie (name changed) talked exclusively to Inside Housing about how, after she first came to the service fleeing an abusive relationship, she was inspired to turn her life around:

The reported global surge of domestic abuse during coronavirus was utterly horrific, but even before that, I wasn’t surprised when official statistics revealed that between June 2018 and June 2019, nearly 24,000 people in England were made homeless because of such abuse. Upset, disturbed, troubled, but not surprised.

The same thing could have happened to me, and I’ve had to fight to be recognised as a strong, confident woman. It was only in 2012 when I linked with a support service run by Sanctuary Supported Living that my life began to turn around.

Ten years ago, I met my abuser. Of course, I didn’t know then that that’s what he’d go on to become; at first, he swept me off my feet.

And then things changed. He began to question me when I went out with my friends and became extremely paranoid that other men were going to “look” at me. The first time he hit me was when I’d decided to go out despite his objections. The next morning, he cried when he saw my black eye and he couldn’t stop apologising to me, swearing it would never happen again.

With the benefit of hindsight, I can clearly see this was the point I should have walked away, but at the time I believed him – I wanted so desperately to believe him – so I stayed.

The abuse worsened as the months went on. Name-calling, punching, slapping, being spat at, kicked, locked up.

Leaving him was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but at least I had somewhere to go. Shocking figures from the Women’s Aid report ‘Nowhere to turn 2018’ state that while waiting for a refuge space, one in ten women slept rough, while 46 per cent sofa surfed.

My abuser didn’t stop there. Even though I had left he still retained his control over me, calling me to his home after harming himself, breaking into my house, calling me more than a hundred times a day. I involved the police at this point, but each time he did something and was questioned, nothing happened. I felt completely helpless.

It was at this point I found out I was pregnant following a contraception failure. I wrestled with what to do but decided to keep my baby. Pregnancy was hell, I was forced to endure constant threats, and it wasn’t much better once I’d had my daughter.

After months of wearing me down, he convinced me he was ready to be a father and I decided to give him – another – last chance. It wasn’t long before things returned to our twisted version of normal, except it was now even worse because I had a tiny baby who relied on me for all her needs – needs that weren’t being met due to the chaos that surrounded me.

The final straw came when, while I was holding our daughter in my arms, he grabbed me by my hair and threw me to the floor. I told the police everything, and completely justifiably I then had heavy intervention from a variety of services.

Following yet more devastating abuse from him, I was eventually advised to flee and move out of the area. I had to leave the place I’d grown up in, leave all of my friends and family, change my name and make a new start in a new town.

It was here that I got in touch with Sanctuary Supported Living, and my project worker was amazing; she and the social workers I was engaged with inspired me to go to university to complete a social work degree, and I graduated in 2018.

I still had to go through protracted child contact proceedings in court, and despite everything, my ex was initially granted some unsupervised contact with our daughter. It was only when he went on to abuse a new girlfriend in front of our child that contact ended.

I used the abuse I experienced to motivate me into helping others, and I am now a support worker at the service that helped me so much.

For people experiencing abuse, there are so many barriers to finally breaking free, and the fear of homelessness shouldn’t be one of them.

During lockdown, the Government pledged a further £2 million to bolster domestic abuse support, and a range of new measures have been implemented at the Sanctuary Supported Living service I am based at to help even more victims

I am one of the lucky ones, but there are so many women out there who aren’t, and I hope that we can all continue to work together to tackle the domestic abuse epidemic.

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