What It's Like To Flee Abuse

A 10 minute read by Luna, Co-founder of The Good Goddess Project

CW: Domestic Abuse. It was a cold autumnal day and I was doing what I always did on a Thursday. With my husband's permission, I was heading out to my trauma therapy appointment. Since I met my husband I had continually been depressed, anxious and miserable. I could never figure out why this was. I used to be so happy, positive and full of life. My husband thought I was "broken", a "mess", "incapable" and that I should accept that I would always be like this. I didn't want to give up. I didn't want to be like this. He would express his annoyance at me wanting to get well. However, he would tell me I was "a pain", but he would accompany me to a Drs appointment. At the Drs he would insist on coming in the Drs office with me. I never got a word in edge ways. He would essentially tell the Dr that I was insane and a nightmare to live with and that it was caused by past traumas. I would blush from the embarrassment of it all. How pathetic I was to have not got over abuse from my past that spanned my current lifetime and how bad a person I must be. A lot of what my husband said wasn't true, but I assumed he was laying it on thick to make sure I got the help I wanted, despite him believing I was broken beyond repair. My husband agreed that's exactly what he was doing because he was an awesome husband who I was lucky to have, especially given the state of me.... My heart broke. I desperately wanted to be a good wife and to be well again. The old me was a distant memory that I couldn't imagine ever getting back to. The journey to the therapy appointment was difficult. I could barely see out the windscreen I was crying so hard. I was gripping the steering wheel, shaking and trying to catch my breath. We'd had another 'row' at the weekend. It was awful. I was terrified and had been what I now know, was gaslit. My husband was an intelligent man. There was no reasoning with him. Any time I was brave enough to broach a topic with him, he would turn it into an onslaught onto me; we would go round and round and the only ever conclusion that came from it, was that I was the unreasonable one and that no-one else would waste their time with me. Sometimes it would get physical and there would be threats. There was always punishment of some sort. A lot of the time I would think I was insane because what I hoped would be a mature discussion for the greatest good of our relationship, would turn into World War Three and every time I would be left sobbing, shut out of the bedroom and reeling with no solution and being in a worse state than when I first began the conversation. Meanwhile, my husband would be sound asleep snoring away. I arrived at the therapy centre and text my husband. He liked me to do that so he could keep a track of where I was and what I was doing. The timings had to tally or I'd be in trouble. At my appointment, the therapist enquired what was going on at home because my level of anxiety was so bad. I explained we'd had a row and she asked the details. I told her in a matter of fact way and she gasped "That's abuse. You're being abused!" From that point on my entire world crashed around me. Lots of the people in my life treated me the way my husband did. So if this was abuse, so was that. After some time calming me down, I was referred to a women's refuge. I sobbed to the refuge "I don't want to leave my marriage. I want it to work." The decision was made to refer me to an outreach service. Once I was being supported by an outreach service, I realised I couldn't stay with my husband. I'd tried to talk to him, but it had ended badly with him saying he would tell everyone that I'm obsessed with abuse and a liar. He told me he would destroy everything I loved and take my home and cats from me. I knew no matter how terrified I was, I'd have to leave. My outreach worker was wonderful. She understood abuse and she knew how scared I was. We had to meet and communicate in secret. My husband often checked my phone, my car and my handbag so it wasn't safe to have any trace of an outreach worker in them. We set up an email that my husband didn't know about. We cancelled my therapy appointments and used them as a cover for our meetings. We worked the clock on my car to match my cover story. A few times it was too risky to meet and all I had to do then was send a short message via our email once it was safe to do so. I was advised to put my paperwork, passport and anything else that could be used against me, somewhere safe so I could flee with them in the night if needed. A close friends mum gave me the code to her key safe so I could drop off bags of essentials as and when I could and I could collect them anytime. I used my permitted trips to the supermarket to do this and to make any necessary calls. My outreach worker began searching for property that would allow cats. I wasn't willing to leave them and my husband made sure I never had enough money to live off, let alone be independent. Eventually I was offered a 'hard to let' flat in a rural coastal area. It was isolated and miles from loved ones, but you only get offered one place and struck off if you don't accept it. I was petrified and my body was like a block of painful concrete all the time, as I tried to hide what I was doing and simultaneously plan the details. My husband didn't know what I was doing, but he sensed he was losing control of me. Things began to escalate and I knew I was in real danger. My outreach worker decided we needed to get the Police involved. They already knew of my husband from previous attacks he'd made on me and my son. They were really good and took it seriously. They decided to be at my home the day I was fleeing. They changed my car reg so I couldn't be found once I fled. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, more and more people were being sent home from work. I wasn't quite ready to flee. I hadn't even seen or signed for the flat yet. One morning I got a message from a family member telling me they'd been sent home to work and that it won't be long before my husband is. I told them I wasn't ready to flee yet. Their simple reply "Do you want to be locked down with him?" was enough to make my mind up. I was going to flee early. I was going to flee that day. I frantically rang friends and family to help me. The police weren't available at such short notice, but they placed someone on patrol in the area so if I rang, they'd be able to get to me quickly. My husband had given the neighbours his number and often checked up on me via them. My husband worked a short taxi ride away from our home. I knew I only had an hour maximum to get out the house. We grabbed bags and stuffed what we could in them. I gathered the cats and placed them in their baskets so if needed I could grab them and go. We put my car keys ready in the car. My sister kept watch while me and a friend ran round the house stuffing my crystals and clothes into a bag. I was careful to only take things I'd fully paid for myself. I knew my husband would do anything he could to punish me, so I had to be legal in what I did. I took next to nothing. I was scared to rile him. Time was passing fast and we knew we just had to go and leave the rest. We jumped in the car and my friend came with me. With my sister driving behind to make sure I got there safely. The Housing Officer was brilliant. Despite me only calling her that morning, she had the flat ready and the contract there to sign. She gave me crockery, cutlery, food and towels. It dawned on me that the country was days away from lockdown, I had no job, no money and two cats to feed. The flat had no flooring, furniture, curtain rails - nothing - not even lightbulbs. I began to panic. I was so traumatised from what I'd left behind, my body and mind wouldn't function. Thankfully my friend was able to stay the night and donations meant I was able to get a kettle, toaster, curtain rails and a set of curtains. For the first six months I lived in the bedroom only. There wasn't any furniture or curtains in the other rooms. I had no internet or TV. It was hard. Fast forward eighteen months and my home still isn't quite set up. I'm unwell, but improving slowly and although the woman I used to be, is still a distant memory, there are shoots of growth everywhere. The fear I felt whilst trying to flee and not be hurt or killed in the process, was unbearable. Imagine what it would be like with children. Imagine if you had no choice but to flee in the night, or go in a refuge. Imagine if you didn't have the support of family and friends. This Christmas we are fundraising to give people in refuge a Christmas present to open on Christmas Day in the refuge. If you'd love to be a part of a Christmas Miracle that lifts the spirits of those who have had to flee abuse, please donate to our Go Fund Me. If you or a loved one are being abused, please contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.


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