Suicidal victim of domestic abuse speaks out about Stevenage charity that saved her life

PUBLISHED: 07:02 07 November 2017 | UPDATED: 17:45 07 November 2017

The woman, who we are not identifying, turned to alcohol after being abused by her former partner. File picture.

The woman, who we are not identifying, turned to alcohol after being abused by her former partner. File picture.

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A recovering alcoholic who fell victim to domestic abuse and twice tried to kill herself has spoken out about how she was rescued by a charity which has just received a funding boost to continue its good work.

Janis Feely, who founded The Living Room in 2000. Picture: Louise McEvoy Janis Feely, who founded The Living Room in 2000. Picture: Louise McEvoy

The Living Room was founded by Janis Feely at The Glebe on Chells Way in Stevenage in May 2000, after she successfully overcame her own addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs.

The charity supports people with addictions to anything from alcohol and drugs to gambling and sex. As well as counselling, The Living Room helps clients through creative writing, art therapy, drama groups and even equine therapy.

The Hertfordshire Community Foundation has awarded grant of £4,964 has been awarded from the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Action Fund to The Living Room to help break the cycle of domestic abuse and provide weekly therapy sessions to about 50 victims.

Rita Cooper, operations director at The Living Room, said: “Domestic abuse and the issues around it, including substance misuse and mental health issues, can be highly complex and, if left unaddressed, can often be passed down the generations, perpetuating a cycle of domestic abuse and addiction.

A grant of £4,964 has been donated by Herts Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd's 'action fund'. A grant of £4,964 has been donated by Herts Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd's 'action fund'.

“We are grateful for this grant that helps us to provide intensive and sustained therapeutic interventions for adults.

“We will also use the money to raise awareness about complex co-existing domestic abuse and addiction issues and the treatment available.”

The aim of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Fund, which is made up from funds recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act, is to support community and voluntary initiatives which will reduce crime and make Hertfordshire a safer place to live.

Hertfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, David Lloyd, said: “The Living Room is a great community and voluntary initiative and one I am pleased to support.”

Domestic abuse makes up around 13 per cent of all crimes dealt with by Hertfordshire police.

A domestic abuse victim who was referred to The Living Room, and whose identity we are protecting, said: “Before I joined The Living Room, life was hell. I made two suicide attempts, which put me in hospital.

“Addiction to alcohol had taken over my life and I was drinking every day. I was lost, couldn’t see a way out and it felt like nobody wanted to help me.

“I was homeless, as my mum kicked me out when she could no longer cope with me. It was the best thing she did for me. My second hospital admission resulted in a referral to The Living Room.”
She explained: “In my early 20s I began a five-year relationship. At first it was fine, but it became progressively worse. I look back in shame that I stayed, but I was terrified. He threatened to kill me if I left.

“He stabbed me once and, too afraid to go to hospital, I stitched it up myself with a needle and thread. I was physically, sexually and emotionally abused.

“Eventually, he was charged with GBH, rape and forced sexual acts – and sent to prison.

“My drinking really kicked off when the relationship ended. I was left with a lot of blame, but taking ownership for myself and taking away the blame has led to a big change in me.

“Now, I haven’t had a drink for six months. I am putting my recovery first and attending meetings including Alcoholics Anonymous.

“At The Living Room you’re free to talk about how you’re feeling. The goals which we set mean you carry on working to achieve your aims after you’ve left the building, especially as these are set for you and agreed by the group.

“I find it very helpful that we are not allowed to give advice in group, because it means I am listened to more and spoken to less. Clients relate to one another, but without trying to tell each other what to do.

“Up until last year, I’d worked from the age of 16 in retail and my aim is to return to work when I am fully recovered.”

For more information about The Living Room and the support available, see livingroomherts.org.

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