‘He pushed me down the stairs while I was pregnant’ – Abuse survivor speaks out at Letchworth domestic abuse and child sexual exploitation conference
- Credit: Archant
A survivor of sustained domestic abuse gave moving testimony on Saturday at a conference in Letchworth tackling the issues of domestic abuse and child sexual exploitation.
Speakers at the North Herts Community Safety Partnership event – held at at the Icknield Centre and attended by more than 100 people – included Rev Janet Graham of Hitchin’s Covenant Praise Church, Fiona Benjamin of Families Feeling Safe, Sarah Parkhouse of Youth Connexions, and Brenda Evans of Healthy Relationships Healthy Baby, part of the Stefanou Foundation.
The survivor – who was speaking on behalf of HRHB, and did not want to be identified – told how an ex-partner much older than her had routinely beaten her up, once kicking a door through to get to her.
“I had a black eye, broken ribs, a broken arm,” she said. “He pushed me down the stairs while I was pregnant.
“I blamed myself totally. He said it wouldn’t happen again but it went on.”
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She said it all started when she was 15, and was groomed by another older man. That ended when she met her ex – but when that relationship became abusive, she struggled to escape.
“I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor,” she said. “The relationship was all I knew. I didn’t want to leave and my children not have anything.”
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She held off reporting the abuse because of fear, but after she eventually did so the man was jailed for 16 months.
She stressed that since coming out of prison he had sought help and a degree of reconciliation had come about.
“He has been referred to as a monster by services, which he is not,” she said.
“He has thrown himself into every programme to try to address his issues and try to put back the damage.
“He and I take the children out together sometimes. You could walk past and never know. He is a completely different man, a joy to be around and very supportive.
“If he had been shown this way of living through childhood, and how to deal with anger and not lash out, I believe he would never have been the way he was.”
She also touched on how she felt services had let her down at the time, with none stepping in to help until it was too late.
“I went to my GP and explained how I was feeling, and I was prescribed medication for depression,” she said.
“That was it. I don’t think I was depressed at all. I’ve changed my whole situation to be positive.
“Because he was not an offender, he was told, there was nothing that could be given to him.
“I had social services offering me support, but it’s not as easy as people think to come out and say what’s happening behind closed doors.
“I was scared, not just for me but for my children. I didn’t want them living in a hostel – and they loved their dad.
“It sounds really bad when I say the services didn’t help at all, though. There were some amazing people there.
“Brenda Evans and HRHB have helped me in many ways by being able to speak about my past – but the work they do is only a pilot. It definitely needs to continue.”
When she finished speaking, she received a standing ovation.
A WI cake sale raised £216 for the Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline, who also had an information stand at the event.
Other stands included those of the Herts Sunflower Partnership, Howard Cottage Housing Association, Phase, Hope for Justice, HACRO and Women’s Refuge.
North Herts safer neighbourhood team inspector Duncan Sales said: “We were delighted to hold this event in North Herts for the second year running.
“It is still the case that sadly people don’t realise how often someone they might know could be affected by either domestic abuse or how to spot the signs that a child might be being exploited.
“Unfortunately it is more common than we think, as domestic abuse can affect one in four women and one in six men and children from any background can be affected by child sexual exploitation.
“These are all issues that the police and our partners that form the NHCSP take extremely seriously and we were keen to raise awareness about the issues and let people know support is out there if needed.
“I’d like to thank to everyone who attended the event and helped us to arrange it. We received great feedback from those who attended and we hope to arrange similar conferences in the future that raise awareness about issues that can affect our local community.”
If you’re affected by domestic abuse, you can call the Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline on 08 088 088 088 (weekdays 9am to 9pm, weekends 9am to 4pm), visit hertssunflower.org, or call police on 101. In an emergency call 999. If you’re concerned about child sexual exploitation, call or text 116000.