A mother of two has said she will “never forget” the support of a Northamptonshire family refuge that helped her to escape the “mental torture” of her marriage and her husband’s abuse of her children.
The woman, who the Chron has not named, shared her story and told how Nene Valley Christian Family Refuge gave her the support she needed to get a divorce and start her own business.
The refuge will be celebrating its 30th anniversary this weekend with a special service of thanksgiving and the launch of its new brand name.
The woman said: “I come from a Christian family and it wasn’t acceptable for me to separate from my husband, and everyone thought I was the bad person.
“At first he seemed nice and caring, but then I realised how controlling he was. He didn’t want me to go to work or university, he took complete control of all finances and demanded to know what I was doing at all times. I had no voice and could not make any decisions.”
She left her home and work with her husband, two children and step-child in the late 1990s, to move to Northampton, where she had few relatives and friends.
“Because of the money he paid my family for us to be married, he felt he owned me,” she said, “and it got worse because I didn’t have my mother there to talk to and support me.”
She explained how her husband forced her to quit her job and would check every day where she spent money and who she spoke to. When she tried to find work again, he blackmailed her by abusing their own children.
“He knew that hurting the children would hurt me, so he became violent towards them to make me behave myself,” she said. “For me it was mental torture, because I couldn’t explain it to anyone. I moved in with my sister but he manipulated my family against me.”
She came across the Nene Valley refuge three years ago while searching online in desperation for somewhere to take her children away from her husband.
“I had no-one else to turn to. When I spoke to them it was the first time anyone had ever believed in me - I couldn’t believe that someone was listening.”
Staff at the refuge arranged for temporary accommodation for her and her children in Wellingborough until there was space for them to be moved into the refuge. They offered her training, courses in finding freedom, and the legal advice which helped her settle a divorce, as well providing counselling for her children.
She has now moved into her own home, has started her own business, and works on-call for the refuge, answering the phone to women, like her, trying to escape abusive homes. She has also started a new relationship with someone who, she says, is supportive and treats her as an equal.
“The whole process helps you get away, regain confidence to build your own life, then to keep that confidence and avoid the same patterns happening again - it’s a full package. They don’t send you into the world until you can say yourself that you are ready, and even then you are always welcome back.
“I will never forget what they did for me,” she said. “There is something in their faces as if God has spoken to them, assuring you that everything will be okay. To meet other women who had been through something similar was eye-opening.
“Now I wake up every morning looking forward to the day. I’m free, and I’m not worried about anything. But without Nene Valley, I would still be locked in that cage.
“I wish the Government could realise how much places like these mean to many women and children and how, without them, the world would be a cruel place to live in. We need to stand together to get people out of these situations or they will just carry on.
“If just one person who is suffering in silence reads this and it encourages them to look for help, then it’s worth it.”
The refuge’s thanksgiving service will take place tomorrow, Friday, from 7.30pm at Abington Avenue United Reformed Church in Northampton, where past service users and staff will speak about the importance of work achieved over the last 30 years.
In the 12 months, the refuge, which works in conjunction with Northampton Women’s Aid, has accommodated 62 women and 47 children and supported a further 48 women and 70 children.
Although it benefitted from a share of £10 million in extended Government funding for women’s refuges across the UK last year, no further support is guaranteed after March 2016.