“After I left my abusive partner, I used to beat myself up with guilt. I needed to let go. Coming to the support group every week and listening to all the other women made me realise I am not alone. One woman started talking about what had happened to her kids, and that was the breakthrough for me. This woman was still standing strong – ‘that’s what I can do’, I thought. She was an inspiration.
“Socialising with women who have been through what you’ve been through gives you hope that you can move forward and start making something of your life. Some of the women stopped hobbies that they loved because of the awful things happening to them. Now, one has taken up sewing, another is going to the gym again. It is about saying, “Who am I? What do I like to do?” When you’re with an abusive partner, you forget who you are.
“When I first started going, I didn’t say much. I just listened. Gradually I started speaking more and opening up to the other women, who gave me confidence. The Refuge team said I had a good understanding of the different forms of abuse. They told me I was bubbly and friendly and that they thought I would be good at leading a coffee morning.
“I enjoy helping people. I know where they’re coming from because I have been there. I can see myself in the other women. At first they’re fearful and sad, like I was, but then they slowly start to blossom. You really see the transition. It’s nice to see the women come out of themselves. It’s also given me so much self-confidence.”