Category Archives: Domestic Violence

Boundaries and Recovery

I had a revelation this morning as I was waking up, that wonderful place between sleep and wake, I love it there, I seem to get a lot of insight when I am listening.

I had been dreaming about an old boyfriend, and saw his disrespect for me, something that for me at the time was perfectly normal. In the dream, we had arranged to meet up after a party where we both were and all of a sudden some friends of his had turned up and he said sorry I am going with them……..not would you like to come nothing, I was  just dropped.  Somehow I just accepted it, just like I had accepted it most of my life.  Even though I was so angry inside I did not have the words to say how I felt and this is not ok, and I realised in that moment, this is where my addictions come in.  It was a real moment for me.  I would stuff the anger with booze, food and then become passive aggressive and as a child this is when I would self harm, I had no words to say this is not ok for me, they were buried way deep inside and for some reason they still are to a large extent.

I am realising this behaviour is a huge part of my depression and my mental ill health, I had no way of really understanding how to deal with this. No words. My parents were pretty unreliable, my father was busy working and often away and anytime I challenged my mother on her lateness, which was most of the time, she would always put it back onto me, saying something like ‘I am here now, what is your problem’ and I would be left with it.  Now I see the problem is she never called to say she was late, she just turned up and that was supposed to be ok, now I am seeing it is not ok, but all this time I have thought it was me and I have chosen so many people to replicate the same thing.

I am begining to realise the extent of my co-dependency, it is definately at the root of my addictions.  I am only now getting to see my part in things, my part is not putting up with it, setting boundaries and if necessary walking away.  I realise that, as I said to a friend of mine, we teach people how to treat us, if we respect ourselves then they will, it has taken me years to really understand these words and for them to go from my head to my heart.

I am finally learning a language that I lost.  I would blame others for treating me like shit, I had no idea I let them.  And likewise, others would blame me for treating them like shit and I would take it on, they would blame me for treading over their boundaries, I did not know they were there, they never told me.  I feel I have had a great epiphany this morning and I want to share it with you, I think the world is going to become a much easier place for me as I am learning that maybe, just maybe all that shit was not mine, I could have said not thanks, please take it elsewhere, this public convenience is actually closed.

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This includes all forms of violence, be it physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual or financial.

In 2009, I made a documentary of myself interviewing my own Domestic Abuse Outreach worker, I wanted to share this to give an insight into the depths that the abuse can go and to show that actually, so often we ourselves have no idea why we actually stay.  If you know anyone who needs help, please share this.

Thank you.

Help the Homeless

They say that most people are only two pay checks away from being homeless, maybe it would have been good to mentioned that when the Estate Agent looked down her nose at me after I said I was on Housing Benefit!

I did not have a deposit,so therefore my choices were limited to what the housing benefit either had or would pay for and believe me there was nothing around that was habitable. I could only rent a place for one now my son was old enough to leave home, the devastation of this was too much for me. I could not help but wonder what the hell had happened to the young girl, the me who brought her own flat in Fulham and if it had gone the other way would have been mortage free by now! I slowly began to collapse emotionally, not able to pack, unable to function and looking at places that were so disgusting, cold, damp, dark and stark reminders of how far down the social strata I had gone.

This all began  two years ago today when I was given notice to quit a home I had lived in for 9 years.  I was living on welfare, my mental health was at an all time low and I was struggling to pay the bills.  My son and I were selling what we could on e-bay to cover the basic costs of things and I remember one day, he was offered an opportunity in London and we just managed to get him there by me selling a watch and a friend giving us some money.

After two weeks of him being on work experience, sleeping on a friends floor and barely able to afford the train fare to make the most of this internship he was offered, which was unpaid, I had no money to buy milk and sugar for him when he arrived home.  As I sat there counting the coppers I had found around the house to go and buy some milk, a friend rang, saying she felt she needed to ring me, I told her what the problem was and she said get over here and I will help you.  Fortunately I still had enough petrol in my car to get to her house.  She handed me an envelope with £200.00 pounds in it and that helped us through the next few weeks and helped my son get back to London to work for another week to help get him into the career he was desperate to follow.

A few months before this time, a friend had suggested I saw her husband for accupuncture, it was not long before he said my body was so damp and asked if I living in a damp house? I was.  The windows were rotten, the heating was costing me a fortune which I did not have, it was impossible to get warm and it was quite possibly, according to him, a contributing factor to my depression. I had been suffering from mental health issues for a long time and they were getting worse and worse, mainly due to the facts I was now having to face, but the housing environment was not helping, clearly. I had also been signed off sick, long term after a rather ardeous interview at the benefits office to prove I was unfit to work on mental health ground. It never ceases to amaze me that people still think that benefits are handed out on a silver plate!

After the accupuncture assessment my friend and her husband both suggested I got the environmental health people in, which I did. She could not find damp, which is interesting, but she said the landlord would have to fix the windows and the electricity if the council were to continue to pay the rent…………….wow!  So, we were given 2 months notice. Not long before this I had been noticing running noises up in the atic, so we got the pest control man in…………we had rats, and lots of them, it was disgusting.

You sometimes have to crack eggs to make an omlette and that is exactly what was going on in our lives.  For the next two months we had nowhere to live. It was terrifying and it looked pretty bleak. Housing Benefit will only give a deposit up to their amount that they pay, and as there were no properties around for that amount that were habitable, it left me in a very difficult place, until a very dear friend offered to help, two weeks before our deadline.

It was like all my prayers were answered at once, and believe me, I had been praying day and night for God to intervene. She helped with my son’s move to London, she helped me with my deposit and helps with the difference between what housing benefit pay per month as there is always a short fall. It is incredible what the love of a good friend can do to change your life and I am grateful everyday to have her.

When it comes to living on welfare and housing benefit, what people maybe don’t realise is that housing benefit is paid every two weeks and that is it spread over 13 months for some reason, so there is always a deficiet each month.  Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful to have it but it is not the walk in the park and the easy option for the majority of people who receive it as people make out. In my humble opinion, there needs to be an easier way to pay it because it leaves people in debt all the time and most landlords do not want to be renting to people on benefits, possibly for this very reason

I had one of those Pretty Woman moments when I walked into the estate, suddenly my life had changed and I had choice, and guess what, a wonderful home appeared, somewhere that I have driven past for years thinking it is the most beautiful house I have ever seen and I would love to live there, I am.  The landlords don’t see people on welfare as less than them, they see me as people who need some help and support, what a total relief.

I really believe that it is the class system, the snobbish attitude that is really causing so many of the problems around homelessness. I was spoken to like a piece of shit by the people at the benefits office, the housing office even forgot to put my claim across,as I switched from boroughs, which almost lost me the house, thank God I checked it and I managed to get a friend to guarantee my rent for a year should I default. All that before I could get somewhere to live.

I do hope that anyone reading this will pass it on to anyone they know who maybe could do with a re-think and if you know an estate agent, let them know!! There was only one that helped me in Guildford, and I will always be grateful to them and to my landlords who are so human and believe that everyone deserves a chance. I feel so blessed to have met them and that I was given a break. I felt so shit about myself because of what our life had become, and it is all now helping me to grow and to feel human again, we all need love and support.

I have made a video about that time, including my struggles with domestic abuse, which you can find at http://www.youtube.com/addicts4addicts

Neil Morrissey – Care Home Kid

I was fortunate enough to catch this moving and for me, heart wrenching account of Neil Morrissey’s life. I always had a soft spot for him, there is something about him that I identified with and now I know what.  He spent a lot of his life lost,  bewildered and not feeling like he belonged.  He put on a great front, was a way-ward person, has abandonment issues and has had a sting of relationships,  deep inside he was troubled.  Now we see the softer, gentler side of a man, who for so long has been haunted by his past.

I spent my life feeling lost, but not knowing that is what it was, it is only now that I am begining to put the pieces together and realising that I never felt really like I belonged. When I did, it didn’t last for long, someone always came along and took it away.  My mother left when I was 3 and a half, but long before that I had been seperated from her she had to work long hours and I had one nanny after another, four in total before I was 9 months old and it had a huge impact on my life and my feeling of belonging and connection, lack of it. My father was married 6 times and my mother was the second wife so I had a succession of step-mothers to contend with.

I felt, and still do sometimes bewildered and just put on a brave front and get on with it, that is getting less and less now and the reality of it all is hitting me, which I am finding pretty painful right now.  Like Neil I was rebellious, had families I went to, to help me through. I have no real connection to my family now, and I still do feel very lost sometimes. There is so much unresolved crap that most of them don’t want to talk about that we just end up in our own little corners, doing our own thing, which I think is pretty sad.

Fortunately I have a son who I am close to and so we are begining again, which I am so grateful for.  The pain and yearning in me is still there for my mother and a family that will be all together, but it is something I have to let go, as painful as it is. I also realise that we are building it for ourselves. That is a great thing to have.

In this moving two part documentary Neil Morrissey explores the reason behind why he was put into care at ten years old because of stealing and how that has effected his entire life.  He visits prison, where 60% of the in-mates in the wing for young offenders have been in care.  He talks to people who were in care and who still are in care and explores the horror stories of abuse that still haunt people’s lives 40 years later.

Neil describes how the way he coped with the situation of suddenly being taken from his family was he just got on with it and was never really encouraged to discuss his feelings, never explored what was going on for him, and that is how he has lived his life.  On visiting a children’s home in Scotland, Lothian Villa, Neil finds a supportive environment for children in care, a far cry from most of the ones he is visiting and hearing about. The way they help people at Lothian Villa is to encourage the children to deal with their feelings of ingrained hurt, anger and distress so that they will no longer remain mad with the world, because they will unless the feelings are dealt with. He credits a lot of his fortunate experience in the children’s home to a house mother who was loving, firm and kind. However he did not learn to deal with his feelings, he says he ignored difficult feelings and made the best of it. He was one of the lucky ones by all accounts.

Most of the people he interviewed and indeed himself came to the conclusion that being in care had, in one way or another, had a devastating impact on their lives.  Neil was put into care because his parents did not properly care for their children and he was caught stealing on a regular basis and he and his brothers were left to run wild, with few boundaries and were often left alone to fend for themselves at night with no parents there for them. How his mother could barely cope with the housework and how his father spent time at the working man’s club because his home was so dirty.

The people who suffer are the children, one way or another, from neglect, abuse or just that feeling of being unloved and without love and support it is so hard to make it in the world.  I was a single-parent and often found it hard to cope, it was very hard. We lived on welfare and I was terrified to ask for help because I always thought that they would take my child away, because that is generally what they did if you were not coping as a single-parent.  I knew that there were many women out there who were also not coping being a mother but they had husbands and family to support them, I did not.

I struggled on and it was only when I finished my degree I felt less vulnerable, for some reason I thought that if I was a single parent with an education they would look more favourably on me.  Little did I know, I had depression which I was self medicating with alcohol, I had a mental illness which was at this point un-diagnosed and it was of course effecting me and how I was parenting.  I was desperate for help.  I now have such a clear insight into so many of the problems, people need love, support and encouragement, not punitive treatment, if parents are not coping they need support to help them cope.  Taking children away from their family and their parents can leave long term damage and worse. If we were to look at things differently and support instead of punish struggling parents, we would be supporting the parents and the children and healing lives. I stongly believe that if you support the parents, you support the child, it is not rocket science.

Recently I spoke with two friends of mine, one from Africa and another from Turkey, interestingly they could not get their heads around the concept of adoption or children’s homes, for them, they had a community and a family who would help out so that if the mother was not coping or on her own for whatever reason, they would all chip in.  It seems that this is a very British thing to do and it raises the question for me, why? Sadly I do not have the answer, but it is such a relief to know that this is as abnormal in other countries as it feels to me, it feels like an insane thing to even consider.

I read a great article by Andrew Mosley that about sums it up really, this is not the Neil Morrissey we have all come to know.  I have to say, I am so grateful to see this side of  him, it gives me hope. Hope that once you face the pain of your past you begin to heal. He has done a lot of good and spoken out for thousands of people who are still suffering, what a great way to use your fame.

He is also now in a committed relationship with his lawyer girlfriend Emma and says that he does not believe in dwelling on his past, and when he was in the children’s homes he always had a dream for a better life.  I personally believe we have to go back and face our pasts and the pain that is there in order to move on, I am in the process of doing that myself and am looking forward to the life the other side.

Dennis Waterman and his view on Domestic Violence

I have to say I was horrified by the comments made by Dennis Waterman during a recent interview with Johathan Ross, due to be aired within the next month! Domestic abuse is not only physical, it is also emotional and the scars stay long after the situation has ended.  I lived in a war zone in my head for years afterwards and still I see the effects on some of my behaviour.  It can take years to recover.

Having experienced Domestic Abuse myself, I find it really shocking to hear the other side of it.  At the same time, I have found it so helpful to hear the responses from so many people, the outcry on Loose Women yesterday was fantastic.

I made a series of documentary interviews with my Domestic Abuse Outreach Worker for West Surrey Domestic Abuse outreach worker.  Other support can be found at the Domestic Violence Charity Refuge.

I hope you find these videos helpful, I made them over 2 years ago, and feel it is so important to share them for people who, like me, had absolutely no idea what it was all about.

You can find the rest of this series at youtube/exploring domestic abuse.  Please pass it on if you know anyone who may find it helpful.

Domestic Abuse discussed on Loose Women 27/1/11

Should domestic violence cases just focus on the physical? On the show today the ladies are discussing domestic violence.

“Following a ruling yesterday by the country’s most senior judges, you will now not have to be physically attacked to be recognised as a victim of domestic violence. The Supreme Court has widened the definition of abusive relationships after ruling in favour of a woman who left her husband because he shouted at her and she was too scared to confront him. So her local council now has a duty to provide housing for her. This means there is now a legal precedent that domestic violence can now include psychological or emotional abuse”.

If you have been affected by domestic violence in any way and would like further information, please call one or both of the numbers below:

The Men’s Advice Line – 0808 801 0327

Refuge: 0808 2000 247

This discussion today was brilliant, all the women on the panel were so informative and Sherrie and Colleen were particularly insightful about the long-term effects of emotional/psychological abuse from childhood and the long lasting effects it can have on us as adults.

Coleen Nolan described how when she was growing up there was always shouting and it has taken her a long long time to stop flinching everytime her partner is angry.  Sherrie Hewson describes in great detail the effects that her abusive relationship had on her.  “In the end you do believe it is your fault and because you do you don’t tell people” It erodes the soul, as I have mentioned in previous writings on the subject.

People need help, families need help, these behaviours are passed on from one generation to another and it takes recognising you have a problem to get help. If you think it is normal, it is hard to know it is not, if that makes sense.  I am grateful on a daily basis that I am begining to heal from the effects it has all had on my and my son’s life.

One of the other things that was said on the show was that if women don’t ask for help it is very hard for a friend to interfere, it is, and when friends of mine were telling me it was abuse I had not idea what they were talking about. One thing Iwould say though, I am very glad they told me, it showed me they cared and I look back now and I am very grateful to the ones who did.

If you do have a friend in need, please tell her what you see, she may think it is normal to be treated like this. I know it is hard, but it so helped me, even though I did not like it at the time and I thought that my friends did not know him, how lovely he is really. It sowed a seed and I am beginging to see what they meant.

The other very important thing is that emotional/domestic abuse is also between parents and children, this is called child abuse and the child so often then grows up expecting to be treated like this, we have to stop the cycle.

This is a very timely debate as due to Government cuts my Domestic Abuse outreach worker has had to stop seeing me, and because they can now only see very urgent cases, those who are actually in the relationship and in physical danger here and now. The follow up has to be done by phone.  What is happening out there?  I have been seeing her for 3 years to help with the impact of the emotional abuse I suffered, it is slowly getting better and I am slowly begining to see the light, some days are better than others.  The waiting list at the NHS therapy services is a good 5 months on average and then they are not trained in specific Domestic Abuse psychology. It takes a long long time to un-pick the patterns of a life-time and when you do get to see somone you are very often only offered six sessions!  I hope that awareness is continued to be raised.

If you need help or know someone who does need help call

Women’s Aid Same number as above 0808 2000 247

The Freedom Programme – Free from Domestic Abuse

I wanted to talk about my last few weeks, spent learning more and more about Domestic Abuse.  I have had experience of both physical and emotional/psychological abuse from childhood and guess what………I took it into my adult life and chose partners who would replicate my younger experiences.  It has taken me so long to make the connection and finally to get the help from a Domestic Abuse Outreach worker who very lovingly and slowly introduced me to what was normal and what was, infact, abuse, my normal.

It does not have to be physical abuse, it can be slow, emotional torture that can erode the soul, bit by tiny bit until you do not know who you are or what day it is or what is right or what is wrong, leaving you with no self esteem and rocking in the corner, that was almost me…….the scars of emotional abuse cut so deeply and erode the soul, this too is abuse, it is emotional abuse and it needs to stop.   Trouble is long after they have left, you are left with all their shit going round and round in your head, unable to break out of it, it becomes a living hell.

It has felt a bit like, actually a lot like re-programming and sometimes I still don’t get it, I have to have examples shown to me, little mini examples show again and again to really begin to get to grips with what is actually normal behaviour.  I have blamed myself, gone back again and again, believed whoever it was that it was all my fault and almost lost my mind.  It is programming and the earlier it happens, the more normal it feels.

The Freedom Programme is set out to slowly take you through the differences in all  aspects of Living with the Dominator is a book about The Freedom Programme that you can get on the website above, it is really insightful. Pat Craven has taken years of experience working in this field and turned it into a programme to help both men and women to break free from years of a cycle of abuse. Unfortunately I have acquired some of the really unpleasant characteristics and have had to have a good hard look at myself as well as looking at the men I have chosen, my relationship with my father, mother and step-mother to mention but a few.  I have been in therapy on and off for years, have had varying different support and still this stuff is so ingrained in my psyche, however, something is shifting.  In the book they also show you examples of what a good partner would do, a kind loving partner, not an unkind one, to me it has really helped me to see things differently and the patterns I have expected to just carry on.

I hope you will get something from it and if you do, please leave a message or e-mail me privately at penny@pennysnowball.com I look forward to hearing from you.

The rest of this video documentary series can be found at http://www.youtube.com/addicts4addicts

If you need support or advice the following details are very helpful.

South West Surrey Domestic Abuse Outreach Service 01483-577392 Mon-Fri

www.womensaid.org.uk and www.hiddenhurt.co.uk

The following books are apparently very good, I have not read any of them but they are available on Amazon or can be ordered in the local library if they do not have them.

Mothering through Domestic Violence; Talking to mum-ages 5-9yrs

Talking about Domestic Abuse – 9+ and When Dad hurts Mom.

I do hope something will help if you need it, I am so grateful for the day I approached the stand during Domestic Abuse week and said ‘can someone please tell me what normal is’.