Single mum Dani talks about her experience of leaving an abusive relationship, and her advice for those who find themselves in a similar situation.
In February 2012, my daughter was 5 months old. Her Dad was violent and manipulative, with a functional alcohol problem and serious addiction to cannabis. He had been this way with me since I was six weeks pregnant. He had lots of opportunity to change his behaviour and be the partner and father he claimed he wanted to be, but nothing was changing, and I had realised there was no way on this earth I wanted my daughter to grow up thinking this was how Daddy’s treated Mummy’s.
I made a statement to the police one Friday night in February, tired of his behaviour, embarrassed that my parents were not only being dragged into this real life, live action nightmare but also terribly ashamed to know that my Dad was besides himself every week, expecting that call. The police were professional and supportive, gently explaining to me that given the fact that there was a baby in this house it was their duty to refer us to social care.
I was not frightened by this, and urge you not to be should you find yourself in this horrific scenario. You are not the one committing the abuses, they want to help you protect your child.
By this point I had already taken myself to my GP declaring that I was tired of my partner telling me I was depressed, and post-natal depression was the problem not him or his behaviour, in response to my appeals for change.
I am a health care professional myself, which is probably why I had absolutely no fear about doing this. I gave my full permission for the GP to speak with anyone she felt could help us navigate our way through this storm.
Consequently, I received fantastic support from my Health Visitor and my GP. I was placed on a high alert list at the practice, which meant if I phoned for an appointment I was given one within a few days. I had extra support visits from my Health Visitor and ultimately, when the time came this official professional documentation supported me at family court when my ex-partner and his solicitor attempted to claim none of this ever happened and I lied to the police.
By the time a social worker rang me to find out how me and daughter were and how I was planning to move forward, my parents and I had decided it was time for us to get out of there. We moved in with my parents and my brother. Which put on strain on everyone, it must be said, my parent’s bedroom was the only one big enough to fit my daughter’s cot in, so my parents moved into the spare room, my Mum in the single bed and my Dad who worked six days a week, slept on a mattress on the floor, but we stayed there until the week before my daughters second birthday, when we moved into our own home. It was better, my Dad said, to know we were safe.
The social worker was pleased with this decision – it meant I was putting my daughter first and protecting her. If I hadn’t already made that choice, they would have needed to intervene, make a visit to us, assess the risk. Later, I would call them to ask advice on how best to make sure I was doing everything I could to facilitate contact between my daughter and her Dad safely. I only found them to be supportive and professional.
It has been a long road since that February, I went back to work 19 hours a week just before my daughters first birthday. Although I looked forward to going to work, a chance to think about something else, and working in a different town to the one I live in was a grand escape, some mornings I would have to pull over because I was crying so much I could hardly see where I was going. I always knew I was better off, my daughter was better off, than when we lived as a family.
It used to make me sad and embarrassed that my daughter won’t ever remember her parents being together, but why the hell would I want her to remember the circumstances we were in? Now, I’m glad, in fact, I am elated she will not remember.
What I would like to say to you is, if you are experiencing anything similar to the events and emotions described here: it is true what they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. You do not know what are capable of surviving until you have no other option, and all those other clichés.
Please, do not fear any agency who can help you and protect your child, move forward and be safe. I had a fabulous Women’s Aid outreach worker, who gave me every support possible. Including introducing me to the Freedom Programme.
It does get better – eventually your ex-partner must realise it is absolutely unacceptable to continue this pattern of behaviour if they wish to maintain a relationship with your child/children and things do change.
Now in 2018, my daughter sees her Dad overnight every Tuesday and every other Saturday. If you had told me in 2013 he would have been capable of my trust to care for her OVERNIGHT I would not have believed you. What’s more, on his Saturdays he collects her from me at my house without any aggravation.
He too, has moved onto a new relationship, with a lady who is a lovely friend to my daughter. I can not comment on their relationship beyond the fact I know, confidently my daughter is safe when she is there.
Keep your chin up.