Survivor's Stories

Here are a few stories from the people we have supported over the last few years.  All names and a few specific details have been changed to protect their anonymity.

Sandra’s story
Sandra separated from her partner following domestic abuse.  “He would bite me, throw stuff at me and was very controlling.  He explained that it was because he loved me.  I told him I didn’t like it, that it hurt, but he kept on doing it.  He also started to abuse our son, Ben, who was 2 at the time.  That was the final straw”.

Sandra separated from her partner, who then gained an order from the courts to have contact with Ben despite his abusive behaviour to them both in the past.  Sandra was concerned for the safety and welfare of both herself and Ben.  Sandra’s solicitor told her about Fledgelings, part of SOS Domestic Abuse Projects.  Fledgelings provides supervised contact facilities, allowing children to have safe contact with their absent parent.  Sandra found the staff at Fledgelings to be friendly and helpful.  It ensured that her son’s contact with his father was managed by a member of staff.  Sandra didn’t have to see her ex-partner, and Ben was given the opportunity to get to know his dad. 

Ben’s dad soon returned to his controlling behaviour, and unhappy with the arrangements at Fledgelings he stopped attending contact sessions at the centre.  Ben had expressed that he didn’t like having contact with his dad; and despite concerns regarding Ben’s welfare raised to the court by both Fledgelings staff and Sandra, Ben’s dad was granted unsupervised access to Ben.

Ben, at 5 years old, started to misbehave both at school and at home.  Sandra was at her wits end.  “I could see something was wrong with him.  The school was telling me that he was misbehaving because I was a bad mum.  I sank to rock bottom; I had no where else to turn to.  Social services didn’t want to know, the school didn’t seem to care, and the courts didn’t believe my concerns regarding Ben’s dad.  I contacted the only place I knew I could get help.

“For staff at Fledgelings, nothing was too much trouble.  I explained my difficulties and concerns regarding Ben and they invited me to attend parenting sessions.  The course gave me confidence in my parenting skills.   They gave me ideas about how to deal with various issues and taught me how to see the world through child’s eyes.  I was also able to see that Ben misbehaviour wasn’t my fault.  He was still affected by the abuse that he had experienced at the hands of his dad.  Ben was also diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome, which affects his social communication, interaction and social imagination skills”.

Ben then received one-to-one befriending from a child worker based at SOS’s Dove Project.  “Michelle was excellent; Ben warmed to her at once and really looked forward to their time together.  They would play games, go to the park and chat.  It gave Ben someone else to talk to.  Michelle was able to help him explore his emotions in a child-friendly way.  She has worked wonders with Ben.   I know that I can give her a ring anytime if I have an issue or concern, and she’ll have a chat with me and support me through it.

I’m still affected by my ex-partner; ongoing court orders mean that he still has to be a part of Ben’s life, despite the risk that poses to both myself and Ben.  Thank goodness for the services provided by SOS Domestic Abuse Projects – if it wasn’t for them I fear that I may have only been left with the option of putting Ben into care.  They are the only service that has believed me, stuck by me and is working with me and my family to help us get through this.  Ben is now in a new school who understand and support him.  I am looking to start my own business.  Both myself and Ben have grown closer as a result of support from SOS Domestic Abuse Projects, and I know that although the future isn’t going to be trouble-free, there is someone in Southend who cares.”

Johannah’s story
Johannah’s older brother was already receiving therapy from SOS Domestic Abuse Projects when she was referred by her mum because she had anger problems.  Although only 10 years old, Johannah’s behaviour was spiralling out of control.  She was getting into trouble at school, lashing out at teachers and at home. 

A worker at SOS Domestic Abuse Projects spent time with Johannah, chatting to her and establishing what sort of support was needed.  Johannah soon confided in the worker that she had witnessed her mum being physically and mentally abused by her current partner.  Her mum had been thrown against the wall and had a knife up to her throat.  He also shouted at Johannah and was intensely critical. 

Johannah’s family were referred to the Staying Safe programme run by SOS Domestic Abuse Projects.  Johannah attended the child’s group, and her mum attended the mother’s group. 

Both Johannah and their mum learnt a lot from the group; they were soon able to talk openly to each other and started to become honest with each other.  Soon Johannah shared that she didn’t feel safe in her home and was concerned for her mother’s safety.  Staff at SOS Domestic Abuse Projects were able to carry out safety planning work with both Johannah and her mum; as a result they were able to plan safety strategies and learned to communicate more effectively with each other. 

Johannah’s relationship with her mum has improved greatly.  Through the safety strategy, Johannah feels more comfortable and safe in her own home, and knows that if she has any concerns she can talk to her mum.  Johannah’s mum has been given the opportunity to understand her daughter and their relationship is growing stronger.  Johannah is now better behaved at school and home, having learnt strategies from the group to deal with her anger more effectively.

Jack’s story
Jack hadn’t seen his son for six months when his family was told by the court to attend contact sessions at Fledgelings Child and Family Contact Centre, run by SOS Domestic Abuse Projects.  The relationship between Jack and Sandra, his son’s mother, had broken down; there was a lot of mistrust between them and they were unable to communicate with each other.  Jack’s son Alfie was bearing the brunt of his parent’s difficulties, and was missing out on getting to know his dad.

Fledgelings provided the opportunity for Jack to get to know his son.  He was able to meet with Alfie in the Centre and play with the toys on offer together.  Staff at the Centre were also able to provide both Jack and Sandra with parenting support; giving them advice and practical assistance.  Sandra began to understand the importance of Jack in her son’s life.  Alfie started to look forward to sessions because they enabled him to get to know his dad.

Both Jack and Sandra are now working together to ensure that Alfie can spend time with both his mum and dad, getting the best of both worlds.  They also plan to attend Parents Information Programme run by SOS, which will enable them to recognise the importance of each other in their son’s life and will encourage them to work together as parents.  After 5 months of support, we are confident that this family will be able to work together in the best interests of their son. 

Samantha’s story
Samantha, aged 15, was referred to SOS Domestic Abuse Projects’ Children’s Services by her school, who were concerned about her welfare.  It became evident that Samantha was suffering from abuse at the hands of her violent father.  Although her father was removed from her home, Samantha was still affected by what she was subjected to.  This was causing her to miss lessons; she was often unable to concentrate in class and she didn’t take any pride in her appearance.  The pastoral workers had received concerns from members of staff regarding Samantha’s attitude and her general welfare.  They were unsure of what to do so they contacted SOS Domestic Abuse Projects.

SOS Domestic Abuse Projects met with Samantha at the school to ascertain her needs and provided her with one-to-one support and guidance over a period of six months.  The Community Worker from SOS helped Samantha to tackle the root causes of her abuse, and took her through strategies to deal with her anger and lack of self-esteem. 

The school commented “The change in Samantha since her visits with Michelle has been very noticeable.  Her appearance has greatly improved... She no longer wanders the corridors and seems to be working well in lessons.  Samantha continues to be amiable and polite and I have not had any emails from staff to the contrary.”

SOS Domestic Abuse Projects helped Samantha to become happy and confident.  By managing her anger Samantha was able to stay in lessons; she left school the following year with confidence, friends and with the dream to work with animals.