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Service Users Stories

I was a victim of domestic abuse for 10 years before I called the Pathway Project. I was struggling with three young children, and had just received the devastating news that I had breast cancer.
I made the call and was put in touch with one of the outreach support workers who listened to my story and helped me to see that I had options. Within a week, my children and I were moved into a women’s refuge and the process of rebuilding my life began.
My support worker drove me over 30 miles to have radiotherapy, came to solicitors appointments and helped to sort my finances. She also helped me to cope emotionally with the stress of what was one of the darkest times of my life.
With Pathways help, I have now moved out of the refuge and into my new property with my children and we are now looking forward to a future that I could never have imaged 12 month ago – I will always look back on Pathway as the place that gave me my life back.

I was put in touch with the Pathway Project 2 years ago (by the police after my husband’s incarceration) as I was being threatened by associates of my abusive husband. They were wonderfully supportive at the lowest point in my life…My husband was physically, sexually, financially & mentally abusive. I lived in constant torment of what he would do next. This abuse had been ongoing for 20years before I became involved with Pathway.
I had no support from any of the ‘normal channels’ and thoughts of taking my own life loomed large. I cannot express enough my gratitude for the constant support, encouragement & actual help given, especially my allocated support worker. She has seen me through some of my darkest days.

I was first referred to pathway in November 2009 when I reported my ex-partner to the police after suffering abuse for over 2 years. I had a young baby at the time and knew I had to get her away from this situation we were living in. I was appointed an IDVA who got me through the toughest times and looking back I can honestly say saved my life in so many ways. She first took me to a solicitor who helped me get emergency orders in place for my daughter, she then helped me prepare for court and took me there to have them finalised. She helped me with my legal aid and also to get further orders to get my daughter and I moved back into the flat we had been forced to leave and ones to ensure we were safe. She approached the police and landlord to ensure we had extra security such as window locks and new locks on the doors. When a further incident occurred she was there to support me again. I didn’t need to feel foolish or embarrassed that id allowed my abuser back into my home. She understood. She knew how these people work. And she didn’t think I was stupid like i thought people would think. She helped me to understand the situation I was in. She believed me and helped me gather the strength to know I would never go back again. She sat with me for hours and hours on end with nothing to eat in a waiting room at crown court as my case was delayed for hours. She kept me strong that day like she had built me to be and hugged me when it was all over. Without the support of pathway I don’t think I would still be here. I definitely could never have moved on as i did. I couldn’t have been the best mum i could be to my daughter. My daughter is now almost 11. I am married to a wonderful man. My daughter is adopted by him and we have another daughter who is 5 and a baby son. Life is good. If someone had told me this back then i wouldn’t have believed them. I didn’t think I was strong enough to get away and stay away but with the support I received through pathway I did it and I have a life I only would have dreamed of back then.

I came to pathway project over 20 years ago. From the very 1st phone call I made to you I felt so much better. After a few phone calls my 2 children and I were taken into your refuge. The help I got during my time with you was second to none. Everyone was amazing!  I had counselling from you and learned so much – it definitely made me the person I am today.  My son was too young to remember, but my daughter remembers it all.
I will never ever forget how amazing you all were. Years later myself and my daughter volunteered at our local dv forum, which unfortunately is no longer there.
I can never thank pathway project enough, every single one of the team.

Slowly slowly I was losing the battle of life

Slowly slowly it’s like someone stabbing my heart with a knife

Slowly slowly I gave up the fight

Slowly slowly my tunnel was losing its light

Slowly slowly I had no strength left within me

Slowly slowly I was failing miserably

Slowly slowly the paint was chipping away at my heart

Slowly slowly everything was falling apart

Slowly slowly I was distancing myself

Slowly slowly I admit I need help

Pathway were around

When there was no one else to be found.

 

Pathway were around

When I felt there was no one else that could understand.

 

Pathway were around

When I felt like there was no one else to help hold my hand.

 

Pathway were around

When I felt I couldn’t live another moment in this land.

 

Pathway were around

When I felt like giving up.

 

Pathway were around

When life ended up feeling too much.

 

Pathway were around

When life got too grim.

 

Pathway were around

That gave me hope and always will.

When you are in an abusive relationship you feel that you are the only one who knows what is happening to you. You are made to feel that is it your fault, that you are the one who is in the wrong… no one should suffer like this, you feel lost and alone. You try everything to ty and protect your children but if your partner is an abuser than you stand alone. This makes you feel even more pathetic, stupid and a failure. How can this happen to me? I’m supposed to be the strong one…because I’m a man.

I was in an abusive relationship for 14 years; my ex abused me and my children. However when I tried to tell people what my ex was doing no-one believed me.
How can a mother do that to her children? She was also very convincing, even my family didn’t understand what was happening to me. In the end my ex absconded with my children, wouldn’t let me know where they were going. She removed them from the school and enrolled them into a new school. She lied to both schools saying that I gave my permission. I tried to get help to stop my children being taken away as I knew I would never see the again.
My ex’s reason for her leaving? I was the abuser, I was the one who was violent, angry, and aggressive…. she was believed. I was alone and very scared.

The first time I made a call to Pathways I was believed. It didn’t matter I was a man; I was treated like a person who needed help, a person who needed to be listened to and believed. I will never forget the first time I sat down and talked to Charlie and Wendy, I sat there feeling a fool and a failure. I told my story, they sat and listened. They didn’t judge, they understood.
I received support and advice I will never forget when Charlie said “we believe you”.

Unfortunately my ex has continued her abuse but the only weapon left for her to deploy on me is my children and she has used them in such a callous, horrible way. Throughout all this Pathways has been there. It doesn’t matter is if it 8pm at night I’ve received calls from Charlie and Wendy picking me up when my ex has knocked me down. The advice and support has been incredible. Whenever I’ve needed help they have been there, they have followed my story and understood what is needed. I’ve never been a case number, I’ve never had to call when I’ve had a problem and give my reference number and wait for the person on the end of the phone to read the case notes. When I’ve called with a problem and I am in desperate need of support Charlie and Wendy have never read from a script. They instantly know the back ground and understand what I am going through.

Pathways have given me the strength to be able to carry on and protect my children. My ex used to scream at me and push and punch me “GO ON BE A MAN, MAN UP!!!” I still don’t know what she means by Man Up. I always did the right thing and I ended up worse off, which can be horribly confusing. Again it was Pathways that helped me. They have been there when I have needed them, picked me up and dusted me down. Told me that I haven’t done anything wrong, given me a way to look forward, to deal with the unfairness and poor hand I have been felt buy the system. It’s hard for men who have been abused; it’s hard for anyone who has been abused. How can this happen to me? Why has this happened?
All these questions can go through your mind when you are sitting looking at pictures of your kids wondering if you will ever see them again. If it wasn’t for the help, support, advice and understating from Charlie and Wendy I would not be in the position I am now for my next court date….I simply wouldn’t be here. Writing this I have struggled to find the right words to really express how I felt. In honesty during all the abuse I’ve struggled to really express how I was feeling. The one word I keep coming back to is “impotent” lacking in power and strength.
Pathways gave me the strength to be able to defend myself, to put my guard up and keep going past all the abuse and fight for my future, for my children’s future and to forge a life full of love and happiness with the people I love.

Sadly my story is not unique but hopefully one day, with the support of charities such as Pathway Project, it may become less common.

I met my ex Husband in 2014 through work. It was a chance meeting as we lived miles apart but a work event meant that our paths crossed and he made a beeline for me instantly. When we all went out that evening, he was overwhelmingly complimentary. I now understand this to be “love bombing”. Back then, the attention was exactly what I needed and I had no idea that such a term even existed.

He was attractive and intelligent although not my usual type as he was also loud and carried a definite level of arrogance. He was also engaged! (he made up an excuse as to why he had proposed to his “psycho” partner and I foolishly believed him) That night we talked and he asked for my number to which I said No. He made it his mission to get my personal number for the next couple of weeks, emailing me continuously on my work phone until I gave in and let him have my number.

Everything after that moved incredibly quickly. He ended his relationship with his fiancé in the November and by the February I’d left my job and moved up North. The relationship was intense. He put me on a pedestal and made me believe that he absolutely adored me. He proposed to me in the June. I was later told that he was cheating on me with various other girls but if I’d have been told that at the time I would have never believed it. He seemed obsessed with me. Looking back now, I realise that this is not a good state for a healthy relationship, but I guess I loved that I could make somebody so happy by seemingly, just being me!

I now see that there were definite red flags during this time, but the good outweighed the bad and I think that I misconstrued Control, for what I thought was Protection. He became jealous very quickly into the relationship, but told me it was because he felt that he was punching above his weight. The long conversations about our lives that we used to have could no longer happen as he didn’t like me talking about places id been or things that I’d done as he assumed that I would have been with my ex at that time. I couldn’t comment about an actor on TV being attractive as he would snap and I had to refer to “sex” as “rudies” as if I called it sex he would fall out with me, saying that sex was something you did with anybody!. If I didn’t sign off each and every text message with 3 hearts and 5 kisses, this would also warrant a fall out. He thought I had too many friends and advised me to “Cull” them. He would look at my phone and social media. There was Gas lighting at every turn.

Despite this, when he was good, he was great. A few months after I moved in with him, he was offered a job in Staffordshire so we moved back. In hindsight, I realise that I was fortunate that this happened so that I could be close to friends and family. We got a puppy, bought a gorgeous new home, he was offered another new great job and we were planning our wedding. I know now that it was not me that made him happy. New things made him happy and that happiness was short lived.

After we moved, he started to blame me for us moving (despite the fact that we moved back for his job). This is when the silent treatment began.

As somebody that wears their heart of their sleeve, I found the silent treatment incredibly unnerving. It would last hours, he would look angry and would stare at me whist I was begging him to tell me what was wrong….but he wouldn’t say a word. By this point in our relationship, I would have to think about what to talk to him about before I spoke. If I asked him about his family, he’d get

frustrated and tell me to talk to him about something that interested him. If I talked about my friends, he didn’t want to know as he didn’t get to know any of them. The few that he’d met he had been overtly loud and rude to, so I didn’t invite them round. He would blame me for not giving him enough attention and then spend hours locked in the bathroom ignoring me, only to start up an argument in the middle of the night, accusing me of not loving him enough as I’d had the audacity to go to sleep. This cycle got progressively worse and more frequent.

We got married abroad, just the two of us. We also conceived our son whilst on honeymoon. To outsiders, my life couldn’t be more perfect – Great guy, wonderful house, well paid jobs and now a baby on the way after what seemed to be the dream wedding,

Sex was a big a trigger for him. If I dared to say No, I would get the silent treatment and subsequently the blame. I quickly realised that it made my life easier to say Yes and be compliant.

After we got married and I fell pregnant, it was as though a booster switch had been flicked and the abuse escalated quickly. I now understand that this is more common than you might think as I was vulnerable but at the time, I simply couldn’t understand it. I just knew that I quickly began to feel “trapped”.

I was walking on egg shells, not really knowing what mood he would be in from day to day or what I could say that would appease this mood. He blamed me for the stress that he felt at work as we had a large house to pay for. I told him that I was happy to downsize and he could take a less stressful job. His reply was that he wouldn’t be with a woman who only aspired to living in a 3 bed house. There was no winning and I realise now that there is no point trying to win with a Narcissist. All I offered to his game was wasted energy and he thrived from the supply.

We fell out a lot by this point. He stayed over on “work trips” more frequently. I suggested that we separate for the sake of our unborn child. He would apologise for his behaviour if he could see that I was serious about separating, things would change for a few days, and then he would revert to type. The pressure for sex was constant, even whilst heavily pregnant but I went along with it.

I gave birth to my Son in May 2017 – he will be 3 years old in a week. My ex appeared to make the perfect Father to the outside world. My birth was not the best. I was cut, stitched, haemorrhaged and was put on drip. My ex didn’t want to be in the hospital so after the first night so told me to discharge myself, which I did.

After a few days he came back home with a gift for me…. Underwear from Ann Summers to “make me feel more like a woman”. Inside I was horrified! I was still bleeding heavily and completely sleep deprived from having a newborn but he wanted sex shorty after which I agreed too reluctantly, knowing that I didn’t have the energy for the fallout if I refused him. After a couple more weeks, “regular” sex wasn’t enough and he wanted to do other things that I refused to. After weeks of harassment, and me refusing to comply, he raped me with our son in the bedroom at just 8 weeks old. What everybody should be aware of is that Rape does not always happen in the way that we may see on TV. I had said No to the sexual act that he wanted many times, as it was too painful. But saying No to him wasn’t an option! He tried to guilt me into agreeing – accusing me of not loving him enough. He gave me an ultimatum – he wouldn’t have agreed to “regular” sex anymore if I didn’t do as he wanted. He threatened me – saying that he would leave me and take our baby with him. He

told me I would only be able to see him every other weekend if I was lucky. I remember that I was feeding my son at the point that he said this and it absolutely floored me. He baited me – accusing me of cheating on him (which I had never done) and demanded to know whether I had performed this particular sexual act with the guy in question. He became angry, demanding I tell him. Sat in a pitch black room in the middle of the night, he then shone the torch light from his phone in my face until I answered hm. He became angrier and, walked into our bedroom where our baby was sleeping and blocked the door so that I couldn’t get in. Crying on my knees outside the door, I begged him to let me in and I would do as he pleased. The ordeal had lasted hours and I was petrified for the safety of my baby boy in the room with him. I remember thinking, I need to do whatever is needed to make this ordeal stop and protect my baby. He finally let me in and did what he did, then rolled over and went to sleep whilst I was left bleeding.

I knew that what he’d done was horrific, and I broke down and told my two best friend’s days after. They took me straight to the police station to report it and that’s when I was referred to Pathways. I was still very much in denial and looking back, I should have prosecuted but the denial took over. It has taken me a long time to acknowledge that what he did was Rape. The police told me. Pathways told me. My GP told me, but to say it out loud somehow changed things. I felt changed.

I left my ex a couple of weeks after. He was seemingly heartbroken, threatened suicide, called an ambulance, told me he was depressed, promised to go to counselling, He blamed his childhood. He blamed his parents. He blamed the loss of a family member that had sadly passed 10 years earlier. Every old trick in the book! He told me that he had done it as a way to “Punish” me for not going for a night away with him to see his friend (what ??!) Everything and anything he said to ensure that he was in no way accountable. I went back to him after a week or so and guess what….nothing changed. In fact, it got worse. I put up with it for another 5 months at which point I made the decision to leave as I could not take the emotional and sexual abuse anymore and I was adamant that I did not want my Son to grow up seeing his Father treat his Mother that way. I wasted a lot of time wondering why my Ex was like what he was like, but I have since realised that it was simply an unpalatable fact that I needed to accept in order for me to move on. There is no understanding a Narcissist and the emotional whiplash that comes with trying to understand them is too painful.

It’s easy for people to judge somebody in an abusive relationship and criticize them for not just leaving! It simply isn’t that easy. I was fortunate in that I recognised my ex’s behaviour as appalling and toxic quite early on. Although it gradually wore away my confidence, it also wore away my love for him. Leaving him was not hard as I was no longer in love with him….but leaving a Narcissist whom you share a child with is a whole different ball game. The harassment and coercion continued for a long while after we split and I had to involve the police again almost a year after as handovers had become unmanageable. The threats for 50/50 custody unless I returned to the relationship were endless – despite the fact that he moved a new partner into our marital home only a month or so after I left!

There were definitely times that I felt it would be “easier” to go back. For a start, I missed, and still miss my Son terribly when he is with his Father. For the first time in a long time though, I listened to my heart and I knew that there was no going back. There are still hard days and ongoing problems, but they lessen by the day. I continue to work on myself and my mental health for the sake of my Son as I want to be the best Mother to him that I can be. I have researched Narcissistic Personality

Syndrome extensively, arming myself with knowledge and this has helped me to cope with Parallel Parenting (my experience has led me to believe that co-parenting is not an option with this type of person!).

Pathways supported me extensively throughout what was the most challenging time of my life and for that I am so grateful. There is a well-known saying “You don’t drown by falling into water. You drown by staying there”.

I recognise now that I have nothing to be ashamed of. It was not my fault. Abusers don’t need you to make excuses for their behaviour – they are exceptional at justifying it all by themselves.

I have since met a wonderful partner who will always remind me that “just because somebody says something, it doesn’t make it true”. I always try to bare this mind whenever it’s needed. Psychological abuse wears you down and makes you question your own judgement, so to understand this is important.

If I could offer any advice at all it would be to Trust in You. Speak your truth and please seek help and advice if you feel that you need it.

You have a choice and you are not alone.

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