Reaching out to Women’s Aid isn’t always easy but it changed my life-Natalie Curtis

  • Major Glass and Glazing

Havering’s Natalie Curtis is a Proud Survivor Ambassador with Women’s Aid. She fled a violent and manipulative relationship with nothing but the clothes on her back. Today she writes in the Havering Daily.

Making the call to Women’s Aid talking to a stranger about my life was by no means easy. 

From my first appointment with Havering Women’s aid I knew that my life was about to head in the right direction, although I was scared, upset and talking to a case worker that I have never met  before and ready to talk openly about my experience of domestic abuse, I was ready to live free from abuse, I deserved to live a happy normal life, I repeatedly told myself. 

Talking to my case worker was made easy by not being judged, being listened to and her understanding of my experience of domestic abuse and importantly I was believed, when your experiencing domestic abuse, you can’t process normal day to day life, it’s exhausting constantly living in fear, walking on egg shells, just before I fled with the clothes on my back I thought I was going insane, that I was the one who had issues and that’s what my ex perpetrator constantly told me. The abuse was chipping away at me, my confidence, my self-esteem, “ you are a waste of space” “you are useless” “you will never find someone who loves you like I do” “you are mental – you need medication” If I cried I was told “ stop crying you are making me more angry” If I never showed emotion because I was petrified I was told I don’t care about our relationship” If my ex preparator thought I was going to leave, I was told “I’m going to Kill myself and it’s your fault”

I walked in broken but as my journey continues, I have managed with Havering Women’s Aid support to rebuild my life, a life that is free from abuse. 

By no means is the journey easy but it’s possible, it’s liberating that I can make my own choices in life.

The last thing I wrote before contacting the police was “various times I go to call 999 in fear of my life, I just have not had the strength to do it, I know it will come one day” 

That day arrived I told no one prior, although friends and family knew something serious was going on in my life because I was a former shadow of myself, I always made excuses for my ex perpetrator’s behaviour and went back several times before. 

Just before I fled in fear of my life at the end of June 2018 my ex preparator told me that a double suicide is all that is left in life for us, those words shattered me, I could not continue living like this any longer, I started to write a diary on my phone, because I could not process anything the brain fog and my memory was so confusing, a diary that I never remembered writing until I contacted Essex Police.

I called 101 (non-emergency police line) asking to report domestic abuse, I was asked by the operator what exactly is happening my reply “I don’t want to be another statistic” Very soon after I was contact by the Domestic Abuse team from Essex Police. 

I remember meeting the officer and he asked me about a diary, it was then I looked through my phone and there it was, a horrendous account of my life with dates and also video’s I had recorded. The support I had from the Police was incredible but most importantly they had specific Domestic Abuse training, to have a team of officers that were trained and aware of this devastating crime made my experience in reporting so much easier to explain. 

It has also had a huge impact on my family and friends, I’m so thankful for their constant support. 

This time there was no going back, it was time to rebuild my life, I constantly thought about running away, being homeless because I never wanted to put my problems on to family/friends, I was suffering from depression and anxiety, I was so ill, I even thought about walking into A&E asking for help but what would I say? I can’t tell you exactly what is wrong, but my whole-body fills like giving up?! How do I describe the pain and fear that is within?

I built up my strength slowly, day by day, reflecting now there was several reasons I found the strength to leave,one of them being I found out I was going to be an auntie, I was so happy and then I found out it was a little girl, it gave me a purpose to keep going. 

I experienced many forms of Domestic Abuse including physical, emotional, financial and psychological. Some of the abuse starts off subtle, if you’re scared of your partner, if they are constantly chipping away at your self-esteem, controlling you, isolating you, if you have that gut feeling that something is not right, please trust it. It’s repeated patterns of behaviour, you deserve to live an abuse free life and help and support is available to you. 

I was prepared to start again, rebuild my life, material things can be replaced in the future I reminded myself every day, my health and wellbeing is now my top priority. I was in over £80k of debt when I fled due to the financial abuse I experienced; I went from being on such a tight budget having to borrow diesel money for work to now saving for my own property. 

Now I work alongside Women’s Aid as a Survivor Ambassador it has given me incredible opportunities to help educate and gain confidence in sharing my experience 

To know I have helped others who are experiencing Domestic Abuse was my only reason for me to speak out publicly. I wanted to help other victims and survivors know they are not alone. 

Essex Police gave me the details for Women’s Aid, I honestly never knew that charities like Women’s aid even existed. I’m so glad I do, at every opportunity I sign post and positively talk about the support I have had. 

I can’t thank Women’s Aid enough; they are my angels. 

Controlling & Coercive Behaviour 

My ex perpetrator was sentenced in October 2018 to a 2 year prison sentence and an indefinite restraining order for Controlling & Coercive Behaviour. 

At the absolute heart of Domestic Abuse sits Controlling and Coercive Behaviour, everyone experiences different behaviours and different levels, but the fundamentals are text book. 

It’s not acceptable to live in fear of your life and there is never an excuse for this behaviour, ever. It’s does not get better, it gets worse.

Law definition: Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality. 

This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse: psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional.” 

Havering Women’s Aid (HWA):

HWA – 01708 728759 – Are a charity supporting victims of domestic abuse. Our aim is to empower victims and keep them safe from harm.

Mendas – 01708 397974 – A Specialist service for male victims of domestic violence and abuse who work or live in Havering.

Website https://haveringwomensaid.co.uk/

Vicki – HWA said During the Pandemic, it was difficult for people to make contact with us and since we came out of the first lockdown we have had an increase in cases. 

We have been fortunate enough to get some funding to support people during this time. 

All our services have remained open throughout, we have just needed to adapt to the restrictions; we arecurrently supporting clients over the phone rather than face-to-face at the moment.  

We are delivering the Freedom programme and Empowerment course via zoom and counselling is up and running also. 

Women’s Aid provide a lifesaving and life changing service, funding is vital for them to be able to continue their services.

For more information on Women’s aid please visit  https://www.womensaid.org.uk/

Women’s Aid live chat service – hours are Monday to Friday 10:00am – 4:00pm, Saturday and Sunday 10:00am-12:00pm – The Live chat service was launched in October 2019. 

On the Day first day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, 

Which runs from 25th November to 10th December This Time It’s Forever by Coronation Street actor Ian Bartholomew, dedicated to survivors of domestic abuse, is now available for downloading and streaming due to popular demand.  Our aim is to raise vital funds for Women’s Aid and get the song into the charts, this song is so powerful and emotional I’m proud to be a part of it.  

https://slinky.to/ThisTimeItsForever

EIDA – Employers initiative on Domestic Abusehttps://www.eida.org.uk/

Domestic Abuse is all our business

I’m also an active member of EIDA. 

Does your Employer know what to do if an employee discloses they are or have experienced Domestic Abuse? 

We are a growing network of large and small businesses. Our mission is to enable employers to take action on domestic abuse – raising awareness among all employees, supporting those facing domestic abuse, and providing access to services to help perpetrators to stop.

When employers demonstrate that they are aware of domestic abuse and make staff aware of the services that are available, this can help to reduce the wall of silence about domestic abuse that prevents many from seeking help. 

Many employers are already taking action in their organisations – for example developing policies on domestic abuse, raising awareness amongst employees, training senior staff, managers and ambassadors on how to identify those who may need help, and offering direct help or signposting to where it can be found.

Only through greater awareness, relationship building and the sharing of best practice can we make a systematic change to the way domestic abuse is handled in the UK, and we believe that every one of our members plays an important part in that.

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