Following the last two years of change and transformation in my life (which I will come to explain at some point in a future post), I attended the first session of the Freedom Programme today.
For those of you who are not aware of what this is and you are unlikely to know unless you have been in certain situations, it’s a 12 week programme for women who are in domestic abusive or violent relationships. It’s also for survivors of such; which is what I class myself as. I am no longer in an abusive situation.
When I arrived at the course, I was surprised at how many women were there. About 30 of us, all sat on chairs in a circle.
I am a bit of a people watcher at times and as I looked around the room, I could see some were nervous, others looked like they didn’t want to be there and some appeared to be quite detached and depressed, understandably.
It’s quite a unique setting when you think about it. A lot of women with this shared experience, coming together in one space, all at different stages of their healing journey.
In society there use to be this perceived societal stigma of the type of women who end up in abusive relationships. I believe people are more aware now that it can happen to anyone, regardless of gender or educational background.
Abuse isn’t always physical which of course is the most obvious.
If someone punches you in the face then you’re going to know about it straightaway but if someone does subtle psycological things to you over a period of time and then makes you feel like you’re wrong for questioning the intention or that you’re making it up (gaslighting), then it’s not as obvious as a physical attack. The abuse is increased over time.
It’s one of those things that slowly creeps up on you and by the time you realise what is going on, it’s often too late and you’re deep in the shit and feeling as though you have no chance of escape.
Abuse can be physical, psychological, emotional, financial, sexual and spiritual.
It’s designed to slowly tear you down over time until you are left as a former shell of the person you once were. No self esteen, no confidence, overwhelmed, anxious and frightened. Not knowing who to trust or who you are anymore. It steals a part of your identity that you have to rebuild again.
Some women in the group today reminded me of different versions of myself at different stages in my life. I’m grateful to be as far as I am in my healing journey as I’ve done a lot of work on myself over the past year.
If you’re reading this and you know someone in an abusive relationship, please do not pressurise them to leave. It doesn’t work. Let them know that you are there for them and that if they do decide to leave. you will support them through it.
If you are reading this and you’re in an abusive relationship, please know that there are organisations out there that can help you. The UK has Womans Aid which is a good one: https://www.womensaid.org.uk/
Abuse can make you feel so alone in this world but know that there is hope and a way out.
Today was upsetting to listen to in parts, especially when different methods of how the abuser might carry out the abuse was described. However, I am looking forward to next week and learning more about how the last 17 years have affected me.