efore coming into the refuge I lived with my mother and young daughter. I had ended the relationship with my daughter’s father and moved in with my mum due to the abuse and violence I suffered from him. I now feel really sad to say that I suffered verbal, emotional and financial abuse from my own mother.
My mother would take out loans and emotionally blackmail me to pay for them. In addition to paying her debts, I felt like I had no choice but to hand over large amounts of my monthly wages to her. After all, she was doing me a favour by allowing my daughter and I to stay with her. I felt obligated. She was a hoarder who would then use the money to purchase unnecessary items for herself.
She would start endless arguments with me, telling me how unfit I am as a mother. I became used to her belittling me and making me feel useless. She would then spread rumours to family members and friends saying I was on drugs and incapable to keep a job or look after my daughter. I am now in piling debt, with bills in arrears because of the large amounts of money she took from me.
A friend of mine whom I confided in encouraged me to seek help and emphasised to me that I was being abused. I struggled with accepting this but living in that environment soon became intolerable. Yet because I was in debt, I could not afford to move to my own place. My friend helped me to get away from the family home and took me to Wolverhampton City Council. The council then referred me to The Haven for temporary accommodation and to receive support from the different services they provide for women.
For the first few days in the refuge, my mother constantly harassed me in the presence of refuge staff and sent me a barrage of insults. Yet I still felt guilty for leaving her and I was very worried about the repercussions. I had to leave my job because it was too far to get to, and I hoped to find work in a more local branch, but they had no vacancies. Three months on, I have been able to adapt to living in refuge. Close friends who lived nearby also support me as best as they can.
I was offered a strengthening family support worker who I work with on a regular basis as my daughter’s behaviour was becoming challenging and I needed the support. I was also offered financial planning and budgeting advice and was referred to a debt expert. I was offered a space on The Haven’s Dolphin Programme which encourages parents and carers to enjoy parenting and get the best out of family life, building healthy boundaries and routines between mother or carer and child. I have also been offered counselling and will be attending The Haven’s Freedom Programme which is more focussed on helping survivors understand abuse and to recognise the signs if they are ever victimised again.
I was back in contact with my mother after I felt stronger and better able to set boundaries and I have agreed for my daughter to see her grandmother. However, my mother’s partner supervises the visits.
I am currently working on being self-sufficient and I am focusing on looking after my daughter. I feel a lot more confident, and I am now aware of the support that is available. I am hoping to eventually settle in a suitable stable accommodation where I can be happy and independent.
Aoife’s name has been changed to protect her identity. Images are for illustration purposes only.