Wendy and her children left everything they had ever known and moved to Wolverhampton to flee from domestic abuse. She talks to us about how thankful she was for the support she received from The Haven Wolverhampton, and why she walked a marathon to give back.
wenty years ago, I made the hardest but best decision I’ve ever had to make. I left behind everyone and everything I had ever known to start a new life in Wolverhampton driven by a deep need to protect my children from the terror of an abusive relationship. I was at the lowest point in my life and The Haven literally saved me.
For years, I endured the haunting cycle of physical and emotional torment at the hands of my ex-partner. His paranoia and violent outbursts left us in a constant state of fear. There were nights when I barricaded us in, just to provide my children with a fleeting sense of safety, shielding them from the trauma that was consuming our lives. He swore I was hiding another man in the closet. We were a family teetering on the edge. The children were really struggling emotionally and missing a lot of school. As a result, we were referred to social services and I was allocated a family aid worker.
I would go to the meetings with the family aid worker with a visible black eye, yet when she’d ask, I would deny that there were any problems at home. But it was obvious. He had control of my finances, and I was struggling to feed the children and keep them in decent clothing. One day, she insisted that she knew something was wrong and she advised that help was available. She told me that I didn’t have to continue to suffer in silence. I assured her that if I ever felt I needed help I would be in touch.
Lots of women suffer in silence because they don’t know that there are places like The Haven. Some don’t even know they need help. That was the case for me. I excused the behaviour and hoped it will get better but it didn’t. When he realised that I was thinking about leaving, we had a huge argument and he hit me. I can’t remember how long I was unconscious but when I gained consciousness, my youngest daughter was nowhere to be found. He took her away for the weekend without my consent, knowing I would never leave without her. That was the last straw. I contacted my family aid worker and admitted I needed help. She put me in touch with The Haven.
I was offered a space in a refuge, and we arrived with one small bag of mismatched clothing for myself and my three children. I remember how excited they were to play freely in the garden at the refuge on that first day. The Haven provided us with essentials including food, toiletries, and clothing. With their support, the children were enrolled in school very quickly which helped us to get some normalcy and stability back into our lives. Everyone was so kind. I can’t remember names because it was so long ago. But no matter how hard I try to forget that period of my life, the one thing I could never forget was how kind everyone was to me and my children. Along with a safe roof over our heads, I was offered counselling and other forms of therapy including acupuncture. When I was ready, I was also offered legal aid and support to transition to my own private rented accommodation.
I can now proudly say that I am a career woman after three degrees, and my children and grandchildren are settled and thriving. I keep in touch with some of the families I met at The Haven. As traumatic as this period was, I made some good friends and great memories. I have fond memories of being one of two families sent on an all-expenses paid holiday to Butlins. It was our first holiday as a family. I was one of the lucky ones who managed to get out and the support I received from The Haven was invaluable. I don’t think I would even be alive today if it hadn’t been for The Haven. Though I’ve been through a lot, I can say with my hand on my heart I have the best life – a life that I never thought was attainable for me, and till the end of my days, I will be eternally grateful.
Anyone who knows me knows that physical exercise, especially walking, is not something I am keen on. However sometimes in life we just have to push ourselves beyond our limits. The Haven truly put me back on my feet and guided me to my best life, and for a long time, I had been thinking that I needed to do something to give back. That is why I chose to walk a marathon around West Park to raise funds for The Haven, on my 20th anniversary of moving to Wolverhampton. I am excited to be able to contribute to ensuring that The Haven can continue to do the amazing work that they do.
It was a challenge, but I kept myself motivated by focusing on the end goal. I kept telling myself that if I can raise enough money to help a family in the same position as I was twenty years ago, it will be worth every step! The hardest part of the day was at around the 20-mile mark. I started to get blisters on my feet and so with every step my feet were sore and in pain. I wondered why I chose to walk a full marathon. Why didn’t I just say 20 miles? The last six miles were painful, and I didn’t dare stop – not even for a toilet break – because I wouldn’t have been able to get going again! My favourite moment was right at the end when I turned the corner to see a group of family and friends waiting for me and cheering with banners. I felt so emotional and extremely proud that I had accomplished the marathon and exceeded my fundraising target of £1000!