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This project is funded by The Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit.
This project is funded by The Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit.
My life was perfect, I had the perfect life; an amazing career in care, a doting husband, beautiful children, and a lovely home; and just like that it all fell apart.
My husband and I were great for a long time but over time things started deteriorating. It started by small arguments here and there. Then it went to constant fighting, shouting, and yelling at one another. He started to make me feel worthless, he told me I was ugly, and no one would want me, and I should consider myself lucky that he was there for me. I tried to put up with it for a while but slowly it ate away at me. Then I found out he cheated on me, I started not to care about him; but I had to stay there for the sake of my kids.
So, I started going out and realised that there were guys out there who were interested in me and told me I was beautiful. Men were telling me all the right things to make me feel great again, so I started seeing one guy, then another and then the next. Partying and meeting new guys became a type of routine, every weekend. I started to notice things slipping at work, I felt my relationship slip away, my children wanted to spend less and less time with me. But I would go from one party to another party and find solace in someone else’s arms.
Eventually my husband had had enough, and he told me I had to leave, and although I saw it coming, the worst thing was having nowhere to go. I did not have plan B, so I had to leave my children with my now ex-husband. So, I ended up on a random guy’s sofas for a while. I was struggling but tried to keep a brave face. Then my ex-husband took me to court and was awarded full custody based on my so-called promiscuity, double standards. Losing my husband was hard but I expected this from when I found out about his first encounter of infidelity. But I had lost the most important thing in my life, my children. I was broken emotionally and mentally; my heart was taken away from me. Not much else matter now.
The one thing that was keeping me going was my career, what happened next was something I did not expect – I was fired. I kept on making silly mistakes at work, not turning up to work and when I was, I was late or not fully there from seeking validation from men or partying.
Now there was nothing left of my former life. I went from one ‘relationship’ to another; they did not last very long, a couple of weeks- at most couple of months and then on to the next.
My last relationship was the worst, I was used to these men treating me like I was disposable, and I was just there temporarily until they were bored; I remember just numbness, no feeling. The last relationship gave me a wakeup call, my ex-partner started abusing me physically. As with everything like this, it happened slowly but it escalated very quickly. He tried to be discrete in the beginning but eventually even he did not care where, and I was expected to make up excuses or just stay in the house, so no one noticed. I started to abuse drugs when I started to feel pain as I realised feeling numb worked for me.
One day after a particularly rough day with my ex-partner, I waited for him to go to work and decided enough was enough. I cooked my favourite food, bought my favourite wine, and overdosed on medication; I knew putting an end this nightmare would make me free again. As luck would have it, my ex came back early and found me. I was taken to hospital and I am not sure what it was, but I ended up telling the nurse what I was going through. I am still not sure what made me do it.
The nurse did a safeguarding referral. A part of me was hoping she did and the other was scared, my ex-partner was not going to take this lightly. He was going to retaliate. And he did. I was placed in a shared home, which was not a great place, but I had my own room. My ex-partner found me and told me I must go back to him otherwise I would not like the consequences. He kept scaring me, I felt I had nowhere to turn and so many things in my life that were; this was also an issue. I was abusing drugs and drinking to cope on a regular basis. My keyworker at the place I was staying learnt of my ex-partner and said I had to move – again! My only solace was my ex-partner was given a restraining order. I was safe – for now.
I was moved to Mary Seacole Housing. When I arrived, I met my keyworker; my understanding was they were there to support you with your basic needs – room, benefits and complaints. I was quite shocked when this keyworker at Mary Seacole Housing, came to ‘settle me in’ to the house. This place felt homely, there were only a few ladies there. It did not really matter as I knew, I would have to move again, and I would not spend too much time there.
The place was nice, but I still felt empty, so I went back to doing what worked for me previously, partying and finding men to validate me. However, this time there was one difference, every time I went out, the keyworker would be there in my ear. It was so annoying, she slowly started to get in my head; about my ‘unsafe practices’ and how there was another way. The constant talks compelled me to think.
Suddenly the unexpected happened, I was raped by a man I knew! I was so shocked, he claimed to be my friend. My keyworker rang me as she always did to check on me and I told her I needed to see her- she was the only person in my life I now trusted. She came right away, I told her what happened. She was so supportive, listened, did not judge me and reported it to the Police.
She then focused all her energy to making me feel like I mattered, I was valuable and no matter how hard I pushed, she would still be there to pick up the pieces. She helped me talk through my choices, my behaviours- and why.
My keyworker helped me with aspects of my life, my risky behaviour, my substance misuse, my lack of support network, my lack of self-esteem; if she could not provide the support, she knew someone who could and supported me every step of the way, even came with me to my appointments.
My keyworker never gave up on me, she helped visualise something I had stop thinking about; what do I want? Her passion must have rubbed off on me, I wanted things to change, I wanted some of my old life back.
She managed to keep me busy in the initial stages after the rape and slowly but surely, I stared to feel like the me, before the drinking/partying. I told my keyworker I wanted to get my career back. She made a plan with me, this included me proving I was managing with my life, I was engaging with the drugs/alcohol recovery workers, spoke to my counsellors and when she was convinced I was; made a plan to get me a job. She worked with me to make CV, helped me find courses in house at MSHA to help with getting a job, such as first aid. She prepped me for interviews and then it happened! I got a job! I was successful in becoming a care worker supporting the elderly in the community.
This was my turning point, for the first time since leaving my ex-husbands life I felt safe. First time since my early teens, I felt a sense of worth. I did not need to use alcohol as a crutch anymore, this month marks the anniversary of a year of sobriety and my keyworker has worked with me to complete a housing application. But the best part of it all is, through the support network that I have developed at MSHA, my ex-husband has started to allow me to have contact with my children. I am now able to see them every weekend and talk to them daily – I have my heart back!
Mary Seacole Housing decided to use a method called co-production when designing and developing the Information Against Exploitation booklet. This method was used as we wanted to gain the best information and make sure that the booklet is appealing to the correct target group.
Research has shown that co-produced services and projects have a higher success rate and have the best impact on the target groups. This is because you gain the best information and results as you get shared expertise from professionals and the knowledge and expertise from people with lived experience.
Mary Seacole Housing safeguarding lead was present at all workshops, and was available to support anyone who attended training and needed support with sensitive topics discussed. Contact detail for support agencies were also available for all participants that attended the workshops, these were provided in case the topics that were discussed in the workshop triggered any historic memories.
Mary Seacole Housing decided to hold five workshops for both professionals and people with lived experiences. The aim of these workshops were to decide what information will be going into the booklet and to find the best design for the booklet. Each workshop contained 10 to 20 people and lasted up to four hours. In between each workshop session MSHA staff would work on the booklet alongside professionals and people with lived experience.
The aim of the workshops was to choose a design for the booklet and looked closely at the layout, colours, images and texts that should be used. The workshop also looked at what content should go into the booklet, case studies were written for the booklet, research was done to find exploitation information and legal rights for the booklet.
There were a number of different learning methods and ways used to gain information in each session such as, exploitation training sessions, training on different types of rights in the UK, group discussions, one to one discussions, research sessions, group activity sessions and role play. We decided to use a different range of methods to ensure all learning styles were met and all participants in the workshop were able to get involved in all aspects of the project.