“Whatever happened tonight, we knew they were in a safe place” – a mother’s view
The mother of a survivor opens up about supporting her daughter to rebuild her life free from domestic abuse and how a Women’s Aid refuge gave the family peace of mind that her daughter and grandchild were in a safe place…
You watch your children playing and wonder what the future holds for them. You have hopes and dreams that their life will be better than yours. That they will learn from the mistakes you might have had to learn the hard way. You don’t expect this.
It had been a day of panicky phone calls. The last few months had been hard, but today was different somehow. Another unpredictable event had taken place and was to have sudden consequences we had to face together as a family. A number of professionals – her Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA), health visitor, police and Children’s Social Care – all pulled together to ensure our daughter and her baby had somewhere safe to go. All the arrangements were made and there was no other option. They would be leaving tonight.
My husband picked me up from work and I could see straight away he’d been crying. A man who never cries had spent most of the day at work in tears. We went to collect our daughter and our grandchild. Our grandchild gurgled happily in the car seat whilst our daughter smiled and sang away, keeping the baby happily unaware that, despite already having lived at two addresses in her first few months, she was about to move again, this time to a women’s refuge.
We drove the thirty miles to the meeting point in a quiet, yet slightly jokey mood, trying to keep our spirits as lifted as possible. We talked about future plans and next steps as if we were just planning something normal, something mundane, like what we might have for lunch. We stopped at the meeting point and everything went quiet. We put up the pram, complete with baby, and loaded the luggage that our daughter could manage to carry. We weren’t allowed to take her to the actual location in case we were followed. We hugged and promised phone calls later. She set off and we got back into the car. I watched her tiny frame as she walked away, pushing the pram with her proud chin jutting forward, determined not to be beaten by the situation she found herself in. Protecting her baby was the only thing that mattered to her. I looked across at my husband. He was crying again. I looked back towards her, just in time to see her disappearing around the corner. Then my tears came too and we held each other.
Whatever happened tonight, we knew they were in a safe place.
By the time we arrived home, our daughter had messaged to say how things were. The staff at the Women’s Aid refuge were wonderful – totally supportive and always on hand. Little touches, like the welcome pack of toiletries donated by kind strangers, lifted her spirits. The staff sat up with her through the night, listening, comforting and reassuring her that she had done everything that she could. The following day, the police visited her and took her statement, taking the time again to reassure her.
Through the weeks that followed, my husband and I helped where we could, but honestly, we felt fairly powerless. What could we do? No more than we had done before, really. When we had first become aware of the difficulties between our daughter and baby’s father, we didn’t say too much for fear of her being alienated from us. We only felt able to adopt a ‘sticking plaster’ approach, supporting the little family as best we could. How we wished we had realised that there were options and people to speak to for advice. Luckily, when everything became too much, our daughter still knew she could come to us for help, but in reality she had already begun accessing services herself, the first being her health visitor and Children’s Social Care. As things escalated, she continued to fully engage with all professionals, whereas he didn’t, preferring to try to exert control, to continue the abuse.
Through the wonderful care she received, she settled into a new home with her happy, beautiful and bubbly baby. She continues to receive protection and support and knows where she can turn if she needs more. Her IDVA is only ever a phone call away and keeps in regular contact.
It has to be said that the impact on our family has been intensely emotional, even traumatic at times. As her parents, we had an overwhelming desire to protect them both, but had to deal with the reality – we couldn’t. It took a bigger team. A team that we will be eternally grateful for. We still have to catch our breath at times and have the occasional cry, although those occasions are fewer now. My tears now tend to be when I think of the kindness of strangers, those beautiful people with the biggest of hearts, many of whom we will never know. We thank you all.
You watch your children playing and wonder what the future holds for them. You have hopes and dreams that their life will be better than yours. That they will learn from mistakes you might have had to learn the hard way. You don’t expect this.
If you are worried that a family member may be experiencing domestic abuse, you can contact the Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run by Women’s Aid in partnership with Refuge, on 0808 2000 247 or visit www.womensaid.org.uk.