IN her job, Paulette Furse worked with women who were experiencing domestic violence – she just didn’t realise she was one of them.
Having been abused as a child, she assumed the violence, sexual assaults and manipulative behaviour in her relationship were normal.
Paulette grew up with abuse as a child and thought of it as normalCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
She said: “I worked for a housing association and we arranged homes for domestic abuse victims.
“I didn’t see myself as one of those women. It wasn’t until the housing officer sat me down and said, ‘You’re living with domestic abuse,’ that I thought, ‘Oh my God, I am.’”
Plea for refuge funding
This week, The Sun is backing a call by Women’s Aid for the government to guarantee funding for cash-strapped women’s refuge services.
Local authorities are due to receive a £125 million boost for housing for people fleeing abuse, but the charity says it’s essential the money is given to specialist refuges, not diverted to potentially dodgy landlords.
And there must be consequences if an authority fails to do so.
Paulette, 55, agrees that this is vital.
Paulette was in an abusive relationship when she was youngerCredit: Paulette Furse
She said: “You’ve got support at refuges, from trained staff and also from other people going through the same thing.
“My ex would tell me, ‘I’ll find you, I’ll kill you.’
“Refuges are in secure, secret locations, so that worry is taken away. Someone is looking after you and you feel safe.”
Trusted family member turned abuser
Emma was six years old when a family member started sexually abusing her.
The mum-of-three said: “He started by stroking my knee, which I didn’t like, and it went further and further, until it became sexual abuse.”
Paulette said little things would spark her partner’s rage, such as losing his keysCredit: Paulette Furse
The sexual abuse didn’t stop until she was in secondary school and had started her periods.
A few years later, when her ex boyfriend hit her for the first time, she believed it was a one-off.
She said: “He was so apologetic, saying he didn’t know what had got into him.”
Mike (*not his real name) was very controlling in their relationship.
He would tell Paulette what to wear, not directly, but with very subtle comments.
She said: “He would always hit me and then make me feel bad about it.”
The Sun is calling for guaranteed funding for specialist refuges for domestic abuse survivorsCredit: Getty
It was three years of violence, sexual abuse and mental torture before she found the courage to escape.
Paulette, a Campaign Champion for Women’s Aid, said: “Something snapped in me.
“He was shouting about losing his keys, it was always something like that which set him off. He punched me in the face and hit me over the head with a plastic laundry basket.
“I fled upstairs and I could hear him shouting, ‘I’m going to kill you.’”
“I grabbed a shovel”
There were only two possible options: stay and suffer the force of his anger, or do something about it for once and for all.
She said: “I ran downstairs at such a force that for the first time ever I saw fear in his eyes.
“I had been doing some gardening and there was a shovel in the house. I grabbed it and yelled, ‘If you come near me again, I’m going to kill you.’
“He ran out of the front door and didn’t come back that day.”
Refuges and support services are saving lives
The Sun is backing Women’s Aid in their demand for £125 million designated for accommodation for domestic abuse survivors to go to specialist refuges. Here Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs writes on why this is so vital.
Nicole said: “Shoving a few belongings into a bag; getting sleepy children up in the middle of the night and fleeing a perpetrator is very much the reality for domestic abuse survivors. For many victims who have no one else to turn to and nowhere else to go, a refuge can quite literally be a life saver.
The Domestic Abuse Act places a much-needed legal requirement on councils to provide survivors and their children with safe accommodation and I urge local areas to ensure that the new resources are used to fund specialist refuge services.
Providing refuge accommodation, however, is the minimum that we can do to protect survivors and their children, and we need to go very much further.
I – amongst others – believe that the Government must now put a further legal duty on local authorities to fund vital community-based services, such as helplines and specialist support from domestic abuse workers.
At the moment, these services survive on a patchwork of short-term funds; often they are financially clinging on by the skin of their teeth.
Women’s Aid estimates that it would cost £393m a year to fully fund domestic abuse services. It may sound like a vast amount but it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the £66 billion the Government estimates that domestic abuse cost society in 2017.
We must urge the Government to provide long-term proper funding for specialist domestic abuse services, so all victims and survivors get the support they need and deserve.
The following day, Paulette finally admitted to her housing officer at work what she was experiencing at home.
The housing officer arranged for her to move into a homeless person’s unit.
Every day for the next week, Mike would phone Paulette’s work five or six times a day. Her colleagues would pick up the phone and tell him she wasn’t there.
As the homeless unit was temporary, she was then moved into a privately-rented flat, paid for with housing benefit which was also supposed to cover her bills.
However, the landlord neglected to pay those bills for her.
The mum-of-three is now happily married to husband, PeterCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
She said: “It took a while for my income support to come through and, until it did, I couldn’t afford food. It was awful.
“Refuges weren’t so prevalent back then and there wasn’t as much information around about domestic abuse.
“But had I been able to go to a refuge, I would have been given meals and clothes. Often, women flee with just the clothes on their backs. If they have been financially controlled, they may not have any money.
“At a refuge, I would have had access to counsellors or social workers, whatever support I needed.
“I wouldn’t have felt so alone.”
Paulette, who is now married to Peter, 50, an accountant, said: “Refuges take away all the pressure and worry so you can concentrate on making a life for yourself and your child or children.
“When a woman gets the courage to leave, she needs to know there is somewhere for them to go, not just a B&B or a hostel where they will be on their own.
“You’re talking about people’s lives here.
“That’s why it’s absolutely vital the money goes to specialist refuges where women will get the support they need at a very frightening time in their life.”
HOW YOU CAN GET HELP:
Women’s Aid has this advice for victims and their families:
- Always keep your phone nearby.
- Get in touch with charities for help, including the Women’s Aid live chat helpline and services such as SupportLine.
- If you are in danger, call 999.
- Familiarise yourself with the Silent Solution, reporting abuse without speaking down the phone, instead dialing “55”.
- Always keep some money on you, including change for a pay phone or bus fare.
- If you suspect your partner is about to attack you, try to go to a lower-risk area of the house – for example, where there is a way out and access to a telephone.
- Avoid the kitchen and garage, where there are likely to be knives or other weapons. Avoid rooms where you might become trapped, such as the bathroom, or where you might be shut into a cupboard or other small space.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, SupportLine is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6pm to 8pm on 01708 765200. The charity’s email support service is open weekdays and weekends during the crisis – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Women’s Aid provides a live chat service available. from 10am to noon.
You can also call the freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.
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