‘Council house women with snotty nosed kids!!’………….

Hmmm.  I remember someone saying this to me years back when I told them I worked in a refuge for women escaping domestic abuse.  “Oh, those places are full of council house women with snotty nosed kids” they said to me!  I was deeply offended.  For a start, what is wrong with someone who lives in a council house?  I was brought up in one and still live in one!!  The fact is that women who choose to go into a refuge to escape their abuser do tend to be women who are in local authority housing and on benefits.  Why?  Well, let me tell you……

  • Refuges cost a lot of money!  Contrary to what a lot of people think, the rents to stay in one are high as they have to cover the costs of the building and the support element.  In London, the rents are upwards of about £400 a week!  REFUGES ARE NOT FREE!!!
  • If you work, you would not be able to afford these rents.  But if you are on benefits, you will get help to pay the rent.  Women who do work are often advised to give up their job!
  • If you own your own house, you may not be able to get housing benefit, therefore you wouldn’t be able to afford to live in a refuge.
  • If you have lived in local authority housing prior to going into a refuge, you can be fairly certain that local authority will help rehouse you, although of course, this may take a long time.
  • If you already claim housing benefit/universal credit, you are able to claim for help living in the refuge as well as keep the benefit going on your home for up to 52 weeks.  This can give a lot of women the breathing space they need to decide whether they want to return to their old home or move somewhere new.

Women who are fortunate enough to own property or have access to money are actually often trapped within abusive relationships as a result of the reasons above and the stigma that domestic abuse only happens to ‘council house women with snotty nosed kids’!!!.

I recently shared a really interesting article to my social media accounts on a study that revealed higher educated women were slower to report domestic violence – Click here for article.

A survivor who was quoted in the article stated:

“I was a victim in a world where there was power, luxury and money. The stigma in those areas is double, because it is not expected, because there is fear of losing prestige, there is a lot of invisible violence”.

Many years ago, when I worked in a refuge, I used to also work on the refuge’s 24 hour helpline.  I took several calls one particular week in the middle of the night from a woman who refused to give me her name or where she was.  What she did tell me was that she was married to someone well known and her children went to private schools.  She said they were very wealthy and it was all this that was trapping her within the very violent relationship.  She told me of incidents of violence where she had been badly injured but was not able to go to hospital because she would be recognised.  That she could not go to a refuge because the press would find out where she was and be camped outside which would put the other women in the refuge at risk of being found.  She told me she envied the women who did not have the property and wealth she had and she would give everything to be on benefits and live in a council house!  I have never forgotten that woman and often wonder if she ever made it out of the relationship.  I didn’t even know her name but I will never forget what she said and how trapped she felt by what most of us wish we had!!


So if you ever hear someone describe the women that go to refuges as ‘council house women with snotty nosed kids’, please explain to that person that in actual fact, they are the lucky ones!!!


What a wonderful end to a wonderful Freedom Programme……

In the last 3 months, I have had the pleasure of working with a group of beautiful, inspirational and amazing women in my Spring 2019 Freedom Programme.  Seeing them every week for our sessions has been the highlight of my week.  It isn’t easy for anyone to enter into an environment where they don’t know what to expect and don’t know anyone else there.  So imagine how difficult it must be to do that when you are a woman that has experienced domestic abuse and you know the focus of that environment will be – domestic abuse.  Is this a test”?  “If I say the wrong thing, will social services take the kids”?, “Am I going to sound stupid”?, “Is it going to be really depressing with every one crying”?.  I have been told that all these questions and many more go through women’s minds as they prepare to attend their first session of The Freedom Programme.

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Social workers tell me “It is great, what you are teaching the women”!?  I usually just smile professionally.  The fact though, is that I don’t need to ‘teach’ them anything!  They have lived their experiences and come through it.  Maybe a little battle worn but nevertheless, they have survived!  I am merely giving them a safe space to meet and connect with other women who share those experiences.  I facilitate that safe space and try to help them untangle the confusion that happens when you have experienced domestic abuse.  If anything – they are teaching me!

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What do the women get from the programme?

That is a question I am asked a lot.  I hope that they go away with the ‘tools’ to protect themselves and their children in the future.  I hope they will be able to better identify an abusive relationship.  That they understand the impact of domestic abuse on children and feel better equipped to help their own children recover.  There are lot’s of things that the women take with them when they have completed the Freedom Programme.  But one of the most important ones, I believe, is that they realise it is not only them that it has happened to.  They bond and make life long friends with other women and go on to support those women and spread awareness of the programme to other women who may also be experiencing abuse.  The one thing they all go away with is the knowledge that being on a group programme wasn’t as scary as they thought it would be!  In fact, it was fun!


IMG_20190509_115130 (2)Yesterday, as I always do, I held a celebration for the Spring 2019 graduates of The Freedom Programme.  Everyone brought food and I gave out certificates and Mr Right/Mr Wrong Fridge Magnets to everyone so they can always be reminded of what a healthy relationship should look like.  There were lots of tears but I think they were happy tears?!  There was lots of laughter, the best thing to hear.  I wish I could show you all of the pictures I took so that you could see these stunning, amazingly strong women.  But for obvious reasons, I can’t!



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Thank you to all the women who attended and worked so hard over the last 3 months to empower themselves and each other.  Thank you for the tears, the laughter and for telling your stories to help other women.  I am so proud of each and every one of you.



The pictures in this blog are used with permission from every person in them.  The ones that do show faces, they are not the group members.  They are other professionals who observed the sessions.  Women that did not want their picture included at all, were respected and those pictures are not here.


Domestic Homicide Statistics………

A recent Home Office review of 24 DHRs (Domestic Homicide Reviews) in June 2016, found – 

  • Gender of victim:  92% female (22/24) 8% male
  • Age:  Youngest victim was 20, the oldest was 81.
  • Ethnicity:  1/3 victims were BME women (8/24)
  • Disability:  5 of the victims had a disability (5/24)
  • Sexual orientation:  96% Heterosexual (23/24) 1 gay male victim
  • Dependent children:  71% of victims had children (17/24)

For more statistics and facts relating to domestic abuse please visit this page….   Statistics & Facts.

Spot the warning signs of an abusive partner………

How can we spot the key warning signs and persona of an abusive person???

If we have been in an abusive relationship, we may feel that we would know the warning signs straight away, if a new partner was also abusive.  But everyone is different, and we may not know!  For example, if our previous relationship was categorized by physical abuse, we may not recognise the signs of a coercively controlling person, and vice versa.

Some of the women who have completed my Freedom Programmes have told me that when they met a new partner, they went to the police station and asked to make a Claire’s Law application.  This can be a good way of finding out if your new boyfriend/girlfriend has ever been reported to the police for abusive behaviour.  It may also be easier to end a relationship early on if we have the knowledge of previous abusive behaviour, rather than later on when other factors and/or emotions may make it more difficult to end the relationship.

However, it is important to note that we know that many women never report the abuse to the Police or any other organisation.  That being the case, a Claire’s Law application would come back clear!  So let’s take a look below at some early warning signs you may see in each of ‘The Dominator’s’ persona.

Early Bully

He may go quiet for a while if we disagree with something he says or does.  He may use the body language of The Bully.  Watch out for tapping fingers, folded arms and swinging feet!  He may tell us very early on in the relationship that he would never hit a woman.  Ask yourself – why would he need to tell us this at all?

Early Jailer

This is a difficult one to see unless you have done The Freedom Programme or read the book.  A lot of the warning signs for the Jailor may be seen as being romantic or loving.  We may feel that he is just so in love with us, he can’t bear to be apart.  For example, we may say we are going to see a friend and he may insist that he drops us off and picks us up.  He may genuinely be trying to be helpful and caring.  BUT he may be making sure we are going where we say we are and that there is not a man there!  He will say he doesn’t want us to work because “you don’t have to.  I will provide for you”.  He may want to see us every day and come round at times when we are not expecting him.

Early Headworker

The Headworker is coercively controlling.  So subtle that it is difficult to see it until it is too late!  He may put us down in front of other people but will always use humour to do it.  He may make insulting comments about our appearance under the guise of a compliment.  For example – “You would look so much prettier if you lost a little weight”!  He may make sexist, racist or homophobic jokes.

Early Pursuader

He could make us feel sorry for him.  He will try to persuade us to do something he knows we don’t like and don’t want to do.  He could buy food that he knows we don’t like and try to persuade us to eat it.  He may say he would kill himself rather than not be in a relationship with us!

Early Liar

He may tell us his previous partner was a bitch and will now not let him see his children.  *Warning – if someone tells you they have children but they aren’t allowed to see them, there is usually a very good reason why!!*  He will use minimisation and use the only word.  For example he may say something hurtful to us then say “It was only a joke!” or “I did hit her once but it was only a slap and it was her fault because she was drunk!”  To learn more about The Liar, link to this page – Rules of the Game.

Early Badfather

As mentioned above, the Badfather may not have contact with his own children.  He may be overly attentive and friendly with our children, buying them presents and treats.  He may, very quickly, make himself indispensable.  He may provide us with financial support and practical help.  This is very hard to resist if we have been struggling to manage time and/or finances on our own.  But equally as quickly, he may start dispensing discipline.  He may tell our children off or take things from them if they are naughty.

Early Kind of the Castle

He may start leaving his clothes and other belonging at our house.  He will begin to choose our clothes but in very subtly ways.  For example, he may say “You look lovely in that dress but don’t you think it would even more lovely if it was a little bit longer?”  He may offer to do household chores for us but do them so badly that we don’t actually want him to do them, so we do them ourselves.

Early Sexual Controller

He will want to have sex very early on in the relationship and get upset or sulk if we say No.  When we do have sex with him, he may only have regard in satisfying himself and not care about how we feel.  He won’t communicate with us whilst having sex.  He refuses to wear a condom.

These warning signs will not be obvious or happen all at once.  They will come in clusters.  They will not exhibit one sign, but several at a time.  We may not be sure how we feel about it.  We may feel uncomfortable and choose to ignore our uneasiness.  However, women who have done the Freedom Programme have said that after doing the programme, they take these uneasy feelings very seriously.

Good luck!  Trust your instincts but remember – not every man is abusive!

Warning signs