Llamau has literally saved my life. I’d be a shell of a person if I hadn’t made the decision to leave the day I did.

I dread to think what it would have been like to live lockdown with him. I think I’d have had a breakdown. It was hell when I wasn’t in lockdown. I never wanted to go home, my eating was really bad, my mentality was bad – everything felt like a struggle.

My ex-partner and I were together for five years. We have a beautiful little girl together. She’s the light of my life.

At first everything was great between us but things started to change gradually. He was always a bit arrogant and a “Mr Know It All”; very patronising and belittling, but I just put that down to his personality. Looking back, it was more than that. He was mentally and emotionally abusive. He came between me and my best friend, so our relationship broke down, and I became quite shut off from people.

When I told him I wanted to end the relationship and leave our tenancy, things became a lot worse. He threatened to take my child benefit if I left and said I couldn’t take our daughter. He drank a lot and would even bring other women back to our home at times. Things were so bad and I remember feeling desperate to get out but I wanted an easy life, so I stayed.

I’d come home from work sometimes so drained, knowing things were about to become so much worse. My daughter kept me going but, at times, I felt so desperate to get out that I could have been in a box. Such a sad thing to want to get out of your own home so badly.  

The final straw for me was the day he slapped our little girl. He left a massive hand print on her and I knew, this time, that was it. When he went to work, I called the police. The operator I spoke to was lovely and really listened to me. They sent someone from the Domestic Abuse team out to talk to me. She asked me what I wanted to do – stay or go – it wasn’t even a question in my mind anymore.

I remember feeling panic and desperation whilst grabbing things to take with us that day. I had no idea what refuge was but that’s where I was heading. I thought maybe I’d be there for about a week and then I’d be moved on. That was October last year.

Coming into refuge was scary at first but everyone has been so lovely here. The amount of support I received when I got here made me really emotional and still does now. After being without help for so long, it made me feel like I wasn’t fighting this battle alone. It felt like so much responsibility was taken out of my hands and taken care of for me. It was exactly what I needed at that time.

My Support Worker helped me with things you don’t expect help with, like getting out of my tenancy, organising my child benefit and helping with court proceedings. Just having someone stood next to me when things were hard made me feel like I had someone in my corner.

My little girl really struggled to adjust at first, so having a Children’s Support Worker dedicated to helping her, as well as my own support, made such a difference. Being apart from her dad made her angry. At times she would cry out asking for him, which could definitely make someone want to return to a bad environment, but thanks to the support around me, from both staff and the other women, we managed to get through. She’s doing so well now and sees her dad.

When I first came into refuge, I was a shell of the person I am now. I don’t think women know what to expect from refuge, maybe it isn’t talked about, but if I could shout from the roof tops how great it is I would - which is weird to say, because no one wants to come into refuge, but it’s true.

I feel excited to leave but also really nervous. I feel better knowing that the support doesn’t end the minute I leave. I’ll receive help with setting up my new home and safety planning, like alarms and locks, etc. I’m just so grateful to everyone here, the Support Workers have helped me beyond anything I could have imagined and the other women living here with their children have taught me so much. I can honestly say refuge has been a positive experience that saved my life.

*Name has been changed