Domestic abuse survivor supported by Kingsbridge Food Bank shares her story

A domestic abuse survivor who was supported by the team at Kingsbridge Food Bank has agreed to share her story. 

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Gerrie Messer, Kingsbridge Food Bank coordinator, met Blossom* and her three children late on a Friday evening, during the national lockdown. 

Gerrie said: "As with many domestic abuse victims, they had been relocated many miles from the place they called home. They’d travelled close to 300 miles that day, to a new home, a new town and a new start – away from the perpetrator of repeated violence, coercion/control and mental abuse within the household. 

They’d travelled close to 300 miles that day, to a new home, a new town and a new start – away from the perpetrator of repeated violence, coercion/control and mental abuse within the household

"Having only brought basic belongings, they were moved into a partly furnished property, in a quiet village – away from the business of the town centre."

The next morning, Gerrie and her team welcomed Blossom at the Food Bank headquarters "very frightened and visibly shaking". She broke down into "tears of genuine distress" as she recounted her story of violence, distress, pain and suffering for her and her three children. 

Gerrie explained: "She’d been in the area less than 24 hours and already the “what ifs” had set in. What if he found her? What if, he’d had her followed? What if, the person supporting her in Devon had connections to her abuser?

"All very extreme questions – but very real for someone who had suffered, in the way she had, at the hands of her violent ex-partner."

Kingsbridge Food Bank's team of volunteered are now "well prepared" for this kind of situation, it had happened before and it would happen again. They supplied Blossom with her food parcel, some more furniture and a personal point of contact at the Food Bank. Over the next few weeks her youngest child was secured a safe place at school and her two elder children found places in college or work. 

As time passed, Blossom started to blossom, she started to make friends, the children made friends and for the first time in years – Blossom and her little family were safe, secure and living their own lives, in our amazing community

Gerrie continued: "As time passed, Blossom started to blossom, she started to make friends, the children made friends and for the first time in years – Blossom and her little family were safe, secure and living their own lives, in our amazing community. 

"Free from fear, abuse and finally, no longer looking over their shoulders. Blossom was notified that her ex-partner had been jailed for attacking her – this made her even happier and able to let down her guard."

Open Your Eyes Against Women Being Abused - credit Denitza Tscacarova

Covid-19 hit in March 2020 and changed everything for Blossom and her family. As the rest of the UK was locked down, the Government started an early prisoner release programme. The GOV.UK website states: "The scheme, introduced in April, allowed for the early release of stringently assessed low-risk prisoners who were within two months of their release date – freeing up space across the estate so that all prisons could effectively control the spread of the virus by quarantining new arrivals, isolating those with symptoms and shielding vulnerable offenders". 

Blossom was one of the victims affected by the early release from prison, although she didn’t know it at first. Gerrie said: "No one from the Ministry of Justice or the Prison Service notified her that her attacker had been released early. The first she knew about it, was when he turned up at her garden gate. 

No one from the Ministry of Justice or the Prison Service notified her that her attacker had been released early. The first she knew about it, was when he turned up at her garden gate

"The next few days went by in a whirlwind for Blossom – her abuse started all over again, and despite there being a panic alarm in the house – as she was unable to activate it. He’d taken complete control of Blossom, the children, the finances – EVERYTHING. He went on lavish spending sprees with Blossom’s money, buying the children extravagant presents, alcohol and drugs. Blossom would do anything to protect her children, even put herself at risk to avoid them getting hurt.

"Then one evening, I received a call, Blossom needed me – she was with police officers, at home. She had finally managed to activate the panic alarm and he's been arrested. Thankfully Blossom’s son had taken the other two children to a place of safety, but by the time the police had arrived, the damage was already done. Blossom was covered in scrapes and bruises and the downstairs of the house appeared to have been wrecked. There had been a massive disturbance and someone had FINALLY called the police."

Blossom is now safe, as are her children. She was able to "stay strong" and press charges against her attacker. He received a new prison sentence, a restraining order and instructions to never contact her again. 

Gerrie continued: "Before you think this was a win for the victim, consider these points; many victims cannot face their attacker, many victims believe they are at fault, many victims don’t get justice and TOO MANY victims have been damaged by the lockdown that came as a result of Covid-19. Blossom will be a victim for some years to come - you don’t get over this kind of abuse without time. 

"There were already reports that incidents of domestic abuse were on the rise – caused by the combination of the suspension of support services and the fact that abusers were now invisible – as were their victims. The lockdown literally trapped victims in properties with their abusers 24-7 and the outside world was less likely to be able to bear witness.

"Blossom was let down by so many people: her neighbours, her support services, the Ministry of Justice, the Prison Service, her landlord and the police. She was supposed to be ‘safe’ and yet she still ended up in hospital before anyone thought to report the strange goings-on at her house over those few days.

She was supposed to be ‘safe’ and yet she still ended up in hospital before anyone thought to report the strange goings-on at her house over those few days

"These days, Blossom is still a familiar face to Food Bank volunteers – because she IS one herself. See!! There is a happy ending – despite the trauma – Blossom built her own future, at the end of the rainbow. So many other victims find themselves in this same position – look out for warning signs around you, it could be happening right next door to you."

(*name has been changed to protect survivor’s identity)

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, know you are not alone. Call the Freephone 24-Hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247. 

You can also visit these websites for resources. Try and use a computer that only you have access to if you fear your movements are being watched.
Read Gerrie's original post on the subject here

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