I know that I have, at times, been disparaging about some members of my family. This has never been intentional on my part as I don’t blame them for anything that happened during my formative years – they were all doing the best they could under the circumstances; however I do harbour feelings of anger towards them for the way they treated me following the break down of my marriage. The people that I thought I could rely on turned their backs on me when I needed them the most and left me with very complex issues around feeling abandoned. I was incredibly lucky that I had some good people, who were not related to me, that helped me through the incredibly difficult time and I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for those people I would not have made it through at all.
Although I was doing well at University and was enjoying my part-time office job life at home was not good; it seemed that the more I grew in confidence the more violent and controlling my husband became. There was very little left in the house that hadn’t been smashed up by him during one row or another which usually revolved around me not doing what a “proper” wife should do. I felt like I was walking on egg shells trying to make him happy and prevent any outbursts of rage and I knew that this was not what a healthy marriage should be like but I was scared to make a move as I didn’t know where I could go. My work colleague told me that I should contact the Women’s Refuge but I didn’t feel I deserved a place there as he had not actually hit me. I had been caught in the cross fire of him throwing things and had cut myself on a number of occasions when picking up pieces of broken ceramics and glass but I believed that this was my own fault for setting off his temper and being in the way when it erupted. After each and every eruption he would remind me how lucky I was that he was willing to put up with me, that no one else would want me given my past and that I needed to appreciate him more and not make him angry. I fell for this every single time.
Eventually things escalated to a new level and thanks to the intervention of some work colleagues I finally got out. I had been on a night out with work colleagues to see a show in town which had started later than planned due to a fire alarm going off which interrupted the show. I had told my husband that I would be home at 10am, in the end I got home at 10.35pm and he was livid, he accused me of having an affair with a work colleague, of being a whore and many other hurtful things. I tried to explain what had happened but he was off on a full scale rant which plunged new depths as he accused me of having enjoyed the abuse I suffered as a child. He told me I had been born a prostitute and that was all I knew how to do – offer sex in return for favours. He then went to smash up my model of the Star Ship Enterprise which was the last remaining item that meant anything to me in the entire house – it had been presented to me as a prize in a competition and I was so proud of it I couldn’t bear the thought of him smashing it. I tried to make a grab for it but he pushed me away and I fell down the stairs hitting my head on the heater at the foot of the stairs, the broken pieces of the Enterprise were thrown down after me along with even more insults.
The next day I went to work with a cut and a massive bruise on the side of my head, my colleague knew immediately what had happened and wanted to call the Police but I refused. A short time later my boss called me into his office and told me that he didn’t know what had happened but he knew enough to tell me that I shouldn’t return home and offered to give me a lift to anywhere else but home. I broke down in tears and told him what had happened, that I didn’t know what to do or where to go but that he was right, I didn’t want to go home ever again. Another colleague came forward and offered me a sofa to sleep on for a few nights until I could sort something else out as her children were staying with their grandparents for a new nights. I gratefully accepted the kind offer and my boss told us we could both leave early as he would draft in support from elsewhere for our shift that day. My boss then made a few phone calls and within an hour he had arranged for a male colleague to drive my colleague and I to my house to get some things and then drive to my colleagues house to get settled for the night. I was amazed at the level of support offered – no one had ever been this kind to me before.
I was so grateful to have my work colleague with me when I went to grab my things – my mind was blank as to what I needed but she was practical and gave me a list of essential items which I threw into a bin bag and then left the house.
The next few days were a nightmare; I went to see my parents to tell them what had happened and that I had left. My Mum told me they had no room for me to stay with them and suggested that I should go and register as homeless at the local Council Office. I then went to see my Grandmother in the hope that she would let me stay in her spare bedroom until I could see someone at the Council. I didn’t tell her what had happened to make me leave, I only told her that things weren’t working out and I had decided to leave. I didn’t get the reaction I expected, she told me that I was disgraceful for leaving my husband, that I should go back to him and make it right. I told her that it wasn’t going to work out, that we weren’t right for each other but she insisted I should stick it out and that I would get no help from her if I refused to go back to him. I left in tears and went back to stay another night on my colleague’s sofa; promising her that I would be out of her way the next day as I would go to the homeless shelter the next day. She told me it was fine and arranged for her own kids to stay on another night at her parents’ house but I felt dreadful, I was disrupting her family life and it wasn’t fair to them. I swore to myself that I would not return the next day until I had found alternative accommodation.
The next day I went to Citizens Advice, the news wasn’t good – as I was a registered student I would not qualify for any benefits, nor would I be considered a priority for housing by the Local Council, they told me that as I was single and without children I could expect to wait for up to 18 months to be housed in a local authority scheme. They gave me a list of private landlords and the address of the emergency homeless shelter. I went to the homeless shelter but they were full for that night, they asked me if I had somewhere to stay and I said that I could probably eke out another night on my work colleagues sofa but that I had promised I would leave by now, they were very sympathetic but unable to help. I got back in my car and headed off towards my colleagues house to tell her I had failed to get anything, part way there I pulled into a local Country Park to sit in the car park and have a think about things. Whilst there it occurred to me that I could just huddle down in the car – I had a travel kettle and a sleeping bag in my bin bag that was stuffed behind the sofa at my work colleagues house and so I went back, told her that I had got a room in the shelter for the night and would be out of her way that evening. My colleague made me some dinner and then went to collect her children whilst I sorted out my belongings and got the car ready for the night.
Thus began my three month stint as a nomad and an outcast from my own family.