Service Users/Survivors:

"I felt listened to and respected by your staff" - Service User

"Coventry Haven has given me the strength to look forward to a positive future" - Service User

"The way I talk, the way I look and even the way I carry myself in public, has an effect on my parents upstanding in our community" - Service User

"Coventry Haven is the first place to actually help me" - Service User

"No-one actually believed it was as bad as it was and friends just kept telling me to leave, like it's really easy, but you believed me and listened to me and eventually I actually escaped. Best thing I ever did!" - Service User

"I didn't tell anyone, I felt so ashamed, like it was my fault like she said it was. But it wasn't, I didn't deserve any of it!" - Survivor 

Awareness Raising Feedback:

"The workshop was really good and I think its good that we hear this" - Year 8 pupil

"Everyone should be free to marry whoever they want to" - Year 8 pupil

"It's not the individuals choice and it's so depressing to see people forced into something they do not want to do" - Pupil

"Thank you for telling us your (survivor) story; I think you're really brave and now I know what to look for and what to do if it happens to me or any of my friends" - Pupil 

"I now feel fully able to help the pupils I know are living with this at home" - Teacher

Professionals:

"I now feel confident in asking the right questions and where I can refer to for support" - GP

"The training provided has helped me to recognise signs of abuse and know the right questions to ask, in a sensitive and safe way" - GP

"Coventry Haven do such important work!" - Councellor

"You do fab job at supporting people through an extremely critical time in their lives, and show them that there are people who genuinely care and will offer a listening ear when it's needed the most" - Advocacy organisation

"You provide an excellent service to those in desperate need" - Manager

Volunteers:

"Volunteering for Coventry Haven has helped my confidence grow" - Volunteer

"Volunteering has opened my eyes to how common abuse actually is" - Volunteer

"I finally felt strong enough and wanted to give back to the place that had helped me escape; I'm so glad I did it, it helped me in so many ways!" - Volunteer

"I feel like I am actually helping others going through it, just like Coventry Haven helped me before" - Volunteer 

Sponsors/Donors:

"You have an excellent reputation in your sector" - Sponsor

"You helped my mum a few years ago; we lived in a refuge for 2 years and I want to thank you as I don't know what would've happened to us otherwise. Me and mum are doing really well now" - Donator 

The following is the true story of an anonymous ex-service user (in her own words) who wishes to share her journey in the hope that it encourages someone to make the first step to leave:

"The first time I was punched, it was a blow to the stomach. I'd never before felt a feeling like it. Unable to breathe the pain overwhelmed me. The blue shirt hadn't been ironed. How could I not have ironed a blue shirt? Violence became 'routine'.
It's more than 20 years ago. Some of it is a blur. I do remember being kicked around the floor.  I remember having a knife held to my throat. I do remember the tears and hurt of having treasured possessions broken in front of my face. 
The police came out a few times. I remember one lady police officer saying to me in my teary state 'either move away or put up with it', but I just remember thinking I haven't anywhere to go so how could I leave? It's almost as though I accepted my life, which included a violent partner, as the norm. No one else would ever want me, why would I leave! This was my home. I could change him. He will change.  He never did. 
It was summer time when things came to a head. I found myself pregnant and in hospital after being assaulted. I still didn't leave him. He left me as he had been having an affair with another woman and clearly I was 'nuts' he said. 
It was at this point I found the female GP that saved me. I just remember the routine appointment, but at that moment, in that room, my story poured out.  
I was referred immediately to a counsellor.  I had some fairly intensive counselling, and with the counsellors help, I became strong enough to rid my home of his possessions. I still loved him. None of it was easy. Sadly I lost the baby. 
I did actually leave my home town. I never thought I ever would. I moved into a shared house in a new city, got a job and made a new life.  For several years I always felt I carried a secret. Would people find out about me? I was ashamed of myself but should have been proud. I no longer went to work with bruises on my arm. "Oh clumsy me, fell over again!". I was proud of me for surviving. 
However, there was a huge twist in my story. Sometimes I can't believe myself this is true. But it is. It's fact. About my perpetrator.  You can imagine my shock some 5 or 6 years later after leaving whilst looking at a local hometown news website I notice his name on the headline. He had been murdered. Murdered... Him... Murdered!  He had been living with yet another partner, after marrying the lady he left me for, and leaving her, they'd been together for quite some months. 
She stabbed him. They'd argued in the kitchen as she'd asked him to leave, said the news. Things had become violent - he started to 'push her' said the news report. She was peeling veg and used the knife. One stab wound. 
He died at the scene. I couldn't believe what I was reading. She was arrested and later given 5 years for manslaughter, later reduced to 4, as the judge 'did not consider her state of mind at the time of the incident'.  I followed the court case through the local press. I've found it difficult to process he is actually dead. But he is dead. It's true. 
It's 20 years since I left my hometown. I've been with my husband for 16 years, we have been married 11. Somehow, I managed to get myself a life. I slowly crawled out of the black hole I was in, and realised I deserved a life. I have a nice life. A good life. A home. I deserve these things. I'm grateful for 'normal'. 
Nowadays I rarely think of the experiences I had. But it did happen to me. I did feel that pain. To be honest, a lot of people who know me now would never imagine me in that situation. I found my voice. I realised I'm as worthy as the next person. You can do it. You too can leave. Ask for help. Make the call. You are worthy. If your day includes violence, make a plan to walk away. Seek help. Seek Coventry Haven. Save yourself. You deserve it!"

 

The following is a poem written by an incredible survivor, who has given her permission for us to share this on our website, today as World Mental Health Day 10th October 2017:

"My brave face mask

Allows me to live a part time life

Without this mask 

I believe there is a better afterlife 

Putting on a brave face 

Allows me to get out of bed 

To look half normal 

No one knows I wish I was dead 

I can wash my hair and shower 

Get dressed and show up

I can look well presented 

The sleepless nights are my warm up

A warm up to this dress rehearsal

Of this life that isn't a play 

You get to see a glimpse of it 

I live it day by day

You see the brave face 

The bits good enough for public display  

The bits that are well rehearsed 

But not part of the off days 

On the off days there is no brave face

The theatre is vacated 

The real portrayal of my life 

Will be classed as X rated 

Not many want to see the truth 

Of a woman mentally tortured 

Because of past abuses

It makes you all feel awkward 

I don't want to make you feel awkward 

So on bad days I lock myself away

I choose to become invisible 

Because the mask can't stay in place 

People make judgements 

Based on the days of a grand performance 

You don't get to see the full picture

The interval is of no importance 

The interval is integral 

Of building up the full picture 

You just see what you want to see

You don't read the full scripture 

I live my life 24/7

You get to see a fraction

You don't see me at my worst 

The brave face is a distraction 

That distraction may suit many

As seeing the full equation is to much

Therefore never judge me 

When you can only stand the soft touch

My life is not a dress rehearsal

For some play made for entertainment 

It's a real life horror story

Where no hour is left vacant 

No vacant moment to escape 

And lose my concentration 

Where the mask has time to slip

I live it for the whole duration 

It's exhausting wearing a mask 

But it's something you get use to

To keep up the appearances 

And hide what you have been put through 

To create a life that looks normal 

To the easily misled 

Who don't want to face the facts

That leave me exhausted in bed 

I can take the mask off

Behind closed doors

That way I'm not not a inconvenience 

No one is made to see the flaws

The flaws that are man made 

Despite what you want to see

Behind the brave face 

Is the real me 

The real me so few know about  

Because you can't see beyond the brave face

You are blinded by the convenience 

Of not knowing my dark space

You don't want to be blinded by the ugliness

Left behind from a war fought alone

Where property was paid for 

So the violence was condoned"

#WorldMentalHealthDay #WMHD2017 #CSA #CSE

If you would like to share your journey to help others, or become a volunteer or a Community Champion please call 02476 444 077 or email info@coventryhaven.co.uk. We will not disclose any personal details.