REBUILDING FAMILIES AFTER ABUSE
Melanie is a patron for the domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid. Katie Ghose, its chief executive, says: ‘Melanie has been incredibly brave in speaking out about her experience of domestic abuse and the effect that it has had on her family. At Women’s Aid we know that abusers often isolate their partners by cutting them off from their friends and family. The abuser may attempt to damage the relationship between a mother and her children by lying to them – telling them that their mother doesn’t care about them or that she is the reason he acts the way he does. Part of the abuse can include preventing the mother from spending quality time with her children, and this can make her feel even more alone.
‘We run training courses to help mothers rebuild their lives and gain confidence in their parenting skills after living with domestic abuse, because we know that it affects thousands of women. Children who have witnessed domestic abuse are victims, too, and will respond to the trauma in different ways – they may be startled easily, feel anxious or depressed or feel that it is their job to protect their mother.
‘Our national network of local domestic abuse services supports mothers and children as they rebuild their relationships by helping them to understand how their experience has affected their relationship. Together we work to understand the different strategies they have been using to get through this difficult time so that they can build mutual empathy. We’ll help to give the mother the confidence to find the best way to support her child going forward; they’ll learn about healthy relationships and think about their hopes for the future.
‘Domestic abuse can have an enormous impact on women’s mental health, and women living with abuse can feel suicidal or use alcohol and drugs to try to block out what is happening to them. It is important that we do not judge women who have survived domestic abuse; we should let them know that they are not alone and that we support them to rebuild their lives.’