'I skipped school to protect mum after dad tried to strangle her' - Evewoman
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'I skipped school to protect mum after dad tried to strangle her'

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A teenage boy skipped school to protect his mum after watching his dad strangle her.

The brave youngster wanted to make sure his mother was ok after she was beaten and sexually abused by her partner for 16 years.

Incredibly, this was despite the boy himself, being physically abused by his own father.

The family's story is one of those highlighted in the documentary Safe At Last: Inside a Women's Refuge.

A year in the making, Channel 4 were granted unprecedented access to the refuge, to tell the stories of some of the women who have passed through its doors.

Here, the brave and committed women who work there attempt to help them move from a life of abuse, to one where they, and their children, have an opportunity to start afresh.

Women’s refuges, a crucial and sometimes lifesaving resource for victims of domestic abuse, are facing a real crisis caused by a lack of funds.

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On average, victims of domestic violence return to their partners seven times before they eventually leave for good.

Every day, the National Abuse Helpline receives over 230 calls from people looking for a place in a refuge.

Here are just some of the brave stories featured in the documentary which aired tonight.

 'SUSAN'

Susan is a mother to three young daughters and is 11 weeks pregnant with another baby girl on the way.

Domestic abuse often escalates during pregnancy, and Susan says her ex has been pushing her and dragging her around, sometimes while she’s been holding her toddler in her arms.

"He was getting really bad with the children," says Susan.

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"He hurt my daughter twice.

"She was hiding in the wardrobe because he shouted at her and she got scared and he followed her, dragged her and just threw her across the bed.

"She banged her head on the wall."

Susan was with her ex for 11 years. She says the abuse towards her and her children had become more violent.

"When I'm pregnant or there’s a newborn baby the violence and abuse gets more.

"I'm frightened of more abuse and also, because he’s becoming more physical, I'm scared of that. I’m so happy to be far away.

“He was pushing and dragging me about when I was pregnant as well so I knew there would be more.

"It would be very dangerous for my health and the baby."

As is normally the case, she has had to leave in a hurry, and she and her children turn up with almost no possessions.

The refuge provides them all with not just food and shelter, but also clothes, books and toys, as well as with counselling.

Susan adds: "I'm 29 now and I want to start a fresh life. Everything new."

Among those welcoming Susan into the refuge is Kinga, already a resident there, and who says her husband also became violent when she was pregnant.

 'KINGA'

Kinga and her baby daughter have been at the refuge for two months. She says her ex always controlled her but became violent when she became pregnant with their daughter.

During their nine-year relationship she was only allowed to leave the house without him to go to work.

”Before I came here I lost 10kilos because of the stress.

"I went to the police and they said I should try and go to a refuge.

"Normally I would stay with him because I didn’t have a choice but now if I have any problems or if I'm struggling with something I'm always going to my support worker and she’s giving everything I need so I don’t need to be worried about the money, about that he might contact me because he doesn’t know where I am and I don’t know where he is. This is very important, to be safe.

"I was thinking it was going to be like a hostel. I didn't even expect I'd get any help, clothes or anything. It's really, really nice, especially to be close with someone, to go out or just drink coffee. It's really important for me. I never had anything like this before. I was keeping hope for nine years.

"I was with him nine years, my first love, but I said enough is enough. especially when she’s small. So it’s better to run away now than when she's going to be bigger. May be she will judge me and ask 'Why?'.

“I don’t feel lonely here."

 'ALISON'

During filming the refuge get another call to help Alison and her family.

Mum Alison says she was beaten and sexually abused by her partner for 16 years.

Refuge manager Emma says: "The eldest teenager has really suffered. He has been physically abused by his father but he’s also watched his father strangle his mother.

"I can only imagine how gruelling that must be, to see your mum being strangled by your father. I know when they were removed from house he said to the social worker he felt really relieved because he didn’t have to protect his mum anymore."

Alison's teenage son had started skipping school to stay at home to protect his mum.

In upsetting scenes, staff try to help Alison's daughter who is confused and traumatised and has self-harmed while "screaming like a wild cat" before they are forced to move Alison after staff are warned that her ex has tracked the family down and may be on his way to the area.

Refuge manager Emma tells her: "We will have to move you."

Alison sobs: "No,  I don't want to go. I don't want to go.

"I can't do this to my kids. Please Em, I don't want to."

Emma explains: "We don't want you to go either but the main thing is we keep you and the kids safe and the fact that he's called the school, he knows you're in the area."

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Evewoman.co.ke

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