"Eventually, the abuse got too much and I was able to escape my partner"
We asked domestic abuse survivors for accounts of their experiences and what they would like to see social workers doing more of to support people in the future
Domestic Abuse Survivor 1
"I was in an abusive relationship, I was being physically and mentally abused on a daily basis. Life at home wasn’t good for me or my children. Once social work got involved, I did leave my abusive partner, but life didn’t get better straight away. I was being hounded by my ex-partner to go back, he would make threats and constantly tell me I couldn’t cope without him. I did go back and my children were removed from our care.
I was blamed by social work for putting my kids back into a dangerous situation, and I was blamed for being an unfit mother by my ex-partner. Social workers didn’t see me as a victim, and at that time I didn’t understand that I was either. I thought everything was my fault.
I felt like the social workers didn’t trust me because I wouldn’t confide in them about the abuse. One of the reasons for not telling them was because it didn’t seem like they were interested in my well-being.
It’s not easy to trust someone who has the power to take your kids away – you’re scared about what will happen if you tell them the truth about how bad life at home really is. I was scared of judgement from the authorities and repercussions from my partner. I was in a bad place and couldn’t see a way out.
Eventually the abuse got too much and I was able to escape my partner. After a lot of hard work and a long fight I have got my kids back home with me and I am starting a new job.
I would like to see social workers have more training about domestic abuse – how to spot it and how to handle the situation if they suspect it’s happening. They need to listen more and remember there is always two sides to every story. They should offer more support to victims and be less judgmental and more compassionate."
Domestic Abuse Survivor 2
"Social work became involved with my family when I was still in an abusive relationship with my ex-husband. I remember one occasion when a social worker was at the house and started to help to tidy up – I was terrified – cleaning was my “duty” and I knew my husband would be very angry about this. I know she was trying to help, but that wasn’t the help I needed. I needed someone to talk to and confide in, someone I could trust.
When I did leave, social workers were a good support, they helped me out financially and made sure me and the kids got settled into our new home.
The move was upsetting for my children, they were in a new town, a new school and away from their dad. Their behaviour was challenging at times and I asked social work for some counselling for them. They had seen and heard a lot of the abuse. This was never arranged and I feel let down by them. After a while some of my children were removed.
Social workers should be available to listen to a victim when they are ready to share their story. They shouldn’t push for information when the abuser is still around and could be listening. They should put practical support in place for victims and reassure them that life can get better. They shouldn’t make false promises, if they say they are going to do something they should do it.
I would advise anyone suffering domestic abuse to ask for help – find someone you can trust to talk to about what is going on. Realise this is not your fault and things can get better. Get help to make a plan to leave safely. Learn as much as you can about domestic abuse and about all the different tactics abusers can use against you. Stay strong."
Download 'Domestic Abuse and Child Welfare: a practice guide for social workers', here.