Finding a new life away from abuse
Just before Bermuda went into lockdown, Natasha packed her bags and, with her children, walked away from the man who had emotionally abused her for more than a decade.
In the beginning of the relationship things had been “good”, but her partner soon started saying she was “dumb” and “stupid”, and calling her a whore. By the end of March, he was telling her to kill herself.
With an island-wide curfew about to begin her fear was what might happen if the tension escalated inside their home; the Centre Against Abuse helped her find the haven she needed.
“I was in a relationship with my children’s father off and on for 13 years,” said Natasha who refused to share her real name, but hoped that by speaking out she might inspire others.
“During that time he was very verbally abusive, but it also got physical at times.
“At the end of March, I went to the Centre Against Abuse. He had hit me and spit on me, so I’d gone to the abuse centre to seek help and they placed me somewhere.”
Although she’d often walked away from the relationship before, she knew this time would be different.
“I felt like I had the courage to leave because, basically, it happened in front of my children,” she said, explaining that her son was old enough to comprehend what was happening.
“He got very upset because of what he saw. Also, my mother passed away this year; it all really encouraged me to get away from him. I was like, ‘Life is too short’.’
According to Natasha her former partner was “very jealous”. Just the sight of her talking with another man would set him off. As a response to his abuse her confidence fell and she started to stutter.
“It was always an up and down thing,” she said of the relationship. “Sometimes it would seem like it’s getting better, but then it’s just the same thing over and over. I feel like he brings down my self-esteem so that also kept me there as well. We had broken up at times, but I always went back to him.”
Although she didn’t talk about it often, family and friends were aware of what was going on. She refused to get professional help.
“I was always afraid to talk about it with people because I was embarrassed and also because I would leave and try and get away from him and then end up getting back with him,” said Natasha, who is in her twenties and employed. “Even when I left him, he would threaten me [about what he would do] if I moved on [with another man] and stuff like that. So I never felt really free. Now I feel free.”
She feels fortunate that she reached out to the Centre Against Abuse when she did.
“I saw something online. It said abuse is basically coming out a lot right now because everybody’s on lockdown and stuck at home. I’d had enough. I had it on my mind before to call them, but I never did and that was just the last straw. I called them and went straight there the next day.
“When I got there, they said I’d come at the best time — even though I was upset about taking so long to go there — because before, they didn’t have anywhere to place people [in my situation]; if somebody came for help they wouldn’t have housing.”
A friend helped her and her children move out of the home she’d shared with her former partner, who hurled verbal abuse at her as they left.
“It scares me a little bit,” she said about being on her own. “I’m finally away from it, but at the same time I was used to being with him. Even though he was the way he was, I was used to it.”
The Centre Against Abuse required her to get a protection order before she left. It has given her some security as she works to “rebuild [her] life back”.
“I don’t feel as afraid because I know if he does something or shows up or anything like that I just have to call the police and they would arrest him. I don’t feel as afraid as I did before.
“My hope now is to rebuild my life for my children so they can have a healthier life. I just want to build a better life for us.”
Although her ex is still allowed to see his children, her son initially refused to do so.
“Probably a month after we left they were supposed to go to their dad’s to spend some time with him and my son didn’t want to go because his dad would get mad and, sometimes, he would punch him.
“Even when we were together I would tell his dad you really shouldn’t do that and stuff like that but, of course, he just came at me if I said anything.”
She has since put her son in counselling and is simultaneously working to heal herself with meditation and regular exercise.
“I just want to be able to help other people and for them to understand that they’re not alone; to help them build the courage to leave.
“My advice would be to build yourself up so that you feel confident enough to leave. Everybody tells people to leave, but we don’t feel confident in leaving. I would say, first come up with a plan and try to execute that plan to get away.”
• For help visit www.centreagainstabuse.bm or call the 24-hour hotline on 297-8278
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