Julie’s story

Refuge has been supporting women and children escaping domestic violence every day of the year for over forty years – including on Christmas Day

Twenty years ago, Julie and her mum were two of those women and children. This is Julie’s story.

“My mother and father were together for 13 years. From a young age I remember his violence towards her.

He used to attack her in front of me. He would yell at her for cooking dinner wrong, wearing too much make up… you name it. If he could find an excuse to hit her, he would.

I missed a lot of school to look after my injured mum. Her arms and legs were often fractured, so she would be on crutches. I had to stay at home and look after her, because my father wouldn’t allow her to leave the house.

 

We tried to escape a few times, but he always knew where we were and he would come and get us.

 

After some of his attacks I thought my mum was dead. I remember walking into their bedroom, aged 7 or 8, and seeing her in a pool of blood on the bed. I didn’t know what to do. Afterwards, he would cry to me and say, “Your mum made me hit her. It’s her fault.”

Once, aged 9, I tried to intervene. I ended up getting hurt too.

 

Around Christmas it was worse than ever.

 

He would come home drunk and I knew something bad was going to happen. Mum and I used to pretend to be asleep and cuddle together, hoping he would leave us alone.

When I was 10 the attacks got particularly savage. Once my parents were walking home after a night out and he stabbed her. My mum ended up in hospital. I knew something was wrong as I was told to stay with my nan.

 

By the time I was 11, my mum and I both felt like we couldn’t cope any more.

 

Then one day my mum made a friend – a woman who lived across the road. She saw what was happening to us and she understood. She told us about Refuge. We had no idea there was such a thing as a refuge – somewhere safe we could stay while we rebuilt our lives away from my father. It sounded like something out of a dream.

He wasn’t at home, so now was our chance. We had to move quickly. We both knew that if he came home and saw that we were trying to leave, our chance of escape would be over. We packed a few belongings into a black bin liner, watching the clock all the time in case he came home.

It was the 22nd of December – three days before Christmas. But we weren’t thinking about what our Christmas would be like. We just wanted the nightmare to end.

We went to our neighbour’s house and she rang Refuge for us. They said they had room for a couple more people.

 

I remember that day so clearly.

 

I remember not getting too close to the window. I remember being driven to the refuge in a car, and lying flat so that no one could see us. I remember feeling petrified as the car drove past our house. I remember thinking, “If he has spotted us we are in so much trouble.”

When we arrived, my mum had broken ribs and other injuries. I was really anxious. A group of friendly women invited us in and showed us to our room. They gave us something to eat and drink. The house was nearly full, and another family arrived the next night.

 

We realised we weren’t alone in what we had been going through.

 

I made good friends with the other children in the refuge. The staff supported us to contact all the different people we needed to, to sort out housing and a safe way for me to get to school. They even provided me with some presents to open on Christmas Day.

Gradually, my confidence came back. I started to enjoy all the things I should have been enjoying at that age – going to school and making friends. Nine months later, my mum and I had our own home and the start of a new life, one where we could be safe and happy.

I’m 31 now, I run my own business and I am happily married. My mum is married now too, to a wonderful man. She’s doing really well. And every year around this time I remember the woman who changed our lives – my mum’s friend who had that phone number on a piece of paper, three days before Christmas, 20 years ago…”

Help us continue to support women and children like Julie and her mum this Christmas and in the future.

Please donate now. Thank you.