Lorna's Blog

  • Posted: April 23rd, 2024
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  • Category: Staff News

Having previously worked for a domestic abuse service and having conducted extensive academic study in the area, I perhaps should not have been as crushingly disappointed to find it so prevalent in my current role. At a glance, of the 23 people with complex health needs I am currently working with in the community, 11 of the 17  women (65%) are survivors of domestic abuse as adults and at least 8 of the women (I know of) and 3 of the 6 men were subjected to abuse as children at home or in care, a consistent pattern since the work began in August 2021. 

Where people have long term health conditions or are disabled, abuse is more severe and enduring across a lifetime, relationships are harder to leave  and survivors are isolated and less likely to come to the attention of  support services. Abusers often use a person’s care needs to perpetrate the abuse. One woman I work with had a husband who enforced pain on her by withholding medication, while another in a pretence of helping his wife,  insists on going to the toilet with her which ensures she is never out of his sight and he is able to control the finest detail of everything she does. A woman I support who is learning disabled, was raped as a girl several times in care and by a family member and then later as a young woman. She gave up telling anyone after the first few times it happened because she was not believed. Another woman had children removed from her because she was considered unable to protect them because of the abuse she was being subjected to. 

Domestic abuse unsurprisingly affects a person’s mental and physical health long after the abuse ends. A relatively recent revelation however, has been the link between child abuse or intimate partner violence and the long-term condition fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia, which causes widespread pain across the body and extreme fatigue, is thought to be the result of changes in the brain caused by trauma. Many of the people I have come across in my role are living with the daily pain and exhaustion fibromyalgia causes.

A man I am working with whose mother had been in multiple abusive relationships and who had been subject to beatings from his father as a child until he left home, asked me to support him to attend a neurology appointment recently. When the consultant diagnosed him with fibromyalgia, he said that while there is currently a lot of research being conducted about this condition which is incurable, the only treatment found to help is water therapy, especially the use of hydrotherapy. Unfortunately the only hydrotherapy pools open to the public in this area are in Silverdale and Kendal, a trek for which a car journey is necessary. For people with long term health conditions and living in poverty, owning or having access to a car, and/or driving are rarely an option.

However, there are plenty of examples of people going on to lead happier lives regardless of the scars abuse leaves and we support them to do this on a daily basis. Many times I have bumped into women and children locally  who I supported at a refuge where they had fled domestic abuse. Sometimes as early as 1 year on they are settled and thriving. I am also a survivor of domestic violence and I have a good life and a job I love. The Citizens Representative role allows me the luxury of time for the deep listening needed when helping people build better lives after trauma. 

Citizens Advice North Lancashire holds a wealth of knowledge and experience  which I can draw on to offer practical support with finances, housing and child contact for example, when the distress of surviving is making it too much for a person to manage without intensive support. In connecting with a person at a deeper level while  helping with such things, I often have the privilege of helping people develop  a positive and healthy sense of self, which the perpetrators of abuse had robbed them of.

For example, one woman in her 70s who had multiple abusive partners and an abusive mother, has become  a prolific writer and recently had articles published in the national press. Several other women have discovered a talent for art, whilst another, who was painted as mentally unstable by her ex partner to prevent child contact, is able to be a mother to her son again.   

If you've been affected by any of the issues raised in this blog, discreet and confidential help is available.

Safenet: 0300 3033 581 safenet.org.uk

Women's Aid - womensaid.org.uk

The Freephone 24/7 National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247

Aesiria - Aesiria is a new organisation in Morecambe, which aims to help women experiencing domestic abuse.
The group meets every Thursday morning in central Morecambe, between 10am and 12 noon. Children are welcome, refreshments are provided, and currently the group has a Polish speaker available, with an ambition to expand support to other languages in future. To find out more, about how to attend, or just to talk, you can call 07341 363433 or email aesiria05@gmail.com. Everything is in the strictest confidence.

  • Posted: 23/04/24
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  • Category: Staff News
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