Layla’s Story – a truthful insight to the life of a domestic abuse survivor
It is a well-known fact that relationships require work, they have their ups and downs. Unfortunately, the ups can become less frequent and the downs take a turn for the worse. When the downs become abusive, that is not normal and no one deserves any form of abuse. This is a story of a woman who was brave enough to leave a relationship after surviving seventeen years of abuse from her partner. This is Layla’s story.
Seventeen years ago she met her now ex partner who is the father of her two children. She said the warning signs were always there, he was often manipulating and controlling but she thought things would be okay.
He was a heavy drinker and regularly used cocaine which is when he became aggressive and abusive towards her and her children, particularly to their ten year old son. It started as constant verbal and emotional abuse, though it gradually progressed to physical violence as well. “If he was ever annoyed or frustrated, he would shout at both of us and then my son would get hit and I would get a shove or the back of a hand to my face” she stated.
The abuse was often worse during days when her partner’s football team were playing and he would go on binges, drinking heavily and using cocaine. If Layla didn’t say the right thing, regardless if his team won or lost, then he would change and take his aggression out on her or her son.
Layla knew there was a problem and that her partner needed to reach out for help to stop his drinking and drug use. While she brought up the issue of his behaviour time after time, he refused to admit that his actions were problematic. Like many perpetrators of domestic violence commonly do, he blamed Layla. He believed his behaviour was her fault and if anyone needed to change, it was her.
Even though Layla wanted to leave she was afraid of the stigma from society and fear of what might happen. Sadly, these are all common reason why victims of domestic violence stay. She was furthermore convinced, even by others such as her partner’s mother, that the relationship was okay, even normal, and encouraged Layla to stay in it.
Layla knew that neither she nor her children were happy with the current situation and she urged her partner to get help once again. When her partner’s GP gave him a leaflet about his local drug and alcohol service, Layla’s partner reluctantly agreed to accompany her to an appointment. But after this first session he angrily denied having a problem and declared that he would not go back.
From this visit Layla found out about support for families affected by someone else’s drug or alcohol use and reached out for support. Immediately after talking to her local family support service, she felt a wave of relief. She tells me that she remembers being so grateful to find an ear to listen. The feeling that someone was finally listening and that she had the power to change her situation pushed her to continue with the sessions.
After a few months of engaging with the families service Layla remembers the exact point in which she knew things had to change. Her partner was beginning to become irrationally possessive and moody, going as far as kicking her out of her own bedroom and forcing Layla to sleep on the sofa. This caught her daughter’s attention. As her daughter began to recognise the signs of abuse, she encouraged her mother to leave her father. “I don’t like him. I know he’s my dad, but he’s horrible”. Layla’s daughter said to her “if you’re not careful and with the way he’s behaving, he is going to kick you out of your own home and where do we go?” At the shock of this statement coming from her daughter, she knew she needed to make the change.
She would tell someone in a similar situation as herself to talk about it, recognise and know that it is not their fault, that they’re not the one in the wrong. A member of the family service advised Layla that if she recognised she didn’t like the situation she was in, then she needed to change it. She told me, “yes I did need to change, by changing the relationship and ending it. By moving on I did change.”
Layla found the most helpful aspect of the service was going to the groups and talking with people who have had similar experiences. Through conversation, she was starting to realise that if she was to hear her story from someone else, she would have been saying to get out of the toxic relationship and talking about it made it real.
Now, in the aftermath of seventeen years of abuse, she feels she is gaining her confidence back, day by day. There is still work to do as her children were affected as well. Her daughter has started acting aggressively and has become depressed. Having suppressed all her emotions during the abuse and when the relationship ended, everything came out in a violent outburst. Layla’s son was never allowed to cry, even when hurt and if he did, he would receive the backlash of his father. Now, due to repressed emotions, her son also displays similar behaviours as his older sister. The whole family are now learning new behaviours and Layla states that when her children argue (usually over something trivial) she allows them to just let it all out and then they move on.
Though the memories may always remain, Layla is hopeful for the future as she and her children continue to work towards a new, happier family life.
If you are experiencing domestic violence then there is free and confidential support available.
National 24 hour Helpline – 0808 2000 247
National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428