50 Years 50 Voices "I want to show women that there is a life after domestic abuse." Natasha's Story Back in 2017, I was in an abusive relationship and ended up being supported by a Hestia refuge. I kept going back to partner, but after the birth of my second child, I knew I had to escape. At the refuge, my support worker was brilliant. I was cut off from my friends and family because I was so isolated by my partner; so even just having my support worker for a chat meant a lot. It makes you feel like you’re not alone. I was offered counselling and at first, I didn’t think I needed it. In the end, it was really helpful. My daughter witnessed a lot of what happened, so she had counselling too. It helped us to recover and move forward. In 2020, my youngest started nursery and I had a lot of free time on my hands. I wanted to do something that would allow me to get to know myself again, and to not just see myself as a parent. I also wanted to do something to help women who had been through a situation like me, particularly as domestic abuse increased during the pandemic. I went back to Hestia in December and joined Hestia’s Refuge Referral Line team as a volunteer. We take calls from women who need to find a room in one of Hestia’s refuges and direct them to other organisations if we don't have any vacancies. Some of the women I have spoken to are in such similar situations to what I went through. Some of them are so young, and I think: “You shouldn’t have to go through this”. I imagine that’s what the person thought about me when I was looking for help. There’s a team of volunteers and staff in our office, taking phone calls and responding to people's emails. It’s usually busiest on a Friday, when women are desperate to find somewhere safe over the weekend. I have spoken to women who had no idea that support services were even open during lockdown. We want people to know that support is always available and some helplines are open 24/7. When I’m speaking to people on the phone, I can easily empathise with them as I was in their position once. When you’re in an abusive relationship, things can feel hopeless, like you don’t have a choice but to stay in that relationship. I want people to know that there is a way out. Running the Refuge Referral Line has shown me that domestic abuse is happening more than people think, and there is more to domestic abuse than physical violence. There are so many types of domestic abuse. I’ve learnt a lot about myself while volunteering. I’ve found that I have more confidence than I thought possible, and I’ve been able to go on training courses and take on new skills. It’s been brilliant. Above all else, I’ve realised that this is what I want to do when I go back into full-time work. Knowing that you’ve helped someone to find somewhere safe is a special feeling, and that’s why I want to become a family support worker, or a refuge support worker. Many women feel trapped in abusive relationships. I want to show them that there is a life on the other side of it.