50 Years 50 Voices "I told a friend what had been happening and she said, ‘pack a bag and leave now, just get out’." Anna's* Story *Names changed to protect identities I was with my partner for nearly four years. He had been abusive before the pandemic but it was when lockdown started and we were stuck in the house together that the abuse became so much worse. On the day that lockdown was announced I remember I was eating a hot bowls of noodles and he just grabbed them and poured them over me, burning my skin. Lockdown also meant I lost my job as I work in the airline industry; work was my life, it was my escape and all my close friends were my work colleagues. While others were quite looking forward to having some time at home I was dreading it. I knew it would mean that I would have no chance to escape the physical and emotional abuse. I don’t have any close friends or family living nearby, so my work colleagues are my best friends. The thought of not seeing them, of not having anywhere to go, was so scary. As time went on during lockdown I became increasingly anxious. My partner would wait until I was asleep and then he would punch me and scratch me. In the morning he would deny he had done anything. I used to be able to escape his violent moods by going to the gym and swimming but during lockdown that became impossible. My levels of anxiety were just getting worse and worse and I felt increasingly trapped. I wanted to leave but I was really worried that there was nowhere to go. I started looking online when I could but I wasn’t sure who would be able to help me during lockdown. Eventually I told a friend what had been happening and she said, ‘pack a bag and leave now, just get out’. I packed the only bag I could find and went and stayed in a hotel. I stayed there for a few days but my money was running out. That’s when someone gave me the number for the National Domestic Abuse Helpline. I remember calling them and then going to sit in a park for about seven hours while they found me a place. Arriving at the refuge I felt very safe. I still haven’t told my friends where I am. It’s not easy though during lockdown. I’m having to stay in one room and there’s not much space. Going out in the garden is a bit tricky because of the social distancing and the children at the refuge need to be able to play. There are some lovely people here though and it’s so nice to see the children. I’m finding not going out and doing my usual workout really tough. That was how I used to manage my anxiety. However, overall I feel a big sense of relief and I just hope things get better. I’m having weekly key work sessions with the staff at the refuge and it’s really helping. We have coffee mornings and I get to discuss how I’m doing over a cup of coffee. It makes me feel more at ease. In a way, the pandemic and lockdown helped me to decide to leave because I had to go, the abuse was so bad. I had to get help. I know it’s not easy to leave but my advice to other people suffering abuse is to get help as soon as you can. The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is free, open day and night, and they give honest advice. Don’t be scared. We all have different experiences, but help is out there. Now I’m starting to recover, I want to get back into work as soon as I can and get back into fitness. I want to start working on my mental health. I’m looking to the future. Which book has impacted me the most? I’ve been reading this book called Good Vibes, Good Life: How Self-Love is the Key to Unlocking your Greatness. It’s really teaching me about self-love. Which film has impacted me the most? I’ve watched this movie called Someone Great that was released last year. It’s got 82% positive reviews at the moment. This movie has influenced me greatly, by stepping out and into a phase of life and into the next as I have commitment phobias. It’s got great ideas on what I would like my happy ending to look like. Which song has impacted me the most? Shawn Mendes, In My Blood. This song has an impact on how I was struggling to be strong. At the time. It’s in my blood to be strong so I’d listen to it to feel a little stronger sometimes. The freephone 24/7 National Domestic Abuse Helpline can be contacted on 0808 2000 247 If it is safe to do so, download the free Bright Sky app for support and information. Read more like this Isaac's* Story: "I met my support worker, he changed my life." Judy's Story: "When my son passed away three years ago, I was in bits, and needed to fill that space" Zoe's Story: "I wanted to give back to women who had experienced domestic abuse"