It was the day before the four day Easter weekend. Our six-year-old daughter was at a friend’s house for the night, I was packing for a weekend away with the folks and looking forward to a quiet night in with the hubbie and a takeaway. We were setting off at 7:00pm the following evening to drive down to Bristol. Just after our curry arrived at 7:30pm I received a call from my daughter’s schoolfriend’s mum.

We’re not particularly close – our interaction until then had been hellos in the school playground and the occasional drop off at parties and play dates. I was surprised to see her name on the display as we’d always used WhatsApp before! I almost let the phone go to voicemail so I could tuck in to my dinner, but I decided to answer the phone. I’m glad I did. She was really upset and it took a while to understand what she was saying.

June said that she was phoning me because she had remembered me mentioning, when she came to pick up Mary last month, that I volunteered with a domestic abuse charity and she was hoping I might be able to connect her with the charity.

June told me she had been physically assaulted by her husband in front of the kids on Monday and he had told her to take her things and the children and never come back. She said that she had left him and her home straight away in order to keep Mary, her brother and herself safe, at which point he changed the locks so she couldn’t return for her things.

June went to a friend’s house to stay, but when the friend’s husband had returned from his trip she could no longer stay with them. June told me that she had spent the whole day, with her children and their suitcase in the local council office. First they had been in the housing department, where she was told they couldn’t help.

Then she spent 4 hours at social services, where again she was told that they could not help her but that she should go to a hotel for the four day weekend and come back on Tuesday and they would do a full assessment of the situation. They suggested she talk to the police.  

When she phoned, she asked if I could give her any advice.

The police were with her but couldn’t get through to the Domestic Abuse helpline and didn’t have any specialist training – they had no idea what to do with her. I was so angry. Surely there was someone who would take responsibility for supporting her rather than putting her and her children out on the Street?

Fortunately there was – me. I told them to come over to stay and I would help her work things out in the morning – 8pm is no time for her to be left alone with the children and no support. She told me when she arrived that I was the last person she could think to call.

It makes my blood run cold to think of them sleeping on the floor of the police station if I had let that call go to voicemail. 

That evening I tried to find out more information to help her out, but I didn’t know where to start. It was obviously very upsetting thinking about what she had gone through. I was worried about how to explain it to my daughter. And on top of everything we were due to go away on our family holiday the next day. 

A friend told me about Bright Sky and I used that to try and help her understand a bit more and find the right numbers to call.

In the end we worked out that because she was still waiting for her indefinite leave to remain, she wasn’t entitled to any support. I wouldn’t put them out on the streets so I cancelled our weekend away so they could stay. They stayed with me all weekend and went back to social services after the bank holiday.

June was so grateful to us and the kids had a great weekend playing together. I was just really grateful that I am lucky enough to have been in a position to offer her a place to stay. June’s voice when I offered to come down and pick her and her children up will stay with me forever, and I know that the experience will mean we have a friend for life.

I feel so furious when I think of all of the Junes out there who couldn’t get through to anyone on the phone. They are sleeping in their cars, or fleabag hostels or returning to abusive partners, because they have no other choice. They are unable to protect themselves or their children and will carry the psychological damage of that for longer than it could ever take to fix their practical problems.

What is Bright Sky? 

Bright Sky is a free to download mobile app providing support and information to anyone who may be in an abusive relationship or those concerned about someone they know.

The app is also designed to be used by specialist and non-specialist practitioners and other employers, and for anyone looking for information about issues around domestic abuse such as online safety, stalking and harassment and sexual consent.

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