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‘I can honestly say, coming to Essex has been a life changer’ – a domestic abuse survivor story told to conference

Posted Wednesday 13th December

A mum whose life has been ripped apart by domestic abuse has told how arriving in Essex saved her.

Ruth Tansey experienced domestic abuse as a child and went on to live an adult life full of drink, drugs and violent relationships – resulting in her only child being taken into care and then adopted.

It was not until she found herself in Essex that she begun to turn her life around.

Now, she is helping to support other women as they find their path through and away from addiction.

Ruth was among the speakers sharing their lived experiences at the Diverse Experiences of Domestic Abuse conference hosted by the Southend, Essex & Thurrock Domestic Abuse Board (SETDAB).

SETDAB provides advice and information on services for those affected by domestic abuse.

The conference, at Chelmsford City Racecourse, brought together victim-survivors and the many support services available.

Ruth told delegates: “My story is a little bit chaotic. I only started to heal from it when I came to Essex.

“Growing up, I dealt with a lot of domestic abuse and I said to myself I am not going to be that person.”

But, growing up as the only mixed-race person in her “middle class white” community and struggling to fit in, she soon fell into a relationship.

The partner was a drug-taker and violence became a part of the relationship. With him regularly turning up at her workplace demanding money for drugs and leaving her with black eyes and stitches, Ruth often left jobs out of embarrassment – and turned to hard drugs.

On trying to leave, Ruth’s partner kept her hostage in a house. When her mum went to the property, the partner chased her up the road with a carving knife.

Ruth said: “I always chose him. I wanted to help him. After it all, I still stayed.”

But, eventually, she sought support from a spiritual rehabilitation centre in Birmingham, where she said she heeled her heart but not her head and so the problems continued.

Spending a year in a refuge, she then settled with a man she met during the process, moving in together, falling pregnant and getting married within a year.

During the pregnancy, her partner began drinking again and the beatings started.

She said: “As I had found God, I thought he had put him in my path and so I should help him.

“I wouldn’t say he was trying to beat my daughter out of me, but he gave it a good go. Within four days of our daughter being born, he tried to strangle me and headbutted me while I was holding the baby – my blood dripped on her head.

“Drugs is a big part of my story. They go hand in hand with violence.”

That partner was jailed and Ruth created a happy life back home with her mum and her daughter.

But, when her daughter’s father was released from prison, the beatings begun again and their daughter was taken away and adopted.

Ruth said: “I was drinking, seeing my husband on the sly. I was frightened to leave, but frightened to stay. I could not let go of the relationship and I could not stop drinking. I was not of sound mind.

“I was not protecting my daughter and I get that now. I was bringing my daughter up around domestic violence. I have had a good few years to forgive myself for that. The most devastating thing I have been through in my life is losing my daughter.

“I got love at home from my mum and siblings, but I always ended up in co-dependent relationships. Everything I thought I would not do or be I became.”

After losing her daughter, Ruth headed for London “in shame”, leaving her worried family fearing the worst for four years.

She ended up living on sofas, on the streets and in hostels as well as a stint in prison. She was using drugs and living in fear of violence.

The day eventually came when she picked up the phone and reached out to her mum for help, before arriving at Next Chapter domestic abuse support charity on New Year’s Eve 2020.

Having been clean and sober since New Year’s Day 2021, she said: “Every waking moment, I was drinking. For four years, I was never sober or not using and if I was not it was because I had passed out. I chose to live like that as I did not think I deserved better.

“When my mum came to see me, it was the look on her face that made me realise what I had done. I saw not only what I had been doing to myself, but to the people who cared about me.

“I can honestly say, coming to Essex has been a life changer. Next Chapter gave me the courage to be who I am and helped me to address the situation with my daughter. They gave me therapy. They really believed in me. I cannot thank them enough for giving me that stepping stone. I would not be standing here today if I had not turned up there.”

Ruth is now employed by the SIS team at Forward Trust dealing with referrals and volunteers for the Self Help Addiction Recovery Programme (SHARP) each week. She also supports Refuge and is a member of the ERF team.

She said: “It helps me and it shows clients that recovery is possible. I enjoy my life right now. The people in my circle love and care for me and I love them back.

“I have got some amazing people around me who provide constant support. My life is pretty amazing.”

The SETDAB conference is held each year to lead into the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

It is an opportunity to bring people together to build connections and strengthen partnership working, as well as showcasing the work happening across the county in tackling domestic abuse in all its forms, with partner stalls on display.

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01245 291600

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