At the heart of everything we do are the voices of women, children, and men who have experienced violence. So keeping in touch with survivors is very important at SAFE. We caught up with Marie who did our pattern changing course 5 years ago and is still reaping the rewards.

One of our SAFE volunteers, Alice caught up with a very brave lady who took part in our Pattern Changing course. Marie has experienced abuse for most of her life. She shares her story with our volunteer, hoping to reach out to others affected by abuse and violence. 

SAFE Volunteer: Thank you so much for agreeing to speak with us and sharing your story Marie.

Marie: Not a problem at all, always happy to share my story if it will help to inspire others. 

SAFE: Can you tell us briefly about what life was like before you participated in the pattern changing course at SAFE?

Marie: When I look back to the starting point of when things went wrong, I was probably around eight years old. I was abused by a close family member, but I was too young to understand what was happening. I was bullied at school and my confidence was at an all time low. I didn't have any friends. I just wanted to spend all my time with my horses. 

SAFE: I'm really sorry to hear that this has happened to you, Marie. Do you mind telling me what happened after that? 

Marie: Not at all, like I said my confidence was at an all time low, but then when I was 16 I got a boyfriend! Yes me a boyfriend. I couldn't believe my luck. I still had no confidence in myself though, after years of being told I was fat despite wearing 24” waist jeans, I still believed I was.  So there I was 16 with a boyfriend…all I ever wanted through High School was to be “normal” and liked and have a boyfriend.  Little did I know that he would be the start of a very dark and evil path of destruction…he took my virginity from me at 16 years old and WITHOUT my consent!! Yet I was so desperate to be seen to be normal, I stayed for 4 years of both emotional and physical abuse.

SAFE: Did the abuse stop when the relationship ended?

Marie: No, I went from bad to worse with my choices in men from then on in.I've been physically beaten, thrown out of a moving car, abandoned on wasteland in the middle of nowhere on a remote island, tracked, traced, had recording equipment hidden in my home, told I was mental and believed it.The list of abuse) is insane!! Until finally I felt I could take no more. I couldn't carry on if this was life –I thought what's the point?  The last man I was with before now completely destroyed me in EVERY way.I wasn't even a shadow of a person, I woke up, I breathed, I ate, I slept, I merely existed. I had no life!

SAFE: Marie you have been through a lot, how did you manage to escape? 

Marie: I can't go on into too much detail about what was said and done but it ended with my GP shutting me in the surgery and contacting the Police.  Subsequently, I had panic buttons installed throughout my house. I couldn't leave the house because he was always there.

SAFE: I can’t imagine how scary that would have been.  You are very brave. Did your GP refer you to Stop Abuse for Everyone?

Marie: Yes that's right. I wasn't keen, at all. I mean who would believe the things I said? What would people think of me? Everyone would think I'm crazy too?? Surely.

SAFE: So did they? Did they think you were crazy?

Marie: Not at all! It was the first time in my life where I felt normal and a part of something, with people who understood me. 

SAFE: What support did you get from Stop Abuse For Everyone?

Marie: I was put on the pattern changing course. The first session was a bit strong.  It was not hard or uncomfortable just lots of frightened ladies, all brought together, all feeling scared and nervous. I will never forget the chocolate biscuits though, they got everyone talking!  

Over the first couple of weeks, I felt inspired, I didn't feel lonely any more, I wanted a meeting EVERY day - we became like family as we shared our stories and started to learn again what is and what is not acceptable! You'd be surprised at how many of us really had no idea anymore; about what was okay and what wasn't.

SAFE: It sounds like you all really bonded. Has played a vital role in your journey? 

Marie: Yes! Absolutely! Pattern Changing made me look at my life and I realised that only I could change it. Only I had that power. It made me believe in myself and taught me about my boundaries and I started to learn to like myself again. I am 40 years old now, I set myself up in business 6 months after I finished Pattern Changing and I'm now the Director of a well established local business employing over 5 staff.   I have a wonderful man by my side and yes we have our ups and downs like everyone does, but I will never, EVER stop believing in myself and that's all down to Pattern Changing.

SAFE: That is amazing Marie. I think many women will feel inspired by your story and what you have achieved.  On behalf of everyone at SAFE I want to say thank you for sharing your journey with us. It is so nice to hear how you were able to get so much out of the Pattern Changing program. 

Marie: Thank you SAFE for being there and supporting me. I hope that anybody reading this that is doubtful or scared of seeking help, please know that you are not alone and when the time is right, seek the right support from an organisation like SAFE.

If you would like to know more about Pattern Change you can read about the course and other services here