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How we support survivors of domestic abuse: Chloe's story

Chloe* felt out of place from an early age. Her mother and stepfather had a violent relationship, influenced by alcohol. Chloe didn’t go to secondary school and spent most of her teenage years unsupervised. This led to her being groomed and sexually exploited. Chloe left home as a teenager and found her biological father, who was a heroin addict and got her into using heroin. She becomes addicted to opiates for the following decade.

At 16, Chloe moves in with her boyfriend, but she has never learned what a healthy relationship is and he uses violence to control her. She has four children with him before he lets her use contraception. She tries to hide the violence from her children, but they get taken into care. Chloe’s boyfriend blames her for this and the violence escalates. Chloe flees to another county and ends up sleeping rough. As a petite female, Chloe is physically vulnerable on the streets. She is also psychologically vulnerable, as the abuse has left her with no sense of self-worth or autonomy, which makes her a likely target for perpetrators of abuse.

She quickly gets into another relationship and becomes dependent on her new partner for shelter and drugs. She feels protected as he escorts her around, even taking care of her belongings and food. Over time, he checks on her more and more. She develops an eating disorder because he says she’s getting fat. He even takes control of her money. When she tries to act against him, he becomes violent. Chloe is hospitalised numerous times, but she thinks this is the price of being loved. When she tries to leave her partner, she feels empty and suicidal, and gets sectioned.

Chloe is referred to Justlife. Justlife ensure the council keep a room available in emergency accommodation, so Chloe always has a safe retreat from her partner. When Chloe feels able to speak freely, Justlife remind her of her rights to safety and choice, provide her with food, clothes and things to do, showing her unconditional kindness. Justlife support Chloe through trips to hospital, as her substance misuse and eating disorder have become life-threatening. They ensure she gets medication for her mental health. Chloe is wary of healthcare professionals, but Justlife support her through appointments and help her improve her self-care.

When Chloe develops the confidence to leave her abuser, Justlife help her communicate with domestic abuse services and the criminal justice system. Chloe secures a conviction for some of the abuse. Justlife are there for Chloe when she experiences intense emotions in dealing with her trauma. They develop the trust and understanding needed to calm her down when her anger is misdirected at professionals or herself.

Justlife refer Chloe for therapies to help her cope with her trauma. They help her secure a place in female-only supported housing. Justlife provide encouragement and emotional support as Chloe settles into her new home. Chloe continues to work towards independence.

*Chloe is not a real person, but this story was written by a Justlife Support Worker to represent the typical experience of the survivors we work with.