Domestic violence often relies on isolating the victim. For victims living in rural areas, this isolation is worsened because they may live far from public transport, support services, family and friends.
After decades trapped in a brutal and violent relationship, 49 year old *Edna Jones from Carmarthenshire eventually plucked up the courage to leave her husband and find the help she so desperately needed. “I suffered abuse for 30 years, basically the whole time I was with my husband,” says Edna. “It ranged from severe physical abuse to verbal and mental abuse.
“He denied me friends and he would take things from me including keys, debit cards and my mobile phone. He would change the locks on the doors and not let me go anywhere. He tried absolutely everything to break me. The physical abuse was worse when I was younger and when our children were younger. The control, verbal abuse and the constant humiliation became more prevalent later on.
“He wouldn’t allow me to go on the internet, read magazines or watch TV. The threats on my life and my children’s lives are continuing to this day. Despite him having a restraining order, it hasn’t stopped him from trying to control and manipulate me and his campaign of fear continues. Although I haven’t completely escaped from it at least I don’t have to live with him anymore.”
For Edna, solace came in the form of the Carmarthenshire Domestic Abuse Service (CDAS) charity which helps all those affected by domestic abuse and sexual violence to become survivors and assists them along the whole journey. She heard about the charity, which has received funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, through the local authority and used the CDAS refuge accommodation for several months before being offered a house in a rural part of Carmarthenshire. According to Edna, being a victim of domestic violence in a rural community has its own set of challenges and she still lives in constant fear that her ex-partner may find out where she is.
“When I was first re-housed in a rural area I was naturally concerned about security because my husband was still making threats towards me,” she says. “There are also transport issues and I started to feel a bit isolated. Bus services don’t run in the evenings or on Sundays where I live so you can’t go to the cinema or the theatre. There are no shops locally so everything has to be planned within day light hours. When you’re a victim of domestic abuse, you don’t know who to trust and you struggle to make friends.
“And obviously having left a relationship, you have no money and can’t afford a taxi. When I left the refuge I couldn’t even afford a teaspoon and I didn’t have any family in the area. You also have to travel far to see a doctor or a dentist. Simple things make it hard like the fact I can’t afford a land line and I have to use my mobile phone which has a poor signal in this area.” Edna finds the support at CDAS invaluable and finds living in such a rural area acceptable because of the ongoing support.
“CDAS has been my lifeline if I’m being honest,” she says. “It’s been a blessing being able to come to drop in a couple of times a week and catch up with people. They give you practical advice and emotional support when you need it. In a rural area like Carmarthenshire, this service is even more prevalent. I wouldn’t have a roof over my head if it wasn’t for this project. They’re helping me to rebuild my life and I honestly don’t know if I would still be alive without it.
There are group sessions, activities and trips to make your life seem normal as it can be again. Sometimes we sit and have a coffee and do arts and crafts. It’s nice to have a break from doing very little and get away from that loneliness you feel in a rural area and meet other women. In a nutshell, they give you the building blocks to carry on after domestic abuse has taken over your life.”
Ann Marie is one of the Support Workers and has been with CDAS for nearly 20 years. “We have found that there are a lot of older people coming forward who want to leave a relationship after 30 or 40 years,” says Ann. “It’s a double edged sword living rurally. You can feel safe because it’s quiet and remote but equally you can feel isolated and vulnerable. Last year we had about 260 contacts with our drop in service and our oldest victim is 80 years old.
“We actually struggle to meet the demand with the amount of people we have coming through the door. Once they have made the initial contact with us, it gets easier from there on and this project gives people a voice and freedom. We want people to come forward and to know that we are here for them.”
This blog is helping to promote the National Lottery Community Fund’s Rural Programme. Community groups can apply to share £13.5 million to make great thing happen in rural Wales.
*not her real name