Jill's Story

Jill's Story
I was just about managing to talk through the tears, tears of utter relief that I was actually being heard and believed

My journey through rise from survivor, ambassador, connector, volunteer & now working in the sector – by Jill

Shortly after a lightbulb conversation with my GP when I described in sheer desperation the utter fear I’d been living in for so long. The violence, the anger, the threats, and what could I possibly do to make him any less angry. He said the sentence: “Jill who’s the victim here?” and drew the cycle of abuse in front of me.

In Early March 2016, I fled from the marital home after 19 years with my daughters. Within 20 minutes, seizing the moment, I had filled a bin bag for each of us and fled to family. Only hours after I was supported by a call to women’s aid who referred me to my local domestic abuse services at WORTH. I remember being on the phone with them for almost two hours initially, while they validated one thing after another and then they labelled this as abuse, and him as the perpetrator. I was just about managing to talk through the tears, tears of utter relief that I was actually being heard and believed. And after living with such numbness for so long.

They worked with me and supported me over about 9 months with a couple of caseworkers following completing a dash risk assessment. I now know that I had experienced 5 of the 8 forms of domestic abuse. Psychological, physical, emotional, sexual and economic abuse. Some forms of this continued and escalated post-separation. Victim shaming and economic abuse especially.

I attended the Freedom program through Safe in Sussex, three times over actually, and this was by choice. First two times, for my own recovery, and the further time to gain awareness and knowledge with interest. This prompted lightbulb after lightbulb and the support from meeting other survivors was invaluable.

In the first half of 2018, I chose to train with Women’s Aid on my level 3 women’s aid qualification: tackling and preventing domestic and sexual violence and abuse. I was trained by someone called Suhana who I then later met at a training event through RISE. It was this that gave me the determination to try and develop this into my career. Ironically it was only once my divorce settlement had come through that I was actually able to finance the course. The majority of my career before had been sabotaged as part of the abuse. Economic restrictions and control around technology and passwords and accessing my accounts, for example, was a main element of this although at the time it was being seen as “helpful” or I was told I didn’t understand computers or technology.

I was able to continue with some of my work, albeit very limited, but my utmost priority was to be there for my two daughters whilst trying also to build on my determination to support other DV survivors one day. I then applied for a voluntary role with RISE in the spring of 2018 which I didn’t actually get, but this then led to me meeting Juliette. She became a point of contact and showed great kindness, which I know really helped towards my healing, my self-belief and recovery at the time. I attended some evening connector sessions where we studied gender violence with a small group of other survivors. I then started my ambassador training at RISE with Tilly in the summer of 2018, and shortly after I started my helpline training in the autumn, then started my helpline position with RISE in October 2018. I continued with this every Thursday until December 2019 when I needed to leave for personal reasons. I was juggling a lot of other things at the time and my dear dad had become very poorly also. At the time my go-to contact was Suhana, one of the kindest people I have ever met (to be fair all of the people at RISE are). She encouraged me and helped me build my skills whilst working on the helpline and I met many other members of staff. I attended various training which I could use to help build my career, including LGBTQI DV support, disability support, DV support for children and financial and economic abuse awareness, amongst others.

The work on the helpline was hugely important to me and I could tell that I was able to apply many of my skills to listening and validating the caller's experiences. Suhana also offered me emotional support on a few occasions when my own DV situation escalated and I know how important it was to check in with such a role also.

During a similar time, I developed contact with the RITA project who I had met during a training session at RISE. This developed into me telling my lived experience to large audiences of professionals who were supporting DV victims. For example, the police, medical professionals and solicitors. I did this on two occasions as well as writing a lived experience story to be shared within rural communities as part of the RITA project, where often DV is kept behind close doors.

Separate to the RITA project I then also offered my time to Cats Protection, and their new scheme, Paws Protect, to offer my lived experience to the fostering families who take on cats when [their owners] are fleeing domestic abuse. I met a lovely person there named Rose, through a networking day at friends meeting house. Sadly this is a service I didn’t know of at the time and which resulted in me facing an extremely hard-hitting outcome. I’d presented my story to a group of foster carers, it was a tough talk, but highly valued as to how important this service is.

Outside of RISE I also trained to offer emotional listening support with an organisation called Time for Children, and to work as a volunteer supporting children in schools experiencing worries and concerns, often related to DV situations. These skills became part of the skills I could apply to my helpline role. I also started developing my role as a connector at RISE and designing for RISE, my go-to contact was Tanya who showed me such encouragement for my artwork and most importantly helped me value myself and my work. This has helped me greatly build my confidence in how I see myself and my skills.

I worked initially on redesigning the drama triangle for RISE and the community button. This helped me get to know other team members at RISE also. This later led to a long-term design project working with Tanya to visually represent the extent and the achievements of the big lottery community project. This project really emphasises RISE’s achievements and it felt really special to be involved with.

Whilst working alongside Suhana I’d made it clear that I was really keen to one day make this more of a career, and she would alert me to any advertised positions inside or outside of RISE that came up with any DV connections. It was through seeing an advert at RISE for Money Advice Plus, as an assistant caseworker. I had not worked in the money industry at all but I had actually received training through Money Advice Plus around Economic Abuse whilst at RISE, and at the time it had hit home with such accuracy just how relevant this had been within my own DV experience, especially life post-separation. I applied with little professional experience but with DV knowledge and awareness, my lived experience, and good people skills. I was offered the job. The job was not at the time to work with DV-specific clients, and it was part-time, but many of the clients were experiencing life-changing events, often highly vulnerable and needing empathy, support and someone who would understand their situation. I started work with Money Advice Plus in September 2019.

In January 2021, I finally reached my goal to become part of the DEAP team, the domestic abuse team, and I completely love what I do. We are partnered with SEA (Surviving Economic Abuse) and are always receiving further training on economic abuse, specifically working with coerced debts and working with creditors to help them understand the impact created by domestic violence.

This career opportunity would not have been at all possible without my initial experience and training through RISE. I believe most importantly that the belief in my capabilities that I gained through being around the people at RISE is what helped me get back on track.

In June 2021 I am delighted to say that I reached the next step in my career and now work full time on the financial support helpline for victims of domestic/economic abuse. This is a role I feel very much suited to and knowledgeable about within the support I am able to offer, both practically and emotionally to those that call in. In January 2023, I finally qualified from Trainee to Money Advisor with my MIMA Cert level 5 qualification.

It was also through my ambassador connections at RISE I was contacted by Women’s Aid about supplying an image of myself to be part of a music video with the most relevant footage of a victim fleeing her home. The song and the film were greatly relevant to me and my face was included as part of a final image showing a number of survivors in the video. I may only be in the video for a split second but this I think will be one of my most memorable achievements as its almost the full stop at the end, seeing in front of me what I’ve achieved and come through. My quote about this was used on the Women’s Aid website. The music video they created was in support of the Coronation Street storyline about domestic violence.

My ongoing work with RISE has been hugely important to me to keep connected, not only just with RISE, but also to be valued and keep my artwork and design work going. Being an ambassador, I have always promoted my strapline of ‘Women’s Aid Ask Me Ambassador responding to domestic abuse’ in my emails and through my social media. This has prompted several disclosures and people that I have been able to listen to, validate and then signpost, with a couple of individuals identifying and finding the strength to leave the abusive relationships they were in. This has also extended to my eldest daughter, supporting friends and opening up conversations with peers and also creating powerful domestic violence campaigns through her artwork at college and now University, even winning a young photographers competition with it and being printed in a ‘Gaslighting’ edition of the Tough Cookie magazine.

I just want to say a big thank you to RISE.

Financial Support Line - for Victims/Survivors of Domestic/Economic Abuse
Money Advice Plus
0808 196 8845