We are so proud to support two amazing charities with the Bold Is Beautiful project. One of the charities being Refuge. Refuge is an incredible charity that strives to create a world without domestic violence, where women and children can live in safety. We are sharing Melanie’s story, and why Refuge is so important to help change lives.
Melanie Clarke first met her former partner, Jack*, when she was 14-years-old. They were together for almost 15 years and have three children together.
Jack was controlling from the very beginning. He didn’t like her to have male friends and he was constantly suspicious. He systematically isolated her, stopping her from seeing friends. His verbal and emotional abuse became constant – he would tell her she was stupid and belittle her opinions. He would tell her that he couldn’t stand her and that she should kill herself.
Jack didn’t want Melanie to have any contact with other men, even men who were serving her in shops. He would constantly accuse her of cheating on him and told her she shouldn’t wear make-up or fitted clothes.
He first showed signs of violence when he smashed a hammer into a mirror because he was frustrated about something.
After this, it wasn’t long before Jack physically attacked her. He would push her into furniture, try to strangle her, kick her and slam her head into the wall. He would also throw objects around and break household items that she couldn’t replace. He would even punch holes in doors.
The violence became more frequent, but Jack told Melanie he would kill himself if she left. He would always apologise profusely after the violence, telling her he didn’t mean it and he loved her. The emotional abuse and controlling behaviour continued.
When Melanie was pregnant with their third child, Jack attempted to strangle her. She remembers thinking that this was the moment he would kill her. At this point, Melanie reported Jack to the police.
Melanie testified against Jack when she was eight months pregnant. He was convicted of ABH and served with a restraining order.
Although Melanie was now safe, she struggled to move on from her abuse. She felt guilty about the impact witnessing the abuse might have had on her children. She began attending a local Refuge support group. Her keyworker supported her to regain her confidence and begin to move on from her experiences. The women she met through Refuge also inspired her. Melanie says: “One woman started talking about what had happened to her kids, and that was the breakthrough for me. This woman was still standing strong – ‘that’s what I can do’, I thought. It is about saying, “Who am I? What do I like to do?” When you’re with an abusive partner, you forget who you are.”
Melanie is now happily married. She also volunteers for Refuge, helping to run a coffee morning where women who have experienced domestic violence meet up and share how they are moving on. She says: “I am now loving my life, thanks to Refuge.”
*The perpetrator’s name has been changed
If you think you may be experiencing domestic violence, you are not alone. Visit www.refuge.org.uk for support and information.