Read the real story of Kasia who has been supported by Women’s Aid.
I met him shortly after I arrived in Ireland. He was handsome and so kind, romantic and attentive. I felt so special and protected. At that time, I had very little English, but we both worked hard and we made a home. Everything was going well. Then I became pregnant and it was like he turned a dimmer switch. Everything began to get darker.
I think he suddenly felt ‘Now I own you’. Bit by bit, over the years, he crossed every personal boundary I had. Mental, physical, sexual, social. He was jealous and suspicious. He made me leave my job. He shamed me on social media in my role as a mother. He stopped me from studying. He monitored my phone and my movements. It was a vicious cycle. He would erupt in fury and violence over nothing. His dinner. The ironing. Sex. He would storm out. Then he’d return in a few days and ‘forgive me’ – as if I was the abuser. And the cycle would start again.
It was a nightmare trying to shield my poor children from the terror. One evening he was out of control and I somehow became aware of someone singing. It was my daughter Anna, then just 9 years old, singing to her 4-year-old brother Max, in the next room. She was trying to protect him – to block out the sounds of terror. It broke my heart.
He worked in a bank, and I didn’t have a bank account. He gave me a tiny budget to pay for the children’s needs. We were living in poverty while he was leading a care-free social lifestyle. One time I was very ill and had to go to hospital. He behaved like he was my guardian angel in front of the medical staff. And on the way home he said my life wasn’t worth the hospital fee.
He jumped between these roles. My accuser and abuser in private. My rescuer and protector in public. I realised that I was now alone in this country. I had no work, no friends, no independence. Even my family back home did not believe me when I reached out because he was such a cunning, charming liar.
Then one terrifying night he tried to strangle me. I thought ‘This is it – maybe it’s better I die now.’ My lovely dog Fred jumped on him and gave me precious seconds to run. And that was the night I first phoned the Women’s Aid helpline. I remember those early secret phone calls. I just cried and cried. But the kind woman listened. It felt like she was taking my burden. She said Women’s Aid would be there whenever I needed them.
Women’s Aid believed me. And most importantly, they provided real, practical supports. I began to see the reality of the life I was in. That it wasn’t my fault. We discussed a safety plan, an escape route. I got financial help. Eventually, I found the confidence to stand my ground with him. I got legal help. I escaped because of a mixture of bravery and desperation. And most importantly, with the support of the amazing services of Women’s Aid. Since then, I have done a degree in college. And recently, Women’s Aid invited me to do a great course called The Power to Change. Well, the power worked – it changed my life. And now I can help others.
I also wanted to mention something important you may not be aware of. For women in Ireland whose first language isn’t English, their world is so much smaller than others. They have a tougher journey accessing services and being believed. If you know someone like this, please tell them there is help out there. And Women’s Aid has an interpreting service they can use.
There are kind people everywhere.
I was a crushed, isolated and terrified woman. For years, I was the plaything, the target, the casualty of an abuser – the man who was supposed to love and support me – my husband. But today, I have ordinary things many people take for granted. Things that are now precious to me. I have a job. I drive a car. I speak and write English well. I work in a GP clinic. My children are safe. I’m a survivor. I’m no longer defined by abuse.
When things finally became too much to bear, I set out on a journey of many small steps. Women’s Aid built those steps for me. They gave me a map of hope. They held my hand and helped me walk to freedom and safety.
These stories are based on real accounts as told to the Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline and One-to-One Support Services. Specific details and circumstances have been changed in the interests of protecting identity and to preserve the confidential nature of Women’s Aid Services.