Sometimes people forget how prevalent abuse is. When you see a woman with downcast eyes and a bruise on her face, what comes to mind? Do you wonder if she got into an accident? Does it occur to you that maybe someone inflicted that on her? It’s hard to fathom that loved ones are the ones that can cause the worst pain sometimes, but this summer I learned what it is like to be a victim of domestic abuse.
I volunteered at WAIL or Women’s Aid in Luton. Before this experience, I did not know much about domestic abuse other than the basics. However, by the end of my internship at WAIL, I had talked to numerous women on the domestic abuse helpline and had found them shelter and refuge from their perpetrators. While working on the helpline, I talked to women who were terrified of their significant others and had nowhere else to go.
One woman had been dependent on a man 30 years her senior since she was 17 years old and now, at the age of 21, wanted to escape from his clutches and live the life that was robbed from her at such a young age. I did my best to comfort the women on the helpline and filled out Risk Assessment Matrixes where I judged how high their risk in certain areas were.
I talked to these women about their mental health, the traumas they had to go through, and did my best to comfort them in any way that I could. I also researched facilities that would be able to take care of the women as well as WAIL refuge houses. I got to speak with some of the women face-to-face during the Freedom Programs that were held every week in the WAIL office. It was empowering to watch women who have gone through so much talk about their experiences and help others recover from the horrors that they had faced.
I also worked with children of mothers who had experienced domestic abuse. It was hard to see the inherent sadness that was apparent in some of their eyes, but I did my best to help them stay cheerful and played games with them. Some of the kids exuded maturity beyond their years and it was heartbreaking to think about what they must have gone through. I also went to the WAIL refuge houses and saw the new life that women who had gone through so much were able to build for themselves. Without the help of the WAIL staff, I would never have been able to do as much as I did. The women who work for this organization have inspired me in so many ways. I cannot thank them enough for giving me the chance to grow as a person and be able to help women who would otherwise have nowhere else to go. WAIL taught me so many skills in the short time I was there that I will remember and be able to apply for years to come.