Becki is a 29 year old single mum of five who became disabled during her last pregnancy when the cartilage supporting her pelvis snapped due to severe Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (also called DSP), resulting in damage to her spine. She is recovering, very slowly, and can now use crutches around the house but still needs a wheelchair outside. Becki is four months out of an eight year long abusive relationship, and was living in a mould and damp infested council property until Twitter saved her. She tweets as @BrokenSingleMum, and will be sharing her story remotely.
Starts at 28:50
Nat: This is from a friend of mine called Becky, and I asked her to write her story down because I thought that her story really illustrates a lot of the stuff that Emma's been talking about, on a personal level. She can make it for reasons which will be obvious once I start reading. I really thought it was important for people to hear it.
[reading from printed sheets] This has turned out to be one of the hardest things I have ever written. To go back and revisit myself and what I have been through has been immensely difficult. The instinctive response to pain is to shy away from it, but it is important that people know what has happened and is still happening now.
By the time I met my husband I was a single mum to two children. I was only 20 years old and I had no self-confidence. The attention he showed me was intoxicating. I had no idea that all the things he did which made me feel special and wanted were actually big warning signs of possible abuse; calling all the time, rushing the relationship ahead, moving in very quickly. Very soon after we started living together he changed toward me. He would be very angry and verbally aggressive toward me, he would sulk and withdraw, sometimes he would lash out and punch a wall, kick a door, smash a phone.
I wasn't afraid of him, not then, but I was bewildered. What had happened to make him change like this? Why was he always to cross with me? Why wasn't me loving him enough to make him happy? The only conclusion I came to was the one he supplied me with; it was my fault. Eager to keep the peace, to make everyone happy, I tried to change. But of course it never worked, it was never enough. Very quickly I learned to box away the horrible things, and try to grab hold of anything even remotely positive. I remember saying to a friend once "if he would just be nice to me, just once a day, I would be so happy".
I tried to leave him, in fact we separated twice. But he always convinced me he loved me, that he would be kinder and more respectful. Desperate to make things work, I let him come back. There are things that happened in that house that I will take to my grave.
During those years I reached out to several people; midwife, doctor, Health visitor, friends, church members. Only one of them ever tried to get me to see that this was abuse, and she only tried once. That added to the sense that I was in some way responsible. If what was going on was really so bad, wouldn't people try to help? Wouldn't somebody be trying to stop this?
It came to a head during my last pregnancy. The hint of SPD I had had in the previous pregnancy hit hard at only 12 weeks. Very soon I was unable to leave the house, in agony for every movement. I became more and more reliant on my abuser. On the morning I turned 36 weeks pregnant I heard, and felt, a loud crack come from the front of my pelvis. I collapsed in a wave of pain so awful I struggled not to vomit. I lay sobbing on the foot of the bed for about quarter of an hour before being barked at. Eventually he called an ambulance.
Our son was delivered soon after, to try and ease the pressure on my pelvis. The doctors assured me that once the weight of the baby was out I would start to heal. A couple of days in hospital resting seemed to help. But a week after coming home it happened again, that time so much worse than the first, the pain left me utterly convinced I was dying. I was in hospital for ten days. Nobody could tell me what had happened, and nobody seemed to know what to do, so under pressure from my husband, and worried for my other children, I had to go home. I spent the first 6 months confined to bed. The pain was so great, so consuming, that all I could do was exist.
Eventually I had to move downstairs to the sofa. My husband made it clear that I was not fulfilling my motherly duty by being upstairs, and I couldn't bear to listen to him screaming at the children.
Things came to a head one day when in a fit of temper my husband yanked our three year old daughter up by one arm. Never before had he actually physically hurt one of us. It was as though something had opened inside my head and I knew then that we had to get away from him. As soon as I could I got in touch with the nearest Domestic Abuse helpline. The lady there assessed our situation, agreed that we were in immediate danger and told me she would search for a refuge for us. I was terrified and at the same time I was surprised - I was so used to his treatment I couldn't understand somebody taking it so seriously.
I stayed in contact with that advisor through text messages, the entire time she was looking for refuge for us. She helped me make a plan for the children to leave the house and get to somewhere safe if he attacked one of us. But no refuge place ever came. The advisor explained that there was only one refuge which could accept somebody in a wheelchair with five children, and there was no space there.
After two weeks of waiting I was forced to make him leave. Social workers turned up at the house (because of him hurting our daughter) and saw bruising on my arm, which he had inflicted, and they made it clear that if I waited any longer they would start removing the children.
It didn't stop the abuse though. He continues to make my life as difficult as possible in any way he can.
Everywhere I look for help I am refused. There are no properties I can access to make my life a little easier, nobody expects disabled people to have children and so nobody builds houses which are accessible and have 4 bedrooms. I cannot get help with the housework. I found out for myself only this week that you can do the Freedom Program online - I had been told several times that if I wanted support to help me get past what I have experienced with my ex, I would have to attend a group. With no-one to mind my children and no way of getting out to a group, I was left under the impression I just had to get on with it by myself.
This is what I do, every day. Unless you have experienced it yourself it may be hard to understand, but I get things done because they have to be done. My children are my driving force. So, I may have to lie on the floor until the nausea/black spots fade so that I can vacuum. You have to learn to work around things, find a different way to accomplish what is necessary. I am adamant that my children will suffer as little as possible for my physical shortcomings, but of course they are affected. How can they invite friends over when they never know who will be collecting them from school? How can they get homework done when they have to look after their younger siblings so that I can cook?
I wanted to talk about the challenge of accessing services, but really there don't seem to be any to access. There is no provision for a single disabled mother being unable to walk her children to school. There is no counselling over the phone. Hospital transport will not allow you to bring your child with you, so no, you cannot attend your appointments. My experience with Social services could be described as best as obstructive (on their part), and at worst as a blatant abuse of authority. I have involved the police twice but neither time was I taken seriously.
Who is there to help us?
[puts paper down]
She's watching online, so if you want to applaud, she can hear you.