Hayley Find the Support She Didn't Know She Needed

A young woman with looks at the camera with pride. (Image courtesy of Pexels).

Hayley* came to The Loft looking for support with mental health difficulties and changing her benefits. She did not come looking for family or sexual violence services, but when she found Aviva, she realised it was exactly what she needed.

“I went to The Loft because I felt lost and alone, so when I walked in without even knowing they could help, I really didn't know what to expect. Everyone I met there was so friendly and understanding, though. I never felt that my reasons for asking for their help were unreasonable, and I never felt personally invalidated.”

She met with The Loft Community Connector to identify what services could help her. As part of the evaluation, she was asked whether she had ever experienced sexual violence. “It suddenly occurred to me that an ex-partner had raped me. That was a shock, because I had never really considered whether or not it was rape before.”

In that relationship, Hayley experienced more than just sexual violence. “My abuse was mostly emotional and mental – gaslighting, isolation and control. For years after that relationship I thought it had all been my fault.

“Nobody really talks about the kind of abuse that doesn't leave physical bruises or scars, or that fact that it still qualifies for very practical assistance.”

The Loft is designed to catch people like Hayley, who may not otherwise seek out Aviva services. Although she came looking for mental health support, she was quickly referred to Aviva’s women’s education group.

The trauma of violence can deeply alter a person’s perception of healthy relationships, putting them at higher risk of experiencing violence again. Access to education is essential for helping people like Hayley re-establish their boundaries, rebuild their confidence, and gain the tools to keep themselves safe in the future.

“The things I learned there and hearing what others had gone through really affected me positively and helped me to feel like I wasn't alone, especially since everyone was from very different situations, from young mothers to older professionals. It's surprising how strong some of these women seemed and yet they were still going through terrible situations. But sharing stories with them was inspiring.”

Aviva further supported Hayley to gain ACC assistance, which allowed her to receive regular counseling for her past trauma. “I dealt with so much fear and negative thinking I didn't know I was holding onto, and I learned how to accept and deal with my emotions.”

“My life has completely changed. The assistance I received and the extra support Aviva directly led me to have helped me gain so much confidence and self-esteem that I feel like a different person entirely. I still struggle with things, of course, but so many of the barriers that used to hold me back just aren't there anymore, or I have the tools and resources to get past most of them now.

“I would absolutely credit Aviva for putting me on the right path to be the much stronger person I am today.”

Hayley’s story took place before the Covid pandemic. Since then, Aviva has seen an overwhelming increase in demand for services. Although we offer immediate support to anyone in a high-risk situation, someone like Hayley who is not at immediate risk may only have access to interim support and be left waiting for a full referral. You can ensure people like Hayley get the support and education they need when they need it by making a contribution here.


*Not her real name.