Choosing a New Ending

18th of December, 2018

How long do you wait to start living a better life?

For Dianna, it was 27 years. All that time she had experienced psychological abuse which, she says, “left her feeling like a ‘thing’ - I didn’t feel like a woman”, until she decided she wasn’t prepared to be living like that when she was 60.

She had tried to leave eight times before but “he sucked me back in” she said. Once she had even organised a flat and told him she was leaving, but the day before she was going to leave, he told her she’d still have to pay half the mortgage. Unable to pay both rent and the mortgage, Dianna had no choice but to stay.

After what she describes as “two months of unrelenting vileness” she finally made the decision to leave her husband in January this year. “I had worked at Victim Support in the past and knew of Aviva. I’d seen one of the workers there before regarding my daughter. I met with Carmen in February and she suggested a Protection Order. Things went from there.

“I got Protection, Parenting and Occupancy Orders. He had no idea it was coming. It took a lot of courage as I knew he’d be livid. I was absolutely terrified to put my head above the parapet because I know he’ll want to get me until his dying day.”

With an Occupancy Order, Dianna’s husband had to leave the house. In order to make that happen more easily and quickly, she agreed he did not have to pay the mortgage on the house, even though that has added financial strain to Dianna’s life.

Dianna undertook Aviva’s 10-week education course, and then had one-on-one support. “The education group was helpful in so many ways. The women had so many stories, and to hear them coming from others made you feel less alone. I see Carmen one-to-one now; she has been an absolute tower of strength, even on my bad days. I look back and think how cruel he was, saying what he did to me. He’d made me think I was mad. I started to write down things that happened and what he said so that I could prove to myself I wasn’t going crazy. Writing it down was key for me in making the decision to finally leave.”

Dianna’s children are also receiving support. “My daughter is having counselling – she is angry and mixed up – and my son, who is older, is working with Dylan (from Aviva) around healthy relationships. He was reluctant to engage at first, but he tried it and is enjoying what he is learning, getting tools to develop healthier relationship behaviours.”

It took years to get the courage and resources to be able to leave her husband, and the hard work is far from over for Dianna. “It’s taken a huge toll on my health. I can’t work full-time any more – I get too exhausted. And the legal side keeps on going. I went to Court last week because he is fighting having the Protection Order made final, and the Parenting Order, because he doesn’t feel he’s abused me in any way. My faith in the Court system has been knocked too, as the judge questioned why I needed a Protection Order if he is not living in the same city now. He tries to get at me any way he can e.g. through our son or neighbours.

“But I’m lucky as I get to see a counsellor and Carmen each week and they help me make plans. I’m also reading an amazing book called ‘Power: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse’ by Shahida Aradi. There are lightbulb moments on every page for me; it validated everything I felt and experienced.

“The ongoing process is draining, but I know I made the right decision – getting the Protection Order was the best thing I could have done. I want to empower other women in the same situation to make the change and reclaim their lives. Life is all about managing your expectations, acceptance of what is, and moving forwards, even if that means digging deep to find strength the size of a grain of sand. Concentrate on looking forward.”

If you or someone you know needs support, please call our 0800 AVIVA NOW line - help is here, 24 hours of every day.