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If you wonder what volunteers do to help a victim of abuse here is an example.

Martha a 78 year old woman contacted us via the helpline 6 times in a week wanting someone to talk to about her situation and what she could do about it.  Eventually she agreed to come in and talk to someone about what is happening saying that if she came out she wouldn’t be able to go back.

Martha was married and had been for 48 years and had 8 adult children none of which lived at home.  Martha’s husband was verbally abusive and very controlling who pushed Martha and the family around as they were growing up, she said it was just the way it was and she couldn’t do anything about it because she was married and had the children.  She had tried to tell her daughters what was happening but they just dismissed it.  If Martha had bruises or anything he just said she was clumsy and she was too scared to disagree.  In the previous 12 months she had been to hospital twice with injuries and nobody asked about abuse because she was an old lady and her husband was such a nice considerate charming man.

As the family moved out the abuse got worse and Martha became increasingly isolated, the physical abuse got worse and the sexual abuse and rapes started.  Her husband expected her to stay at home all the time and she only went out to do shopping etc. when he went with her.  She wasn’t allowed to have family and friends visit and was physically abused if anybody came or she went out.  As the years passed the abuse became more frequent her husband started going out drinking more and started bringing friends back forcing Martha to have sex and perform sexual acts in front of them before insisting she had sex with them.  The abuse had become unbearable and she said she couldn’t take anymore.

We discussed the options available to Martha, she insisted that she couldn’t stay with one of her children and couldn’t face going into a refuge but she did have some money and we managed to sort out a B & B at a knock down price as it hadn’t officially opened and was having work done on it.  She was supported at a homeless appointment with housing and eventually was offered a bedsit type accommodation for older people.  At this point none of her daughters wouldn’t speak to her because she had left their father and she only had two grandsons that she saw.  With the help of staff, volunteers and her grandsons we managed to decorate the bedsit and get the items she needed to live.  Martha was also supported at lots of appointments including the STD clinic, CAB and solicitors.  She never reported the abuse to the police she was too ashamed and couldn’t face it.  She attended counselling with us for two lots of 18 sessions and had a weekly additional support for over a year, in addition to attended self-help groups, she used to say we were her family and without us she would be dead.  Eventually Martha managed to build some confidence, she started going to some regular activity for older people and started to build contact with her family they became more understanding of why she had to leave and her visits to the drop-in etc. reduced.  We see her now and again and she says she’s happy and safe now.

Martha tells me to use her story to encourage others especially older people that you don’t have to live with abuse you just have to know who to speak to.The helpline, counselling and additional support is all delivered by volunteers they often go to appointments with clients as well.