Dawn’s story

Dawn (37) escaped domestic abuse to start a new life for herself and her 10 children. Thanks to the support of our evangelist, Nick Russell, she can finally put her traumatic past behind her and look forward to the future.

I was 16 when I got into a relationship with Dan*. By the time I was six months’ pregnant with our first child, Jack, he had become increasingly violent. People can’t understand why I stayed with him. But after many years of assault, I came to regard it as normal. Beatings had become part of everyday life.

The worst part of the abuse was worrying about my children. Even if they couldn’t see, they could still hear what was happening. Dan would lock the door so that our sons, Jack and Ben, couldn’t get in. Ben later told me how the two of them would struggle to try and open the door. He said: “Mum, it was horrible to hear you scream, but it was even worse when you went quiet, as we thought you were dead.”

In those days, I never really left the house. I would cover my bruises and cuts with long-sleeved jumpers. The violence kept getting worse and worse, but I was too scared to tell anyone. He would find any excuse to abuse me. He would punch me, slash me with a knife and put his hands over my nose and mouth so I couldn’t breathe. He would grab my head and bash it against the wall. Once, I put my hands up to try and protect my face and ended up with two broken wrists. Sometimes I wished he would kill me so I wouldn’t have to go through the pain and humiliation anymore.

I tried to leave one day and he started chasing me round with knives in his hands. I managed to lock myself in the toilet and texted a friend, begging her to call the police. When the police arrived, they saw that he had slashed my suitcase, poured vinegar in the fish tank to kill my fish and I had intense bruising around my neck. They put a restraining order on him and gave him a two-year suspended sentence. After eight years of abuse, I was finally free.

I was scared he would find us, so we moved house 13 times. Eventually, we moved into the Page Estate in Eltham, south east London. It was then that I heard about Superkidz. My children started attending and they would often talk to me about Nick. Everyone in this area knows him as he’s helped so many people.

My second eldest, Ben (18) has struggled a lot because of what he’s lived through and suffers from mental health issues. Nick has been amazing with him. He accompanies Ben to his appointments, never judges him, and loves him unconditionally. Ben absolutely adores Nick and trusts him completely. He talks openly with Nick about his problems and turns to him for advice.

Nick has made a massive difference in our lives. He’s helped my family feel safe and it’s encouraging to see my children’s steps of faith. Nick is the person we call in case of emergency. He always seems to have the answer to everything.

Eighteen months ago, I started volunteering as a youth worker for Superkidz. The young people who attend are all from the neighbouring housing estates and struggle with issues such as bullying, difficult family lives and falling in with the wrong crowd. A lot of the time, they’re giving in to peer pressure because they don’t believe in themselves and feel unloved and misunderstood.

Poverty is a big issue for many of the local children and young people. They’re enticed into committing crime because they’re desperate to feel like they ‘fit in’.

At Superkidz, we give them attention, love, compassion, support – and hope. When they step into the club, they can leave their problems at the door and just be kids. I think the most important message Superkidz gives them is that they’re not alone. We’re a community together. Nick goes above and beyond the call of duty. He persists with young people who others have given up on. It’s so inspiring to see and I want to continue being a part of it. Next, I want to get my National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs), that would be my dream come true.

I remember praying to God after particularly violent beatings: “God, if you’re there, why aren’t you helping me? I’ve done nothing to deserve this!” But over time, I’ve realised that he was looking after me. I could have so easily been killed. Yet I’m alive, God was listening to my prayers, and protecting me the whole time.

When I met Nick and he shared his faith with me, it somehow all fell into place. God is all that’s positive in life. Because if you believe in God, you have hope that things will get better. Having faith is like magic: it lights you up inside.

The other day, I looked around the room at my children, and it hit me: they’re really happy. We can finally put the past behind us and look forward to the future. Moving to this estate, so close to Nick and Superkidz, was meant to be. It was all part of God’s plan for our lives.

*Not his real name

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