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A Stalking Advocate for Every Victim

A Stalking Advocate for Every Victim

Survey results demonstrate that stalking advocates have a significant and positive impact on the experiences of stalking victims

The responses from the survey show that stalking advocates play a critical role in supporting a victim’s safety and wellbeing, as well as improving outcomes for those wanting to pursue cases within the criminal justice system. The overwhelming majority of respondents reported that their stalking advocate helped them to navigate the criminal justice system (90%) and improved their overall situation (88%).

Over one-third of respondents who were supported by a stalking advocate said their stalking advocate helped them report to the police, and approximately one in four said their stalking advocate helped them on their journey to getting their stalker charged, prosecuted, or convicted. Stalking advocates also helped victims to understand their rights, log evidence, apply for protective orders, and stay up to date on their case. In many cases stalking advocates represented the victim when dealing with police, courts, solicitors, and other professionals within the criminal justice system.

Respondents also said their stalking advocate was vital in ameliorating their overall wellbeing and mental health. Approximately three out of four respondents said their stalking advocate had validated their experiences and confirmed that they were experiencing stalking. Stalking advocates also helped respondents by assessing risk, creating safety plans, and empowering them to take next steps. It was not uncommon for respondents to express how lost they would have been without their advocate’s support.

The survey results demonstrate that stalking advocates have a significant and positive impact on the experiences of stalking victims: yet only one in four respondents worked with one. Many expressed their desire to be connected with a stalking advocate and believed that having a stalking advocate would have greatly improved their situation. Furthermore, only 15% of all respondents who reported to police were referred to a stalking advocate by the police, highlighting the need for better responses from those within the criminal justice system. The report concludes with policy recommendations for the government and criminal justice system, as well as a list of UK organisations that provide specialised stalking support.

Royal Visit to Colchester

Royal Visit to Colchester

We were absolutely thrilled when we was selected to meet with King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla on the 7th March 2023 when they visited Colchester in relation to it’s new City status.

We were absolutely thrilled when we was selected to meet with King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla on the 7th March 2023 when they visited Colchester in relation to it’s new City status.

As the local domestic abuse service provider we was specifically requested to be in attendance when the Royal party visited Colchester Castle.

We feel so privileged to have been able to speak to the Queen Consort about the work we do to support survivors of domestic abuse and to shine a light once again on an issue that all to often remains hidden.

We also got to meet the King!

Who needs to ‘Man up’?? I certainly don’t!

Who needs to ‘Man up’?? I certainly don’t!

Please take a few moments to read Andy’s story* (*all names have been changed to protect the identity)
Working as a Domestic Abuse Practitioner can be a varied role, we support many people from all different backgrounds and circumstances, we do not judge we help and support. Since lockdown we have seen an increase in men coming forward, without us they would be otherwise ‘suffering in silence’.  Please take a few moments to read Andy’s story* (*all names have been changed to protect the identity). You do not need to ‘Man up’ as Andy rightfully says, please reach out, you can be just as brave too!! We are waiting to help.

It seems strange writing about my experiences. Writing about things that I never thought could or would happen to me. I’m just an everyday Joe, wife and two children, living in a 3 bed semi. Well here goes….

I had been happily married for about 8 years. Usual sorts of up and downs, stresses and strains. My wife had always suffered to varying degrees of poor mental health. Things like anxiety, depression. But as a couple we managed our way through.

For many reasons my wife’s mental health started to deteriorate. It started where a couple of days a week she would not be able to do things, go out, she would be extremely upset and emotional. I would always gauge things by the number of good days vs bad days. As time went on things got worse the bad days started to exceed the good. With this her behaviour became ever more extreme. My wife had started drinking too. This meant that when the children got back from school she was not always in a position to care for them. I had to arrange for after school clubs and for grandparents to have the children until I got back from work.

Over the next 4 years, as a family we did our best to make things right, to fix the problems. I encouraged my wife countless times to seek additional help and support. She was already receiving counselling and could never see what more could be done.

Time passed and with that her behaviour got worst. She started arguing with me, shouting and screaming obscenities at me. She would shout and scream even if I was not in the room. She’d accuse me of having affairs, question why I went to work when I did, who I worked with and so on.

She would be crying and upset but would not tell me why. She would just constantly tell me “you don’t get it”. I’d ask her what it is I don’t get but that would be met with swearing and shouting. Calling me names and telling me to “man up”.

This carried on for about two years. Then things got worse still. She would not be able to sleep so would wander around the house switching lights on, swearing and cursing about anything and everything. This would go on late into the night. 11,12 sometimes 1am. She would wake the children up with her swearing and shouting. I would do my best to try and calm her down. But more often than not was met with more verbal abuse.

We would argue. I would shout back. Then she would threaten to call the police and tell them that I had abused her. I would back away scared that the police would believe her. My wife is a small lady. I could not risk the children being taken from me. My wife certainly was not able to look after them.

At this point I was holding down a full-time job, cooking for me and the children, shopping, homework and dealing with my wife. I would also talk to the children, try to explain what was happening. Explain that Mummy was not well. Five out of seven days where bad.

I was struggling to hold things together. I felt lost, alone. No one could help. What could I do? How could I fix this?

I had tried to get help for my wife, but the answer was always the same. Unless she asks for help then they cannot help. I decided to get help for me. I went to the GP. I explained how I was feeling, stress and anxiety. We talked and then I just talked and did not stop until I had told her everything of my home life. I played a recording I had of one of the screaming sessions by my wife. The GP calmly said that she thought I might be a victim of emotional abuse. What? I was just doing my best to help my wife. Me, being abused? I couldn’t get my head around it. The GP was very understanding. The GP gave me a phone number of a support group.

I left the doctors thinking that once again no one can really help. The help for me was counselling, a support worker. Hmmm, I was not convinced.

I did not call the number for a couple of weeks. I thought that things could improve. I could try different things. Of course, I was wrong. Everything stayed the same.

I made the call and arranged for a call back from Next Chapter. I took the call, not knowing what to expect and not really expecting much. I answered the phone to Shelly, my saviour. Yes, a powerful word but justified. Shelly talked to me, listened, did not judge, understood. She was kind. She was genuinely interested in me and my problems and wanted to help.

I came away from that first call feeling a little better. I had someone in my corner who understood what I was feeling, my concerns and worries.

Then, Covid-19 happened. Full lock down. No school. Working from home. Couldn’t visit family. This was a nightmare. 24/7 in the same house with my wife and everything that entailed.

Things started ok. Better than ok. It seemed that the pandemic had given her something to focus on. This was short lived. She started drinking more. Using outings with the children as an opportunity to drink. She was emotional, irrational. Her counselling had now stopped too so she was more lost than normal.

Thank god I had Shelly. Each week I would find a way to speak with her. She was my sounding board, my sense check, reassurance.  We would talk about what had gone on that week. The good, the bad, the insane. Over the weeks Shelly was able to give me advise on how to deal with the situation I was in. She explained what to do should my wife call the police and not to worry and she would be there to help. We talked through housing, legal aspects of separation, childcare, and most importantly how this situation was not normal or good and that I should not have to put up with it.

I felt relieved. I had help. I was not at fault here. I could not fix my wife. I could help myself and my children out of this.

It was Sunday late afternoon. I was ill. A stress related illness. I had asked my wife to take care of the children whilst I took a short nap. I was exhausted. The previous night the wife had kept me and the eldest up till gone 1am. Shouting, crying, swearing, lights on/off. Anyhow, I asked her to just watch the kids whilst I had a nap. Well this was not going to happen. She started arguing with me. I could not tell you what about. Just shouting at me. Something snapped inside me. I got up, I told the kids to pack their cases, I gathered us up and went to leave. The wife was shouting and crying now. Threatening to call the police. I told her to go ahead. I was confident that I knew what to do thanks to Shelly. She threatened to tell the police that I was abusing her. I continued to get ready to leave.

The wife than called the police. Whilst I was watching her, she was telling the police that I was kidnapping the children, that I had abused, that I was threatening her. I was saying to her that I hadn’t and that she was lying. I got the kids in the car and left.

I took the children to their grandparents. Then I returned to the house. I needed to explain to the police what was going on. They needed to hear my side of the story. Again, I felt secure in the knowledge from the conversations with Shelly that I would be ok. And if I needed it, Shelly could support me.

The police were already at the house as I arrived. I knocked on the door and told them who I was. They seemed a little surprised to see me. I explained to the police the history, the situation, my support from Next Chapter. They understood and said I had done the right thing. They took my details. They asked me to leave.

I did just that. I had left my wife. I felt exhausted, drained, relieved, empowered. I had done the impossible in the middle of lockdown. Wow. You da’ man!!

I called Shelly the next day. Explained it all. I was telling my friend what had happened. I had so many questions, worries. No real idea what to do next. That was ok though as I had the support of my family and Shelly. I could get through this.

The children and I were safe, secure and out of a terrible situation. It was going to be ok. My ‘Next Chapter’ starts here………

What a Difference a Year Makes

What a Difference a Year Makes

"I thank God every single day that I ended up stumbling through those doors but I did have Hope. "

Hi to all. I have been wanting to write something to voice my appreciation to Next Chapter for quite some time but felt that waiting until the the New Year was better as its a very special time for myself.

"What a difference a year makes".........

I crashed through (Lorna's words. Lol!) the doors of Next Chapter a very broken women. Abused, Addicted and not really knowing where I would even begin....but begin I did. It was the start of an incredible journey, that as cliches go has been nothing short of a miracle.

With the support of staff ay Next Chapter I find myself not only alive but actually living a life I neither thought I deserved of believed. They believed in me and I have now come to believe in myself. The opportunities that I was given, the help I had, the work they did with me was and is amazing!

I thank God every single day that I ended up stumbling through those doors but I did have Hope. Next Chapter has given and supported me throughout my journey and I am forever grateful for the belief in me which also includes Foodbank (Nikki).

I now have my appearance (lol), my family back in my life, a roof over my head, food in my cupboard. I volunteer, I have job opportunities and most of all am I flipping year clean, safe and sober!!! None of this would have been possible if not for all the incredible ladies at Next Chapter (and Simon) that constantly encouraged me and still do.

I have so much appreciation, gratitude and LOVE for all that you helped me to achieve. If you havn't dozed off yet thank ALL...Lorna, Jan, Mandy, Charlee, Sally, Eleanor, Julie, Hasina, Katy. THANK

Take that Step and Change Your Life

Take that Step and Change Your Life

If you ever feel like you are isolated, alone and help just isn't there - read this wonderful feedback that should give everyone the confidence to reach out to us...
If you ever feel like you are isolated, alone and help just isn't there - read this wonderful feedback that should give everyone the confidence to reach out to us...

I would like to comment on the recent help I have received from The Next Chapter. I can honestly say without the help given to me, it is doubtful that I would be here to write this at all!

I was at my lowest point and was literally emotionally and physically at a breakpoint.  I did not feel I could carry on another day.  I was not eating or sleeping and constantly on edge and fearful.  I was in an abusive relationship which was not only physical but mentally abusive.  I believed, in the end, all he told me, and that I deserved all he did and said to me.  

I believed it was all my fault.  He told me continuously that I was useless and no one else would want me.  He made me believe that if I walked away from him things would get worse.

I was terrified and each time I left him  I just wanted to go back to stop him harassing me.    Family and friends could not understand.  People would say "why do you go back?   "You have a good job, home, it is your own fault"!   No one understood and  I felt totally cut off and isolated. The worst part was he told me continuously that  “ no one would believe me if I reported it”.     I lived in fear every single day.  I dreaded the texts, the calls, the mood swings, the temper, the violence and his drinking.

My doctor realised I had been coming to surgery covering up injuries and was very ill and put me in touch with The Next Chapter Organisation.

From the outset I received support and help from The Next Chapter, the biggest thing for me was that “they understood and they believed me”.     No one called me “stupid or an idiot or a liar” from the outset they advised me on how to log the abuse and provided details of legal help available to me.   They gave me steps to empower myself  and how to take the steps to cut him out of my life completely.   At every step of the way, I was supported.  

Naomi an Outreach Counsellor began visiting me and I cannot begin to describe how much that first visit gave me confidence.   I was no longer alone, I had someone who supported me.    In the beginning, there were tears and Naomi would listen and make small suggestions (small steps) each day began to get a little easier.  Nothing was ever forced on me, but I was gently encouraged.  I did get upset at Christmas/Valentines Day/Birthdays but Naomi gave me things to read and a plan to keep me from doubting myself and going back.  

I began to slowly see the light - I started to see that life was worth living and I was not dependent on my abuser for my happiness.  I began to enjoy being free again.  I began to slowly believe in myself and get my own self worth back.   I am a different person for the first time in years.

Lockdown came amongst it all and I have spent 5 weeks in total isolation alone seeing no one, and rather than feel like I needed him or that I was stupid and could not cope,  I actually feel free and am able to just be on my own, make my own decisions again, not live on my nerves waiting for him to explode.   I received telephone calls in Lockdown checking up on me.   I cannot speak highly enough of the service I received.  

Why The  Next Chapter is different and such an invaluable service!  I did try to seek help to get away previously, I tried Counselling, Hypnosis, CBT - talking etc but no one really seemed to understand the “hold” my abuser had over me.  Well-meaning people would say “Just put the Phone down or Ignore him and walk away” but it is not that simple when you live in fear daily.  No one really gave me any proper steps to help me get away and put a complete stop to it.   The Abuser will turn up and turn on the charm and worm their way back in time after time.  

Naomi understood and her wealth of experience shone through she was helpful, practical and talked through the fears and helped me face them and put them aside.  I had the confidence to put an end to it for good.  I will never be in an abusive relationship again,  Naomi and Darina taught me the signs to look out for and I feel so much more empowered now.  

I have work in a fast-paced environment all my working life and have always been independent- and I think people were shocked at the extent of the abuse and how it had happened to me!  People kept saying "But how could this have happened to you"?   Abuse happens in all environments to all sorts of people.  

Abusers are cunning they are kind in the beginning and then they become controlling and manipulative and I kept on believing that the nice side would return!  It can happen to anyone - I blamed myself but Naomi helped me stop beating myself up and building up my confidence again.

For me the abuse and constant tormenting was rapidly accelerating and had The Next Chapter not been there I am in no doubt whatsoever it would have been a different story.  I am in no doubt I would have been badly injured.

I would also like to mention that their service gives you the tools to equip yourself for the future via The Freedom Programme and the outreach Friendship groups.  It is geared up to help you take the steps needed.  It is about empowering you and helping you to see you are worth more.  

This is something I will always be so grateful for.  Naomi literally saved my life in so many ways - her experience and knowledge was so helpful.  I hope that my review will help people see just what an amazing service this is and how experienced and invaluable their counsellors truly are. If anyone is reading this feeling isolated and alone, I can say from my experience that you are not,  and if you are fearful about reaching out then don't be - this was the best call I ever made.  Take that step and change your life, you are worth so much more.      I am a totally different person to the one I was 6 months ago.     I will always be very grateful to Naomi and The Next Chapter

Thank you for the wonderful feedback on the support from Naomi!  We are so very delighted that we have been able to be part of your journey and to see your transformation...
Start Your Journey to Freedom with Next Chapter

Start Your Journey to Freedom with Next Chapter

Today marked the last time I spoke with Naomi at Next Chapter, it also marks the end of one chapter of my life and the start of a more hopeful, brighter and peaceful new chapter.

Today marked the last time I spoke with Naomi at Next Chapter, it also marks the end of one chapter of my life and the start of a more hopeful, brighter and peaceful new chapter. I called Domestic Violence helpline reluctantly following an incident which led me to leave my home and take my children with me. What was to unfold thereafter was the start of my journey to leave this relationship and never turn back.

My relationship with my now ex partner was intoxicating at the start and throughout. In the beginning he said and did everything I wanted, he was everything I had dreamed of in a man, I was completely obsessed with him! There were some red flags at the start but I chose to ignore them convinced he was the one for me! I got pregnant a year into our relationship and he moved in a month before our child was born to live we me and my other children. Looking back, there were things that made me feel uncomfortable but I went along with it convinced (by him) that what he was saying was right.

When he moved in, our relationships was very turbulant but I put it down to the stress of an ex husband, paying a mortgage, new baby and him taking on two children not his own. He worked very hard and had had a very hard and distressing upbringing. I put his outbursts and anger down to that, I excused every comment, every time he shouted, every time he gave me the silent treatment, every time he ignored my cries, every time he made me feel I was a terrible human being.

We had a relationship that consisted of pure ecstasy, love and commitment one moment to utter dispair, sadness, lonliness, shame, grief, hopelessness the next. There was no in between. I was later to discover that this was part of trauma bonding, I was addicted to the highs. I persevered for 6 years, persistently convinving myself it would get better, he was a good man and it would get better when the debt was paid or when my children were a bit older or when he got a new job...each time, no change. In fact, it got worse and the last 6 months of my relationship with him became unbearable.

He started to act very strange and his patience was almost zero, he worked more and more and emotionally became disconnected with me. I did try to speak with him about this but he told me I was insecure, controlling, delusional etc. He still would tell me I was beautiful from time to time, he would show his vulnerability every now and then but these became fewer and fewer. I became increasingly suspicious that something was not right and every time I confronted he would scream at me telling me I was fu*ked in the head, I need help, and why should he pay for my ex-husbands mistakes.

Eventually an incident happened in front of my children where he became physical with me. Yet, I forgave him convinced this was out of character and an isolated incident. After the incident he was wonderful, things started to feel ok, he was attentive and kind, complimentary and available to me but this only lasted a short time. The atmosphere changed, I was worried it was going back to how it was, the arguments set back in, the shouting, him calling me names and making me feel like I was going mad.

One morning he snapped, made accusations, screamed at me, called me various names and something in me just said, that's it. Ive had enough. So that evening, while he was at work, I packed my things and packed my children up. This infuriated him. He became unrecogniseable, a person I had not known at all. He made various threats. He became increasingly erratic in his behaviour and blamed me for how bad his mental health was. Scared to return to the home, worried about my rights to my home and our child, my mum convinced me to ring a domestic violence helpline who subsequently referred me to Next Chapter.

Shortly after, I recieved a call from Naomi. I explained to her what had happend in the past 6 months, and she told me I had been a victim of abuse. Hearing these words made me feel so sad, I felt sick and when I got off the phone, I sat in silence. I did not believe I had been a victim, maybe in that isolated incident yes but not throughout my entire relationship. It felt hard to bear and I continued to excuse his behaviour to Naomi and in my mind, convincing myself that it was just circumstantial and he's a good man.

Naomi made sure that I was safe and advised I stay with my parents for the timebeing. In spite of the advice given to me, I went home. He was crying and was helpless, I felt sorry for him and felt completely to blame for this. He had booked to go away for a few days so I felt it would be ok to be in his company for one night. Another big row ensued but we talked everything through and I felt some hope. While he was away I discoved something that was to uncover a catalogue of lies and deceipt for the past 6 months. I packed his bags and told him never to come back. He took his bags and he left. He moved to another county. I was absolutely distraught.

I needed the support from Naomi now more than ever, I felt abandoned and alone. There was no emotion, remorse or guilt from him, he discarded me and had no desire whatsoever to make it right. I was in a very dark place so I started to seek help with a counsellor. Naomi explained to me about the cycle of abuse and trauma bonding, still in denial about actually being abused, I researched this on the internet, I read and read and it became apparent to me that what Naomi was saying to me was what was actually happening to me. This was difficult to accept at first. I tried to convince myself many times that there was no cycle, or part of the cycle was missed but with Naomi's support, her kindness and gentleness she started to open my eyes.

Her advice to me was to start to look after myself, give myself some kindness and compassion, some self love. She told me about red flags, how to set boundaries, how to listen to my intuition if I wasn't comfortable and how to recognise when the abuse will take place. She even warned me about what his next move may be and unsurpsingly for her, is exactly what happend! Its been 4 months since the day I packed his bags and asked him to leave and they have been the most difficult yet revealing 4 months of my life.

I listened to Naomi, started to look after myself and educate myself on what had happened and why. I listened to an amazing audio book called Whole Again about finding peace after being in a narcisistic relationship. I've faced many many obstacles, I've denied, I've cried, I've felt shame, blame, I've felt guilt for allowing this to take place and putting my children through it, but I've also felt liberated, I've felt hope for the first time in forever but most of all, I've felt free.

Having the knowledge that what I experienced was in actual fact domestic emotional and physical abuse, that what happened was not my fault, that I can heal from this. This is what I learnt from Naomi. She has been a profound support to me, to this journey, to my knowledge and to my healing. She used the phase knowledge is power and it is so true. Now I am aware of the cycle, and the trauma bonding, I am aware that he still gaslights me but with this awareness comes freedom.

I am free because I know this is about him, his demons, his past, his wounds and it has nothing to do with me.

I am free because I know I am strong, I know I have come so far, I know my children are safe and I know I am safe, I am free because I can accept what has happened to me and I can feel safe in the knowledge that my story wont define me or my future.

I have no doubt that if I had not have spoken to Naomi and been exposed to what was really happening, I may have gone back, I most definitely wouldnt have taken those steps to take care of myself and educate myself and I 100% wouldn't be here writing this.

Naomi, if youre reading this, thank you. Thank you for that last push of encouragement before I went away on my own, for always being so kind and gentle, for supporting me, for guiding me, for explaining things to be me but most of all, thank you for opening my eyes.

For anyone considering getting some help, even if you think your situation isnt that bad (like I did), even if if you're scared or don't want to face up to what is really happening. Have courage, it will be hard and I'm still on this journey but I can see light and you will too :) xx

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