AFTER two years of abuse at the hands of her former partner, Emma was close to breaking when she was put in touch with Barnardo’s Scotland.
The charity, which is the focus of The Scotsman’s Christmas appeal this year, offers domestic abuse assistance as one of more than 120 projects it runs in Scotland.
Emma, 21, of Kilmarnock, said: “I was at rock bottom. I was suicidal. I did not have any idea what to do or where to go. I was alone and terrified.”
The mother of two (we have not used her real name to protect her identity), was put in touch with support workers at Barnardo’s after she reported her partner to police for abducting their son from her house while he was drunk in the early hours of the morning.
“Looking back, things were bad from the start,” she said. “He’d call me names and put me down. Then he started slapping me and hitting me. As time went on, he got more violent, sometimes punching me in the stomach or spitting in my face.
“It was the emotional stuff too: he made me feel like I was useless and worthless. I was scared to do anything. He would shout and get violent over nothing. It got so bad I started to drink just to try and cope and get through the days.
“I was so scared there was no way I felt I could mention it to anyone. No-one knew, not my family or pals. But I knew my eldest son, who is three now, was seeing this and I knew that was wrong. But I was stuck.
“Things got worse when I was pregnant with my second child. My partner became even more controlling and angry and jealous. Then, when our son was just a few months old, my partner broke in – he was drunk and he took our wee boy.
“I rang the police and they tracked him down a couple of hours later at his aunt’s house. It was the scariest moment of my life. I realised it was not just me suffering, but the kids.”
Police referred Emma to Barnardo’s, which has been working with her for the past year to help her find the confidence to move on with her life.
She meets her support worker Paula at least once a week and knows the charity is on hand round-the-clock with help and advice.
Emma said: “It was so hard at first just to talk about what had happened. I didn’t trust anyone. And I was scared. But they were so nice and understanding and they listened.”
Over time, Barnardo’s was able to help Emma build a new life by helping her look for another house, assisting her with benefit claims to ensure she had financial support and helping her stop drinking and improve her mental health.
Emma said: “It has been a year now and when I look back I can’t believe where I am now. I thought I’d be stuck in that life forever. I don’t want to end my life now, I want to live it.”
Emma said she wished she had spoken out about her years of suffering before now and urged anyone who is a victim of domestic abuse to get help.
She said: “I would not be here if it was not for Barnardo’s. It was hard opening up and facing up to what had happened, but it was worth it in the end. For the first time in my life, I am not scared.”
The latest figures show a seven per cent rise in cases of domestic abuse in the last year in Scotland, with incidents peaking during special occasions such as Christmas.
Barnardo’s, which offers support to domestic abuse victims across Scotland, welcomed news that more people were reporting incidents, but said many more were still suffering in silence.
Martin Crewe, director of Barnardo’s Scotland, said: “Unfortunately, domestic abuse is an issue which affects every community in Scotland and can have a long-term detrimental impact on the lives of children and young people.
“It is reassuring to see victims of domestic abuse are increasingly reporting these incidents. However, we cannot afford to become complacent. More needs to be done to support children and young people who are suffering abuse in the home.”
Latest figures show that, across Scotland, police recorded 59,847 such incidents in 2011-12, up from 55,698 the previous year.
The rise has led to the police Violence Reduction Unit launching a two-month festive crackdown on domestic abuse.
The abuse can be psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional and is classed as any threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between partners or family members.
The charity needs to raise £3 million each year to maintain its services. Every donation can help children and their families to achieve a better life.
Domestic abuse is most likely to happen in the home, where 87 per cent of incidents took place in 2011-12 in Scotland.
Women are the most common targets, with 81 per cent of cases having a female victim and male perpetrator.