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by a former Catherine House Client

This article was originally published in Parity magazine. Learn more about Parity magazine including how to access full editions.

The issue of a safe house is a very broad and difficult concept to define, mainly because we cannot think of a safe house in the material sense of the word. I know a lot of people who, both in childhood and later, lived in luxury apartments or houses, but it had little to do with safety or happiness and I know people whose living conditions were very basic, but true love reigned there.
My memories of my family home are sad and unfortunately gave rise to further problems related to domestic violence which was a very common phenomenon both 30 years ago and still today. What both my siblings and I remember is a kind of emptiness and emotional coldness from my parents who were busy working and earning money. Growing up in a home without emotional support, displays of love, tenderness and assurance that you are someone of value, leaves you with no self-confidence and can, as in my case, make you a very easy target to manipulate.

To me a safe home means that you think back to it and miss feeling safe in an atmosphere that your parents created to make you feel safe and the certainty that you are loved. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to experience this and that’s probably why I wanted so much to create my own safe home as soon as possible. Without this essential base, we are more susceptible to manipulation if we find the wrong partners. Unfortunately, desperation is a feeling that somehow is manifested even if we think we don’t show it.

My next house where I lived with my husband, and which was supposed to be my asylum and sanctuary, turned out to be my prison for 20 long years of domestic violence. As best I could, I created a family home for my children to give them all the childhood memories that I didn’t have, full of warmth, love and security. Unfortunately, after 20 years of pretending everything was okay, we were forced to run away. It was my day of both victory and defeat that another safe house turned out to be a myth. With such a baggage of experience, after three years when the children became independent, I tried to create another safe home. This time, fortunately, I realised very quickly that I was again trying desperately to catch up with my childhood dreams of having a safe home and after three years I left another home and a partner who turned out to be a gambler. Slowly, I began to get depressed due to the awareness of a lost life and the constant pursuit of a safe home. At this stage in my life I met people from Catherine House. It will not be an exaggeration to say that they saved my life in many ways. I will never forget the day when I entered there, crying and mentally ruined, with one suitcase in my hand. I will never forget all the love, care and warmth I got there for the first time in my life. I felt like it was the safe home I was always dreaming of, even though it was only one small room.

The whole process of rebuilding my life through a long program, in which I participated, lasted over a year. During this time, I found my strength again, my self-esteem, started college, got a wonderful job, and was finally ready to live in my first safe house of my own.

It was a long journey which, thanks to Catherine House, ended with my victory in the dramatic pursuit of my own safe house and place to live in.

I know that not everyone is so lucky to have escaped and finally found freedom and safety. As so many women still struggle with similar problems, I have volunteered my time to tell my story at various stakeholder events organised by Catherine House to inspire others to be brave, have hope and show people that you always have to fight for your place on the Planet Earth, wherever it is.

This article was originally published in Parity magazine. Learn more about Parity magazine including how to access full editions.

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