CCChat Magazine


The Magazine on and around Coercive Control

May/June 2019

Continuing our Serialisation of Pat Craven's:

Freedom's Flowers


coping strategies,better evidencing

a private bolthole for therapists

cults & crystals


Editor's Notes

6 The fine line between crystal clear and

as clear as mud.

Freedom’s Flowers

8 Continuing our serialisation of Freedom’s

Flowers by Freedom Programme founder,

Pat Craven

Sistah Space

12 Ngozi Fulani talks about why she started

Sistah Space

Dominic’s Story

16 Dominic tells his story of domestic abuse.

Anita Gera

20 Anita shares with us the coping strategies

that have helped her.

Domestic Abuse and Class

22 Neither education nor social standing will

insulate you from domestic abuse. A new

information portal aims to shine a light.

Emma Sutcliffe

26 Why do people hate family court?

Making The Invisible Visible


Interview with the Editor

29 The Editor is in the hot seat.

Liz Gibbons

32 Talking about an app that aims to help

gather evidence

Melissa's Story

36 "He saw himself as a small town cult

leader, doing women a favour"


43 A podcast: Escaping NXIVM

Cath Kane

44 Caring for Carers: Building Resilience

Jennifer 42

22 An animated documentary

Inside Cover:

A self-care retreat for therapists and


Making The Invisible Visible

Editor's Notes

About The Editor

Min Grob started Conference on

Coercive Control in June 2015,

following the end of a relationship

that was both coercive and


Since then, there have been 6

national conferences.Conference

on Coercive Control returns to

Bury St Edmunds in July 2019

with an event for professionals

who work or live in Suffolk.

Min’s interest lies in recognising

coercive control in its initial

stages, identifying

the ‘red flags’ of abusive

behaviour before someone

becomes more invested in the

relationship, as that is when it will

be much more difficult to leave.

Min has talked on identifying

covert abuse and, with the use of

examples from social media, she

identifies a number of covert

tactics that are commonly used to

manipulate. These tactics are

invisible in plain sight as the

abuser will deliberately keep their

abuse below the radar so as

to remain undetected.

Min is also a public speaker and

speaks on both her personal

experience of coercive control as

well as more generally of abuse

that is hidden in plain sight.

In September 2018, Min launched

Empower - a hub for supporting

and education on and around

coercive control. Find it on:

Let's Grow The Conversation!

To contact Min:

Photo by Alex Kilbee

The Fine Line Between Crystal clear

and as clear as mud

It’s been a while since the last issue of CCChat. At the moment there aren't enough hours

in the day as preparation is underway for next year's events. It is exciting, but there is a lot

of work - a lot of reading material to get through but, once it's done, it will be really worth it.

It's also been necessary to focus more on self-care.

Organising conferences and editing this magazine is only a small part of what I do,the bulk

is offering a listening ear to anyone who has been in a coercive and controlling

relationship. For many who contact me, it is the first opportunity someone has to talk to

another person who has been in a similar situation and it is often a defining moment to

realise that you're not alone. Unfortunately, there is only one of me and I have been

working longer and longer hours so it was necessary to step back and focus on what I

have been neglecting. Get in touch, if you have any ideas as the more we all collaborate,

the less gaps there are for those who really need it, to fall through.

Currently in the news is the trial of NXIVM and its leader Keith Raniere. I have been

following up on this trial of the alleged sex cult leader who has been charged with various

offences including sex trafficking. What I have found interesting is how Raniere was able

to coerce intelligent, often wealthy and astute women to become not only part of his

personal development group but, for some of the women, to be enslaved within an inner

cult and branded. The level of brainwashing and gaslighting is something that many who

have been in a coercive and controlling relationship will no doubt recognise.

On a much smaller scale there are also many similarities to unethical healers and

therapists who purposefully target individuals with the aim of exploiting them.It's a big

concern as it's not always easy to identify the ethical from the unscrupulous as, often, the

first thing they will do is ensure they have a coterie of loyal followers who will give the

impression of respectability. Going back to the NXIVM case, Raniere would not have had

the level of influence had he not had his inner circle of women to validate him and to

recruit new members and this is not unlike grooming.

I will be spending more time looking at how cult techniques can be used by the

disreputable but, in the meantime read Melissa's (not her real name) story on page 36.

See you soon, Min x

Making The Invisible Visible

Freedom’s Flowers

By Pat Craven

Chapter 6- Poppy



Pat ...I signed up to the Freedom Programme forum a while back, but have never

had the confidence to post anything. This is partly because writing things down

makes the situations more real rather than some hazy nightmare. You can probably

guess from that that I am in an abusive relationship at present.I have only ever had

four relationships and three were, or are, very abusive. I don’t understand why I get

it so wrong all of the time.

I just believe people when they say they’re going to love and look after me. I believe that’s what they’re going to do and not

try to destroy me as a human being in every way they can. I am trying to get my head around ending this one now. I have

found, with the other two, that circumstances gave me the opportunities to sort things. I’m not relying on that now, but I need

to be 100% confident (or as best as I can be) to sort this, as I have to be strong for my children to manage their pain.

I have two very complex disabled children who both need round the clock 24 hour care. I have no family, as they disowned

me when they found out I had disabled children. I was branded ‘a failure’. My family had always been disjointed. My mother

walked out when I was 13. My father didn’t want my brother and me. My mother didn’t want the stigma of having a child in

care, so I lived with my mother and stepfather until I was 16. It was horrific. When I was 16, they left me alone in London

where I got myself a job and a bedsit and was self-sufficient from then on. A lot of bad things happened throughout my

childhood, but I was always determined to make a life for myself and not allow the bad things to rule my future.

Bringing things up-to-date, my ex-husband, who is the father of my children, was abusive to me and the children. Both of my

children have autism, as well as other complex mental disabilities and physical disabilities. For example, my son 46 cannot

walk properly. My son could not talk until he was about 3 1⁄2 and, when he did, my ex-husband couldn’t cope, so he would

try and hold his hand over my son’s mouth. One day, my son bit his daddy for holding his wrist so hard, so my ex bit him

back. It got so bad I could not allow my ex to be alone with the children and our GP confirmed this when we went to see

him. I would have to take them to the toilet with me to wait outside so I knew they were safe.

At that time, I was fighting through the courts for my children to have a right to an education. I did this alone. My children

were both backwards and forwards to hospital constantly. I also had become very seriously ill myself, to the point where I

had to be tube fed and went down to six stone. My ex abused me verbally and I constantly encouraged him to keep away

from the house, which he did do. An example of what we used to go through was how my ex could not cope with talking in

the car at all. My children, being disabled, do not understand that, so they would get it ‘wrong’ and break the rules.

One day we had to go and visit a new potential special school for my children. My ex got lost and his temper erupted. He

screamed in the car and drove like a mad man through the city streets. He was shouting how he was going to kill us. The

children were terrified and so was I. The car screeched to a halt in four lanes of traffic. I was sat in the back with my son

supporting him. I banged open my son’s, my daughter’s and my own seat belts. I shouted for my daughter to get out of the

car and lifted my son out. Car seats were strewn across the road. We wove our way through the traffic to the pavement

where strangers met a crying little family. Unbelievably, we were opposite the police station and they ran out to help. My ex

crashed the car further up the road. Back then, the police did not offer us advice on refuges or support. We were expected

to go home with my ex. Having no family and no money, we had no choice.

Slowly, I began to realise things had to change, and I sought information and saved pennies until, one day, I told him to go,

and he did. I should mention that my son, who was seven at the time, was very violent himself. He would pull my hair out, he

split my lip open and I had to have four stitches. The scars are still there today. He scratched and punched. The day my ex

left, my son’s violence stopped! It was incredible. My little boy became the beautiful young person I always knew he could

be and, despite all of his disabilities, he is one of the most caring, loving people I have ever known.

That is not the end of the story sadly. I did say, initially, my ex could see the children at home when he liked, providing he

was good and kind to them. I explained how scared they were of him and how he had to work at regaining there trust. He

visited twice and both times he was abusive, aggressive and distressed the children.

Making The Invisible Visible

So I went straight to a solicitor and she banned him from

seeing the children. We had to go to court. That first session

in court was terrifying. My children did not want to see their

daddy. Had they done so, I would have agreed to him having

contact which was supervised. I just wanted them to be

happy. They were terrified and made it clear they did not

want to see him again. I was the children’s voice. But, at that

first court hearing, the judge told me my children had no

voice as they were children and disabled. So I fought hard for

a year for the judge to understand they had a right to their

views. After all, he was expecting them to spend time with a

man who had used abusive behaviour, which was recorded

by several professionals.

During that year, I was told I had to pay for my ex to see the

children. I had to pay for the supervision. The supervisors

had to be people the children knew and trusted. We also had

the worst CAFCASS officer who had no idea of the children’s

disabilities and she confused them and upset them. She was

exceptionally patronising and it was obvious she was on my

ex’s side. During this time, I was also in court fighting for my

children’s right to have an education.

My ex wanted the children to write three times a week. This

was unrealistic, considering the fact neither of them could

read nor write. Because of this, and their other disabilities,

they needed so much time to process things and decide what

they wanted to say.

In the end it was ordered the children only had to write once

every 4 weeks, but more if they wanted, and my ex could

write every day, if he wanted to. I put in masses of effort to try

and encourage the relationship, and the letter writing

process, but their dad skipped some months, although the

children always wrote. When they did get letters, their dad

always wrote about himself and showed no interest in the

children. After eight months, the case returned to court,

where the judge ordered it to be closed. Their dad could not

have access to the children, other than indirectly.

My ex wanted the case to remain open, so if he ever wanted

to contest again he could and he wouldn’t have to pay. The

judge insisted this was not going to happen and said that, if

he cared about his children that much, he would be happy to

pay (my ex had a good job).

"My ex wanted the case to remain open, so if he ever wanted to contest again he could

and he wouldn’t have to pay.The judge insisted this was not going to happen and said

that, if he cared about his children that much, he would be happy to pay ”

I won my daughter’s case first and she started to attend a

special school for autistic children. But the CAFCASS worker

insisted that my daughter be removed from school twice a

week to see her daddy, which I thought appalling considering

she had been out of school for three years (that is how long

the cases took to fight). I made a formal complaint about the

CAFCASS worker and it was upheld and we were given a

senior manager who was fantastic.

My ex also wanted to see the children on weekends.

Considering he didn’t show them any interest when he was

at home other than to harm them, I knew this was just a

game to him of hitting back at me. The supervised visits were

horrendous for the children.Their dad still was abusive and

things completely broke down when he assaulted my son in

front of a supervisor in a park.

It was then that the judge sat up and ordered that the

children be given a legal voice. They would have their own

solicitor and a Guardian Ad Litem. I was so pleased. They

spent time with the children and were brilliant in

understanding them. They produced reports for court,

dictated by the children, about their daddy. The pictures the

children used, to show what they thought their daddy was

like, were terrifying; a distorted face full of rage; broken

furniture; angry bubbles with angry words in. The judge

ordered that only indirect contact was allowed, via a

specialised website.

Since that time, three years ago, the children have not heard

from their dad, other than an odd birthday card with the

wrong age written on. I have never said bad things about the

children’s daddy to them, they know what we have all been

through and he is still their daddy. Also, I have always said to

them if they want contact I would arrange for it to be

supervised immediately if it was possible. But both remain

steadfast they never want to see him again.

My current partner promised me the world, and instead he

stole it from me. We have been together four years. He is sly

and underhanded, abusive and cruel to me. He has been

verbally awful to the children at odd times, but this happens

infrequently and my son loves him to bits. I think this is only

because, when my partner rarely does spend bit of time with

him, he feels so happy.

I know I have to sort the mess out, and soon. I am able to

hide a lot from the children, but I want things to stop now for

all our sakes.

I don’t want the children subjected to anymore. I am aware

that there is always the risk of them witnessing something or

having some mean words thrown at them. The house is

mine, and for that I am so grateful. My ex’s name is on the

mortgage too, but I pay for everything. So I can tell my

partner to leave. I thought he loved me. I thought he cared,

but he doesn’t.

Making The Invisible Visible

Before he moved in, when he met the children, he played

with them on the floor and I thought, ‘Wow! He is a real

hands-on dad!’ I have not seen him ever do that again, in the

last four years. I feel cheated that he isn’t who he promised

to be, and that he hasn’t done even a fraction of what he said

he would do. I have put up with so much, supported him

through so much, bailed him out so much and yet it’s never

good enough.

The smell of freedom is drifting upon the

breeze around me

I can feel that the time is coming for him to go.

The smell of freedom is drifting upon the breeze

around me. I am scared, as we are so alone as a

little family but then, if I allow him to stay, it will

be just as bad. It could be worse. I know there will

come that moment when I say ‘enough’. But, when

I say it their will no going back, which is why I

know I have to be mentally strong and focused. I

need to break the emotional ties.

My partner is a professional man with a very good job,

although he only contributes just for himself. He tells me that

all the people he works with think he is amazing, wonderful,

and charming. The best thing ever!

I care for my children round the clock, and we have crises

every week that I have to sort out for them. Last year my son

had two major operations. If I told you everything my kids

have been through at the hands of adults and children in

schools, as well as thinking about their own dad, you would

be staggered. I have lost faith in human beings.

This week, I discovered my son’s cab driver and escort to his

special school have been bullying him. He had been bending

his fingers back, keeping his bags from him and calling him

names. The school had noticed too and, as soon as I learnt

how bad it was, I stopped the cabs and had a ding dong with

LEA. My son internalised everything. He stopped eating and

was so quiet. I had tried to find out what was going on, but all

I could get from him were a few worries with school.

"I am being ignored and punished for having a voice.

He hates me having a voice."

I have given up trying to tell him how I am, or how I feel, as

he always explodes and then punishes me for days on end.

So I always say ‘fine’ if he asks if I’m OK. Yesterday, he

asked and I said I was fine. He kept badgering me, as he

could see I wasn’t. I told him I was very lonely. I educate my

daughter at home all week. I support her with an online

school, so I never get a break or get to go out anywhere. The

only thing my partner wants to do is work on his motorbike

and go on holiday with his biker buddies. I finally cracked and

told him the truth and, of course, he just started being nasty

and sarcastic etc.

He never takes us anywhere, even for a walk or anything. I

can’t drive, so the only way I can get the kids out is to use

cabs. I do this as much as I can, but, as we are at the

doctors and the hospital a lot, I have to keep the cab fare

money for that, mostly. He can drive, and we have a car, but

he chooses not to take us out, ever. So, as I write this, Pat, I

am being ignored and punished for having a voice. He hates

me having a voice. I have told him all he wants is me to be a

nodding doggy. Someone to pay the bills, wash his clothes

and iron them, cook his food, buy him loads of stuff, never

grumble, always have a ridiculous smile on my face and look


There were major issues with my daughter this

week, too. But this is like most weeks. There is

always something to deal with, whether it’s their

health, education or mental welfare. They are the

most incredible people I have ever known, and I

am so privileged to be their mummy. They make

the sun come out for me each and every day. I

know I am strong inside. When it’s anything to do

with the children, I am a lioness protecting her

cubs at any expense. But, for myself, I am quite

pathetic. I am getting stronger by the day and I

know that slowly, very slowly I will get there.

Sorry Pat, I have waffled, but I thought I would

send in some thoughts if they were of any help.

Thank you for all of your support through your

books and the site. It has helped me enormously.

Kindest Regards Poppy.

Reproduced with kind permission by Pat

Craven and The Freedom Programme.

All rights reserved.

Making The Invisible Visible

"Sitting through a court case last year and hearing

about the horrific murder of community giant, Valerie

Forde and her 22 month old daughter, baby J in 2014

was the final straw for me. Valerie's death was so


Ngozi Fulani (IDVA, ISVA)

Making The Invisible Visible

Meet Ngozi Fulani

founder of

Sistah Space



plan to be an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor

(IDVA), I didn't even know what it was until a set of

circumstances led me down the path I now find myself on.

It was the murder of Valerie Forde and her 22 month old

daughter 'Baby J' that really set me on this particular journey.

Valerie died and her baby died just a short time after reporting threats made by her ex-partner to

burn down the house with her and the children in it. This was recorded by police as 'A threat to

property'. Consequently no actions were put in place to safeguard Valerie and baby J. Violence

against women and girls is something that I had grown accustom to hearing about about most of my

life. All the images that I saw and all the people I heard speaking about it were mainly white women.

No black women I knew that had experienced domestic abuse had ever received adequate support,

they all had issues with either the way the police handled them, asking to see red marks or bruising,

or the way refuges couldn’t understand their basic needs. For that reason, I decided to do the IDVA

training to maybe of some support to people I knew.

I was amazed to realise that there was nothing at all in the training programmes that related to

African or Caribbean women. We learned about almost every other community & culture and how

they are affected. We were taught what resources were available for certain groups, including those

with disabilities, victims of Honour Based Violence, every conceivable group, but no mention about

black women. I raised it, but had no response as to why this was. We also had a lot of visitors as

part of the course, but never any women from the black community. I raised it time and time again

until finally they invited me down to their offices for a chat.

After another long gap of over a year, in which time I had to keep making contact, I was invited to

deliver training. The training took place last year and to date no visible changes have been

implemented. My request for an update have been practically ignored. To date I am challenging

those many domestic abuse organisations that continue to refer African heritage women to

organisations that do not and can't cater for black women. Sending black women victims/survivors of

domestic abuse to organisations that do not understand them, place them at further risk of harm.

It is not possible to do an accurate risk assessment on women if you don't understand their cultural

needs. Rastafarian and other grassroots women are invisible in plain sight. I have yet to see a

mainstream organisation that has women from these communities in a decision making postion.

Sending black women to refuges or places where they can't access the items they need increases

the risk that they will return to the perpetrator.

February 16th would have been Valerie Forde's 50th birthday. The 31st March was the 5 year

anniversary of the murders. On that day we re-launched Valerie's Law to try to get every

organisation to sign up for cultural awareness course.

To sign the petition go to:

VALERIE'S LAW- Make discrimination Awareness Training Compulsory in DV Organisations.

Making The Invisible Visible

SISTAH SPACE works with African heritage

women and girls who have experienced

domestic or sexual abuse and those who have

lost a loved one to domestic violence. The

specialist service seeks to assist those who are

apprehensive about going to mainstream

services without support, such as the police

and other statutory services.

SISTAH SPACE is run by a team of volunteers

and currently depends on the community to

keep this crucial initiative going.

Follow on Twitter: @Sistah_Space

To donate please go to:

and enter Sistah Space

Making The Invisible Visible

Dominic's Story

A male victim of abuse speaks up.

“Gradually, violence became a part of our lives – with K attacking, and me

defending myself. I think I’ve blotted out many of the memories from that

period, but one is burned into my brain. It was the day when I fought back.”

So – an honest account from someone who has experienced

coercive control? Tricky. We all like to see ourselves as

innocent. As essentially good, if occasionally mistaken. And

hindsight is a wonderful helper when our halo seems a little

tarnished. So I’m not sure I can actually give an ‘honest

account’. But I will try.

My relationship with K – as I’ll call her – began at university

in the early 70s. I was 19, a naïve, over-sensitive and overimaginative

only child, and a practising Catholic who’d been

educated at a single-sex direct grant school. Though I was

rapidly maturing in my new environment. When I met K I’d

just emerged from my first university ‘love affair’, which

ended when my then girlfriend replaced me with a man I’d

regarded as a good friend. Looking back, I’m not surprised.

My Catholic scruples were still fighting a rearguard action

against my overactive hormones, so we’d never had full

intercourse. And my own behaviour had been a little

controlling. Like most men in the 70s, I’d grown up with

precisely that image of women that modern feminists rightly

condemn. But I’d also learned not to underestimate women,

if only because my mother was a superbly capable person

with a formidable intellect who, in many ways, did not fit that

image at all.

At first my relationship with K was almost purely sexual. She

made no secret of her attraction to me, and proved a willing,

experienced and inventive partner who blithely brushed aside

even my most deep-seated inhibitions.

She was intelligent, perceptive, and incisive – as any woman

had to be to win a place at my university. It’s worth remarking

that men outnumbered women there by about five to one at

that time.

K was also a vocal feminist, at a time when that was still

unusual. This tended to create awkward social situations:

she would sometimes take deep offence at a casual remark.

Looking back I’d say she sometimes had good reason,

although my more perceptive friends did listen, take notice,

and try to understand her reactions. And I’ll freely admit that

she made me rethink my ideas about women and their place

in society.

Sadly, though, she was also very insecure. As a provincial

woman from a working-class background she felt out of place

at the university, and seemed convinced that others regarded

her as inferior. I honestly don’t believe that was the case –

certainly not among those in our own immediate circle – but

that didn’t alter her own strongly-held beliefs. I did invite K to

meet my parents, but it was not a success. If anything it

highlighted the internal conflict I still had between my

somewhat puritanical Catholic upbringing and K’s own

liberated sexuality. Her almost militant feminism also made

for uncomfortable conversations with my (then quite elderly)


A little over a year after I met K I completed my degree

course and left university, but our relationship continued. I

made frequent visits both to see her and to reconnect with

friends who were still finishing their degrees or had chosen to

settle in the area. A few months after she finished her own

degree I secured my first full-time job, and rented a bedsit

close to my work.

Some time later K got a job within commuting distance of my

new home, and joined me there – a far from ideal

arrangement that put even more stress on an already

strained relationship. It couldn’t last and I did, eventually,

persuade her to move out to a bedsit of her own, closer to

her work.

Making The Invisible Visible

It was far from ideal, and she was far from happy about it.

And there, had I been more pragmatic, we might have left it.

But two years later I was able to buy a flat. Driven to a large

extent by guilt (at which I was rapidly becoming an expert) I

invited her to join me – though I didn’t ask her to pay rent or

a share of the mortgage. And from then on our somewhat

shaky relationship slowly began to spiral into something

dangerous. I couldn’t reasonably invite my parents to visit the

flat given their strong dislike of K – which was mutual.

She also regarded most of my friends – especially those who

happened to be closest to me – as hostile to her. Wrongly, I

suspect. Our own relationship became increasingly

claustrophobic, and increasingly difficult. Not helped by my

well-instilled sense of Catholic guilt about the entire situation

– especially given that I’d long since stopped going to

church. One evening, when we were walking home from the

station, we got into an angry argument (for which I was

largely responsible). I could walk much faster than K,

and duly did so – only to meet her coming

towards me as I approached the flat. She told me

she’d been dropped off by the police, because

she’d got into a serious confrontation at a pub on

the way home. It didn’t occur to me then that she

might have started it. It was only much later –

when our own arguments sometimes degenerated

into violence – that I began to understand the

significance of that incident. And by then we had

reached a new low.

Gradually, violence became a part of our lives –

with K attacking, and me defending myself. I

think I’ve blotted out many of the memories from

that period, but one is burned into my brain. It

was the day when I fought back. And found myself

with my hands around K’s throat. I could have

killed her. My only consolation is that I took the

very conscious decision not to. But I don’t take

any pride in it. And at that point I finally

understood that we had to stop. For both our

sakes. My decision was reinforced by a later

incident when I’d avoided a confrontation by

going to bed. Only to be aware of K coming into

the bedroom, sitting next to me on the bed, and

touching my back with the tip of a knife. I

pretended to be asleep, and after a while she left.

I spoke to a family friend who worked in the same

environment as K and asked what would happen if

she had to take extended leave. He assured me

she’d be fine. I called another, mutual friend in

confidence and explained what was happening.

She offered to give K somewhere to stay. And then

I made the most difficult call of all. To my father.

To explain what was happening, and why I hadn’t

been in touch.

Bear in mind that in the 1970s even domestic

violence against women was barely discussed.

Making The Invisible Visible

“We’ve been really worried about you,’

they said. ‘We could hear what was


Domestic violence against men wasn’t something I’d ever

even heard of. I didn’t imagine the police would be

interested, and in any case I had no wish to involve them, for

K’s sake as much as my own. So my father and I managed

the whole ghastly business on our own. K was shocked,

angry, and occasionally violent. She threw a plate, which

shattered – one of the broken pieces cut me, though I wasn’t

directly hit. She also threw an alarm clock, which did hit me.

Hours of talking followed. At one point she walked out of the

flat and wandered away.

I called the Samaritan helpline and asked for their advice and

suggestions – and very helpful they were (which is why I later

became a volunteer myself). Eventually – and it took a long

time – we persuaded K to take a taxi to the station and go to

stay with our mutual friend. Two weeks later I was told that K

had voluntarily gone into therapy.

That wasn’t quite the end of the story. K got back in touch a

couple of years later, asking whether, perhaps, we could

meet again. She told me that she, herself, had now become

a Catholic, and I know that to be true. But I didn’t feel it would

be right, and I was just beginning a new relationship so – as

gently as possible – I refused.

Just a few years ago I did have another exchange of letters

with K, in which she told me a little about her life and asked

for my forgiveness. I wrote back and told her she’d had that

long ago – and hoped she would forgive me, too, for my own

all too evident faults.

I hope that by sharing this story I’ll encourage other men

who’ve had similar experiences to speak out. Your stories are

not being heard, and they need to be - if only so we can

reach out to others in the same situation. Others who have

yet to find a way out.

Despite that she did keep her job, as I had been told she

would. In the meantime I went to apologise to my downstairs

neighbours for the disturbance. They were entirely

sympathetic. ‘We’ve been really worried about you,’ they

said. ‘We could hear what was happening. So glad you’re



Men's Advice Line

Free helpline offering advice and support

for men experiencing domestic violence

and abuse.

0808 801 0327

Abused Men in Scotland

Free helpline offering advice and support

for men experiencing domestic violence

and abuse in Scotland.

0808 800 0024

Making The Invisible Visible

Coping Strategies

Anita Gera


m a survivor. If you’re reading this, you are very likely to be one too. We have

got this far: we have survived the abuse we encountered and here we are.

However, I know only too well how very hard getting even to here can be,

and I know that we all need a little help now and again so I’m going to tell you

a bit about the three most useful coping strategies I have found, as they may

help you too.

“If you don’t need them, share the information – you never

know when it may be just what another survivor needs to keep


If you don’t need them, share the information – you never know when it may be just what another

survivor needs to keep going.

The first thing to know, to absolutely grasp with every cell in your body, is that you are not alone. It’s

not some horrible nightmare that has only happened to you: you’re not the only one this happens to.

Knowing this is the most important fact you have now that you are a survivor. There are others out

there who have been through similar, though of course not the same, trauma as you have, who will

understand and who will not judge or blame you in any way (unfortunately, some of those who have

not experienced abuse may not always understand).

When my situation exploded, and I lost my two young children (whom I now haven’t seen for over 3

years), I thought it had never happened to anyone before me. I now know that there are armies of

mothers around the world who have lost their children to their abusers and I talk to many of them

regularly: we understand each other and know how bad the pain is. I am grateful to know them and

to call so many of them friends – without this trauma we would never have found each other so that

is one good that has come out of the bad. And: we know that we are not alone.

Secondly, know that there is no shame in being abused: your abuser should bear the shame and, in

a just world, would do so. It’s not your fault, you did nothing wrong, made no wrong choices, so there

is no shame for you to bear. Abusers are cunning and horribly intelligent when it comes to luring

victim-survivors into their traps. Even if you knew that abusers could act in this way, if it’s happened

before, some abusers will still be able to ensnare you again: it is never your fault, it’s theirs. Too

many of us feel shame at ‘admitting’ that we were abused, raped, violated… but it is society’s fault

for putting the blame on the woman rather than on the man who abused her.

Once you start learning about victim-blaming, about how insidious it is and how it permeates so

much of the world around us, you will wonder how you didn’t see it before. For every rape victim who

is asked what she was wearing, for every mother asked why she didn’t leave her abuser and keep

her children safe, for every girlfriend told that she shouldn’t have done/said/worn/eaten/drunk/not

done / not worn etc

It’s not YOUR fault.

Making The Invisible Visible

“It may not be the life you had planned, but it can still be a good life

and you are worth it. ”

Third, do whatever it takes to live your best life.

Do not let this destroy you, your abuser is not

worth it so don’t give him (and yes, in the vast

majority of cases it is ‘him’) the satisfaction of

seeing you disintegrate.

You will have to learn to compartmentalise your

feelings, to shut off some of your hurt and anger

so that you can direct your energy into positive

actions, projects and words and start working out

what you can do to make your life the best it can

be. It may not be the life you had planned, but it

can still be a good life and you are worth it.

I may not quite achieve that but I shall do my best

to make a difference: if my work means that even

one woman is not abused, at least one child is not

traumatised, then my work and my life is worth it.

Because we are all worth it.

To sum up: do your best and live your best life,

don’t accept blame whether it comes from within

or from others and find survivors who understand

what you have gone through. Peace, strength and


My journey is not over, I do not know where I will

end up but I have thrown my energies into

studying, doing an MA in Woman and Child

Abuse so that I can better understand the

dynamics behind abuse and work out how to

change the world for us all.

Making The Invisible Visible

Domestic abuse is not exclusive to a particular

socio-economic group. The reality is that you're

just as likely to bump into a victim or perpetrator

buying truffle oil at Waitrose as you are anywhere

else. A new information portal has launched that

aims to lift the lid. We interviewed the founder.

Making The Invisible Visible

the truth about domestic

abuse and class.

the guest interview



hard to see yourself as a victim of domestic abuse when your

children are at a fee-paying school and you drive a BMW, but, the old

image of a "battered wife" whilst still prevalent in the minds of many, is

no longer an accurate depiction of domestic abuse. This month, CChat

interviews the founder of a new information portal to find out a little


He kept me, my mother and brother in a

perpetual state of fear and hypervigilance.

Hi, so tell me a bit about why you started your website

Sure. Well, back in 2013 there was an article that appeared in Tatler Magazine that had a really memorable title: ‘Not Too

Posh To Punch’ I don’t consider myself “posh” but I guess I come from what would definitely be viewed as the more

privileged end of the spectrum and one of the things that I found incredibly difficult to deal with as a child was the belief that

domestic abuse didn’t happen to a certain kind of person. The presumption was that it was an issue that only affected

those from lower income households where a brutish-looking man of obvious dubious character would be beating you

black and blue – this was back in the 1970’s I hasten to add. So, that was the stereotype and we just didn’t fit it. My father

was a handsome, charismatic, ex-RAF chap and we had all the material trappings, but ‘behind closed doors’ my entire

childhood was devastated by his abusive, controlling behaviour. He kept me, my mother and brother in a perpetual state of

fear and hypervigilance. He was so terrifying that my mother and I (my brother was older and rarely home) sometimes had

to steal away to hotel rooms in the middle of the night, because if you called the police they’d say: ‘Sorry it’s just a

domestic we can’t intervene’. I’d then have to turn up at school the next day as if nothing was wrong. It was mortifying.

There was no one to turn to, no one ever spoke openly about this stuff, so it became a source of profound secret shame.

So these childhood experiences led you to becoming a campaigner for DA victims?

Well, actually,no. For most of my life, not at all. I had a lot of confusion about my childhood as I knew it wasn’t normal, but it

just didn’t fit the mould of what anyone was openly talking about. He drank, but it wasn’t overt alcoholism. He pushed and

shoved and came right up to your face, but it wasn’t overt violence. What it was, was overt verbal abuse: control and

domination. However, because there were no visible wounds it was hard to quantify. My mother couldn’t leave him as he

held all the finances and my father made it clear she’d never get a penny and anyway, we knew he wouldn’t have hesitated

to make our lives an even worse kind of living hell if we tried. So, we all had to learn to live with it and instead find a way to

just sort of ‘manage’ it - and him. Walking on eggshells doesn’t even begin to cover it. So, to answer your question, even

though he mellowed slightly in his very old age, I definitely didn’t feel that I wanted to go and talk about this issue to help

others deal with, or recognise, abuse. To be honest I just wanted to get far away from home and put it all behind me.

Besides, in later years, things did start to change for women, so maybe I believed things were happening. I certainly don’t

really recall ever contemplating activism. I know divorce laws were radically improved. Domestic Violence became far more

recognised too, but again in my mind, we still didn’t really fit the profile because the narrative was solely around violent

behaviour. What had, and was still, happening to us didn’t seem to fit any description, so at the time the changes didn’t

help us.

Making The Invisible Visible

So you are talking about psychological


Yes, definitely. Nowadays of course, I know it to

have been textbook psychological and economic


So in 2013 you read ‘Not Too Posh to Punch’

and it brought it all to the fore for you?

Yep, the article was (as, sadly, is still too often the

case) about physical violence, hence the word

‘punch’ in the title, but it was tackling a taboo

about who it happens to. More importantly, it

made mention, even though this was still two

years before the Coercive Control legislation was

passed, of the, then, recent change in March

2013 to the non-statutory cross-government

definition to include controlling behaviour. It was

an ah-ha moment for me as it came to my

attention exactly at time when I was seriously

struggling with life.

Tell me more.

So, I entered into this relationship with this

charming lawyer. He was older than me and

because of his maturity and the profession you

automatically assume integrity and honesty –

especially if that’s what they are telling you. He

was very clear he was only looking for something

serious.. However, the way this relationship

unfolded was so insidious - in fact almost sinister.

I now look back and feel I was targeted. I can only

describe it to people as like being caught up in in

a spin drier. You know, one that spins you wildly

then slowly turns everything this way, then that,

then suddenly gives a final super-fast spin. It was

like that. It was the gradual, yet seemingly

random, wearing down of my sense of reality, my

will and my spirit: the lies and gaslighting, the

cognitive dissonance, the smears, the intermittent

physical violence. It still makes me shudder to

think how under his control I became. It was very

different to my father’s abuse too as he was totally


“I still have a great deal of disbelief about this”

Still struggling with being a child of an

abusive parent you mean?

No. I still have a great deal of disbelief about this,

but I was struggling with an abusive partner.

Somehow, even though I had, by then, worked

through all my parental issues, I had still managed

to swop a childhood with an abusive father for a

relationship with someone who gaslighted and

controlled me, to the point that I didn’t recognise

myself. It shook me to my core. In fact it collapsed

my very foundations because he was my first

partner after my long (and happy) marriage ended

and it came out of left field. My marriage had

ended really amicably by most people’s standards

- and at my behest. Even so, I’d deliberately taken

a few years out to ensure that I was healed from

that and not on any rebound. Plus, I’d already

completed years and years of therapy,

psychology courses, residential courses like the

Hoffman Process and been deep ‘down the rabbit

hole’. Indeed, by the time I met this partner I had

been coaching others for a living for a number of

years and was pretty respected for my advice

about the importance of good values and solid

self-worth. So, if anyone was the very definition of

‘sorted and ‘self-aware’ at that stage, it was me.

It was the never knowing which way was up or

which way I was going to be ‘spun’ next (or why),

that so destabilised me. This along with the fact

that he had cleverly coerced me into a position

where I lost my financial independence, while

swearing that he had my back and asking me to

trust him, destroyed my equilibrium. In fact it had

followed an exact pattern. He put me way up on a

pedestal and adored me, then started devaluing

me in private so that I lost my confidence, coerced

me to keep spending money, then triangulated

and engineered me to cast him aside when I’d run

out of money. I felt like I’d been in a war - totally

shell-shocked. If it had just been violence, I may

have easily recovered. The problem is with the

economic abuse, it follows you into the future. I

knew I’d never be able to recoup what I’d lost. By

far the worst of it though was the post-separation

control. That truly ‘did me in’. No one should be

able to physically abuse, coerce and control a

women with a young teenage child and then use

the law to avoid accountability and to perpetrate

further psychological abuse. He tried. He used

legal letters to try and silence me and threats of

huge cost sanctions if I spoke out. The coercive

control law couldn’t be used as it only came on

the books in late 2015.

Making The Invisible Visible

I also struggled with the ‘Whys’: Why me? Why

when I was so emotionally aware and settled?

Why did my daughter have to suffer? Why did he

want to do this to us? etc., etc. Even before the

relationship ended I’d been referred to the crisis

intervention unit, but with the post-separation

tactics on top I ended up in the NHS (outpatients)

trauma unit being diagnosed with C-PTSD.

So you became a DA campaigner.

Yes, absolutely. In the Tatler article one of the

comments from the woman being interviewed was

that she said she would never have gone to

Refuge (the charity). I felt the same. As far as I

was aware Women’s Aid, Refuge and all these

charities were only there to help people who were

being physically battered and certainly weren’t

there for women with ‘affluent’ partners or

backgrounds. At that time though in 2013, just as

things were getting really, really bad with this guy,

The end result is that just over five years on from

reading that Tatler article I decided to put all I

have learned about coercive and controlling

behaviour throughout my life down in one place. I

don’t really see it as my website, which is why I

am not promoting it with my name. I see it as an

information portal. This is not about me (although

I have included my in-depth story on there) it’s to

help other women, to raise awareness particularly

about post- separation control and to point to

information I wish I had known.

I’ve seen your Post-Separation Control portal

and it’s packed full of great information and

resources. Well done.

Thank you.I think it’s also around four years or

more since we first met? I’m a huge admirer of

your work in the coercive control arena. It’s great

that we can amplify each other’s work in this way.

I love being involved with so many strong,

inspirational women.

“I also struggled with the ‘Whys’: Why me?”

I saw Sandra Horley’s comment in that Tatler

article. She spoke about how abusers are just as

likely to be Lawyers, Accountants or Judges.

When I managed to pick myself up off the floor I

decided to approach the, then, CEO of Women’s

Aid, Polly Neate and ask if I could play an active

role in raising more awareness about this

demographic and help make it clear that all

women suffer equally. I adored Polly from the

moment I met her and there began an association

with the charity which has lasted to this day –

despite Polly (and now Katie Ghose and Sian

Hawkins) moving on. It was as if there was some

type of divine timing at work. Simultaneously one

of my friends was about to become Chairman of a

party political association so I also got involved in

political activism and women in politics. I met Jess

Phillips, Maria Miller and a host of other politicians

prominent in the area of domestic abuse and

really got stuck in. A short while later I also

crossed paths with Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs just as

she was looking for government funding to start

up a charity dealing with Economic Abuse (SEA)

so I was able to help in championing greater

awareness of economic abuse from the start.

I wanted to show my daughter that a woman can

be like Phoenix, rise from the ashes of despair

and take a stand and help change things for

others. There’s still a way to go but I think we are

both achieving that.

The information portal can be found at:

Making The Invisible Visible

emma sutcliffe

why do people hate family court?



hate family court for the same reasons they hate hospitals;

something pathological has happened to you that you cannot resolve

alone and you have to put your life in the hands of people who are

deemed to be more expert about your condition than you are.

‘Our case’ was just a lose:lose for the entire family.

If you’re in family court you’ve likely been through something painful, there’s no guarantee it will stop

hurting and the interventions themselves cause bruises. There’s also a hefty bill at the end and the

surrounding quality of life direct and indirect costs of loss of earnings and utter exhaustion. Plus …

like lots of diseases, it might not go away, it might come back; next time it could be fatal. Why the

determined correlation with medicine? I’m trying to align what I know with what I’ve experienced –

knowledge of facts and wisdom of interpretation. I’ve been a medical writer for 25 years following a

degree in medical biochemistry and application of that in the research and development of


My entire nature is that of enquiry and fact-based decision making and behaviours. I believe in logic,

cause and effect, sensibly following ‘doctor’s orders’. I’ve also spent too much time in family court as

a petitioner which saw 18 hearings in 22 months. My faith in facts, practitioners and the sensibility of

court orders was put to the test before, during and after every one of those hearings. It was like

preparing for surgery. Let’s cut to the end result to be able to get back to the original question of

‘hatred’: although technically ‘I won’ — as in the contact order I applied for (on police

recommendation) was granted — the experience was like surgery without anaesthetic where you

leave feeling as though the presenting diseases may have been excised but fragments of infection

are lingering away in septic reservoirs leaving with you a body and mind too irreversibly damaged to

recover and parent well. ‘Our case’ was just a lose:lose for the entire family.

Both families; the old and the new and the penumbrae of families around us. Our case had its ‘final

hearing’ (an oxymoron if you consider that toxic parenting is a chronic condition) more than a year

ago. I’m still haunted by the ghosts of hearings past and have my very own reservoir of Post

Traumatic Stress Disorder leaving a lasting impression. The reality of the court orders is that unlike

doctor’s orders, I’m already forced into breaking them and live every day with the fresh fear that

CAFCASS will find me to be in breach and my ex husband will take me back to court.

Because family court transacts on what has happened and assumes that children’s needs are fixed.

Funnily enough, children grow and change whereas court orders don’t (without another set of

injurious hearings reopening wounds) and as I now have a sentient, articulate adolescent

determinedly refusing to stay at Dad’s house that essentially turns me into a criminal and opens me

up again to allegations of the never-proved, academically derided ‘junk theory’ of parental alienation.

Making The Invisible Visible

Like Andrew Wakefield’s infamous MMR causal

link to autism saw him struck off yet the myths still

perpetuate; parental alienation accusations

conveniently drown out what ironically is ‘the

voice of the child’ – child says ‘this is happening

to me; I don’t like it’. CAFCASS officers respond

with ‘they’re too young to know what they’re

saying, they are the mouthpiece of the parent’.

Pick a lane please. By all accounts, therefore, if

recent judges’ blunt condemnations that

‘alienating mothers should be subjected to a

three-strikes and you’re out’ – or imprisoned –

then who knows if my next blog will be about life

behind bars?

Therein lies the promulgation to distrust, fear,

anger — hatred.Despite living in purgatory, I have

been able to step back and consider what in the

hell happened there.

However, this isn’t about gender – it is about which

parent is the angriest parent in family court because

they are more likely to be the one also prepared to be

the most ruthless; to take the greatest risks.

When parties enter the court they will each know how

to attack and defend and how far the other is prepared

to go. The hate of family court is the knowledge that

parties will default to their character type and court

processes and practitioners by their very need to be

thorough and percipient to protect a child have to also

be open to the angriest party’s determination to exploit

those people and processes in continued pursuit of


People hate family court because it prolongs the pain

of punitive pursuit. I could further my anecdotes and

detail the utterly ludicrous allegations postured at me

that I had to defend. But that would be pointless

precisely because I was able to defend them thanks to

a brilliant barrister and very caring solicitor who,

importantly, were able to get me to listen all the while

that my anger and fears were raging towards a

maelstrom that possibly would have seen me lose

custody of my own children and only be permitted

supervised visits.

"It becomes too easy to archetype ‘all mums are histrionic and cry wolf on

domestic abuse’ or ‘all dads are intimidating and claim parental alienation’."

As such, both the practices of medicine and law

are ones which rely on its participants and

processes being underpinned by integrity and

accuracy. Trust should therefore be implicit.

However, neither medicine nor law

accommodates human nature and emotions –

which when put under pressure will contort and

eclipse rational and logical decision-making.

When afraid, hurt, confused or distressed the

easiest of the emotion to employ is anger. Family

court is that A&E part of the hospital where anger

dominates; complex decisions are being made

amidst a melee of jargon, allegations, process

and manipulation.

It becomes too easy to archetype ‘all mums are

histrionic and cry wolf on domestic abuse’ or ‘all

dads are intimidating and claim parental

alienation’. If my ex had got his way and the full

force of his anger and risk-taking of out and out

lies had succeeded in influencing the judge as

they biased the CAFCASS officer throughout

proceedings then this story might have been very

different indeed and even have seen our children

placed in the care system.

I won’t comment on the allegations because that’s the

subject of a different blog (how narcissistic parents

behave in court). But that is why only relying on ‘facts’,

denying how emotions can influence behaviours and

seeing things in the fixed black/white process of the

law is merely sticking a plaster over a seeping wound.

People hate family court because it is sterile and

doesn’t accurately reflect life outside the chambers.

The law is fixed, but life is fluid. And people’s emotions

over their children will always spill over … the angrier,

the louder, the more heinous the allegations, the blunt

threats and brinksmanship of disingenuous

practitioners … when faced with the prospect of fight or

flight, most mothers without strong legal support will

run. There needs to be allowance for the emotions of

all parties and just as a good doctor seeks to help the

physical and holistic needs of a patient; so too must

family court consider the importance of helping and

communicating that it should be a place for resolution

rather than fuelling hatred. That can only begin when

we seek to align knowledge of facts and wisdom of


To read more of Emma writing, check out her blog:

Making The Invisible Visible

interviewing the editor



but rather persistent friend who has asked to remain nameless

has been wanting to interview me for a while, on the basis that I tend

to focus on the experiences of others but not much is known of what

led me to become a campaigner and start this magazine. It actually

ended up being a really long chat that lasted several hours.

Here is a short extract:

What were you doing before you started raising awareness of coercive control?

Well, primarily I was a mum but I also worked. I wanted my work to be flexible,to be able to fit in

around the school runs and to be able to alter my schedule in case one of the children became ill.

with four children,it was pretty full-on. I decided to become self employed for a better work/life

balance. My last job, before I became a mother, was working at Lloyd’s of London, I was part of a

team helping to implement a reconstruction and renewal plan to cap losses on run-offs and my job

was to ascertain the prevalence of inter-syndicate disputes. I knew that staying in the insurance

market held no allure once I'd given birth, so I trained to be a Pilates teacher, set up a Pilates

machine studio in Suffolk. In the early days, I missed London dreadfully so spent Mondays working

at a studio in South Kensington, just around the corner from an amazing patisserie, but that stopped

when my second child was born. I probably taught Pilates for about 15 years and, over the years,

had various add-ons to make life more interesting.

So what other things did you do?

Well, for a while I was a supplier of physiological footwear that helped engage the same core

stabilising muscles used in pilates, so I taught gait sessions which was actually far more interesting

than it sounds! I was also a personal shopper which sort of developed as a result of clients asking

me to go shopping with them.

Did you enjoy that?

I have to say, I really didn’t. I really don’t like shopping but I do like a bargain and have always been

particularly good at finding them.

What was your best buy?

I'd have to say it was a Prada skirt that retailed at £500 or so and I got for just over £10. At the time it

fitted beautifully and I couldn't believe my luck when I came across it.

You’ve told me before that you also had a market stall?

Ha! Yes! For a while I had a stall at a farmers' market selling macaroons, or, to be more accurate.

macarons. As with most things in my life, it started by accident. I seem to be a stranger to the idea of

having some great well thought out plan! I made some macarons for myself one day and they turned

out surprisingly well, which doesn't always happen when I cook! I made way too many so handed

them out to clients and then started getting orders for them. Before the market stall, I producing them

for a farm shop in Cambridge. At the time it was unexpected and very exciting.

Making The Invisible Visible

What made you stop?

Ahh, well many reasons. Being pregnant with my

fourth child and nausea made things much more

challenging but the main reason was that the

person I was in a relationship with at the time

didn’t want me to do it. He spent a lot of time

trying to dissuade me. telling me what a waste of

time it was , how I needed to give it up as it was

affecting our relationship.

That’s pretty awful. Did it?

I never thought so,to be honest.It was something I

loved doing and although it meant I was spending

less time with him, I was really happy and I

thought that would be good for the relationship.

He didn't see it that way and was continually

trying to sabotage what I was doing. At the time I

put it down to the fact that he only wanted to be

with me but, on reflection, I realise he was

threathened by the attention I was getting.

How do you mean?

Well, at the time macarons were very popular but

not that easy to buy, in deepest Suffolk so I ended

up being interviewed for a fair number of local

papers and magazines, as well getting an

invitation to appear on a food programme. I

noticed a pattern where, the night before I was

due to meet a journalist or a photographer, he

would initiate a row and he wouldn't let me go to

sleep so, the next day, I would be shattered.

How did it make you feel?

Pretty crap, to be honest. I couldn't understand

what was happening. He just seemed really

determined that I stop with the macarons.

Why do you think he did this, was he jealous?

I really don’t know, but I'd say he was definitely

threatened by it.There was the time I exhibited at

the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival.On the first

day I sold out of everything I had cooked for the

whole weekend. I had to go home and cook more

macarons.I had asked him to help me package

them up, not expecting a problem as it meant

there would be quite a bit of money coming in, but

he totally refused.

That wasn't even the worst of it.

He engineered a row, shouting at me, telling me

he didn't want to be a father, he didn't want to be

married to me and then he stormed out.

Making The Invisible Visible

“He just turned up at the house as though nothing had

happened and I was just expected to forget about it.”

Oh God, that’s awful. What did you do?

Well, I didn’t have any choice. I had to carry on

cooking, you know? The show must go on. I

stayed up all night to get everything done and the

next day, drove back to Aldeburgh.

That night, he just turned up at the house as

though nothing had happened and I was just

expected to forget about it. Pretty much the same

thing happened when I went on a food


So you stopped?

Yes. It was too hard having to fight him all the

time and it was just easier to give up. After the

birth, I focused on the pilates and that more or

less continued until I decided to hold the first

Conference on Coercive Control in 2015 by which

time, the relationship had been over for a while.

Did it work?

What do you mean?

Did stopping with the macarons make things


Oh, yes, I follow. At first it did but it wasn't long

before he expected me to give up other things.

Such as?

He wanted me to sell the house and start up a

small holding in the Czech Republic.

Crikey, I'm glad you didn't.

Yeah, so am I

What made you decide to hold the


Ha! That's a story for another day. Let's put the

kettle on...

to be continued.......

Making The Invisible Visible

The interview

Liz Gibbons

Liz Gibbons is an

ex-police detective,

specialised in the

area of child

protection and

online abuse.

She began working

for the Cithrah

Foundation, a

domestic abuse

charity when she

and her family

moved to Northern


Liz has worked

with Cithrah to try

and establish the

first male refuge for

the whole of

Ireland, has

pioneered an

Interest Safety

Programme for

schools and

community groups,

before beginning

the Keep project,

which is funded by

Comic Relief, in

August 2017.

Liz is also a music

graduate and that is

how she unwinds.



is delighted to be interviewing Liz

Gibbons on the Keep Project. One of the

biggest problems facing victims of domestic

abuse is in collecting evidence, especially

where incidents are minor and may not result in

physical injury and this App could well be the


Where did the idea for the Keep App come from?

My professional history is in the police where you often visit the same

home many times in relation to domestic abuse. The kind of

information you’re asking victims to recall – what day, what time etc –

is so difficult for them to keep a track of; details like that can become a

blur in the trauma of everything else that is happening. The content of

incidents is more readily remembered than the surrounding facts – the

timing and the chronology etc - but these surrounding facts are

powerful, and we wanted to put that power into victims’ hands. We

wanted to design something that would enable them to keep an

accurate record of their own story and in doing so be empowered to

pursue whatever course of help / justice / support they want to.

When you say “we”: who are the Cithrah Foundation?

The Cithrah Foundation is a domestic abuse charity based in

Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. We have a refuge consisting of selfcontained

apartments with trained support staff on hand providing a

range of services. We also have a drop-in centre at our office, and

offer a counselling, advice and support service free of charge and for

as long as individuals need us. We don’t discriminate in any way – not

according to time or finance, as much as gender, religion, orientation,

age and so on. We are a growing charity and are also seeking to

pioneer the first male refuge in Northern Ireland.

Has the purpose of the Keep evolved since your original idea?

Very much so, it has really grown! We had originally envisaged it as an

App with a mainly evidential purpose, and while it still retains that

benefit at its heart, our research has shown that it has a much wider

and more adaptable purpose. During our research we noticed a clear

difference between the benefits victims envisaged the App as providing

and those the professionals observed: victims spoke of many different

therapeutic and emotional reasons to use the Keep and professionals

saw the evidential, financial, legal and organisational benefits! We

know of counsellors encouraging clients to use the Keep to keep a

record of a range of issues to note changes, improvements, triggers

and so forth. We know of some people using it within neighbour

dispute scenarios, and others to note incidents in their children of

epileptic and autistic episodes to help them monitor behaviour and

changes etc. So as well as primarily empowering victims of domestic

abuse, the Keep is also supporting people in many other situations of


Making The Invisible Visible

"It’s a good way to tell others when words are

difficult – family, friends, counsellor"

"I can express myself openly, in my own words,

without feeling judged "

"It brings truth against the lies like “I’m a

failure…stupid…to blame…weak”

Where did the name come from?

The name has a few significant meanings for us.

A keep is a place of safety - which is close to our

hearts in itself – and furthermore, it is a place of

safety in a castle, and we are based in

Carrickfergus which has a fantastic castle! Also,

the word “keep” means to store, to keep a hold of,

and that is what the App is enabling people to do.

So how does the App work?

What have victims themselves had to say

about using the Keep?

The feedback we have had so far has been really

encouraging; these are some of the comments we

have had about the help it offers:

"It means I don’t have to try and hold the details in

my head"

"I can “release” the need I have to “tell” when

something has happened"

"I want to preserve the facts for my children"

"I need to establish some of my own control"

"It really helps prevent denial / confusion / diluting

of the facts "

"I can measure the journey I’ve already covered

and am encouraged to keep going"

"It gives me some sanity back: “I’m not going

crazy / this isn’t my imagination”

" It brings clarity into the “storm” and that sense of

my mind being messed up"

I have something that he isn’t aware of,

something that’s on my terms not his"

The App appears on a phone as a Reminders

List; we felt this was something universal that can

be personalised to each individual user. On

registration the user is asked to create a “Special

Reminder” – this is effectively their password.

Once they have created the Special Reminder,

whenever they input it into the Reminders List it

will take them to the App itself. Anything else they

input on the list will just be logged on it as a

routine reminder.

The App template is 12 important questions

followed by an area to release feelings and

emotions at the end. Data is stored in encrypted

form and can be inputted by writing or by audio,

and there is the facility to include photos and

videos that do not store in the phone’s gallery. At

the end of an entry data is sent and stored

remotely – always leaving the App template


An important feature is that data cannot be

returned to the phone once sent away – this is to

preserve the evidential integrity. Additional entries

can be added if necessary, but information cannot

be edited once it has been sent.

Whenever a user wants to read their entries, they

just need to log on the Keep website, then go into

the App and press the button on the bottom right

corner labelled “web passcode”. This generates a

code for them to use as access to their data. The

code lasts 30 seconds, and saves users from

having to remember another password.

Making The Invisible Visible

So is it totally secure?

We are confident that it is discreet and

as secure as we can make it - much

time and care has been invested in

designing the Keep to be both simple

and secure – but we are not claiming

that the App is totally secure. That

would be a very difficult claim to make.

Who is the Keep App suitable for?

Primarily, the Keep has been created

for all victims of domestic abuse – both

those still living with the perpetrator

and those who are not. It is also

adaptable to many other scenarios too

in which people need to keep a careful

log of their own unfolding story.

The Keep App is available

for IOS and Android

Making The Invisible Visible

Defendant Keith Raniere, founder of NXIVM, an alleged cult was

arrested and indicted on a number of charges including sex trafficking

and conspiracy to commit forced labour

His trial is ongoing.

The techniques used by cult leaders to coerce, control and groom are

very similar to the tactics used by domestic abusers.

These techiques are also employed by unscrupulous therapists and

'New Age' healers who gravitate towards women who have just come

out of a relationship.

This is Melissa's* story

*names have been changed.


Making The Invisible Visible

“I believe he saw himself as a small town

cult leader, doing women a favour"

melissa's story

“ He told me of his 'service work' that is, all of his free meditation

groups which he insisted would help lift up the vibration of humanity.”

I met Theo* at a Mind Body Spirit Festival. He

was offering Angel card readings and having just

read a book by Doreen Virtue about angels, I was

interested to know more. I can't really remember

much of what he said as the venue was loud and

the acoustics were bad. He was very softly

spoken, so I struggled to hear. Theo had a habit

of holding his hands together, palms touching, in

the prayer position, it gave him an air of humility

and made me slightly less uncomfortable that he

was sitting very close to me. I could feel the

warmth of his breath and I found this unnerving,

so was reluctant to ask him to speak up but, after

the reading, I still took his card and left.

I had come to the festival with some girlfriends

who were really into 'New Age' stuff like crystals

and card readings, and they raved about the

event, how it had energised them, how 'deep' it

was and how it had raised their vibrations but, at

that point, I was still undecided about the whole


Not long after, my relationship broke up. I had

found out that my boyfriend of four years had

cheated with more than one woman and the

betrayal devastated me. Having reached 'rock

bottom', I remembered I still had Theo's card and

rang him to book a 'Crystal Healing' treatment.

I couldn't really tell you much about the session as

I dozed off. He had told me to fight off any urge to

fall asleep and suppress any urge to cough or

sneeze but I hadn't slept in several days, was

exhausted and could not stay awake.

At the begining of the 'treatment' he had asked me

to fill in a comprehensive form that asked all kinds

of questions about my personal life, my medical

history, even questions such as whether or not i

had had an abortion. Looking back, I remember

feeling uncomfortable but I was desperate to stop

feeling this aching grief so I put all feelings of

doubt aside.

After the session, he suggested I choose some

crystals which would help continue the work that

he started. He had identified some negative

energy and told me to be guided by my intuition

as it would know which crystals to choose, and

also that I make another appoinment so he could

'cut the cords' between me and my ex. Theo told

me that, at some level, he and I were still attached

and that it was preventing me from healing and

moving on.

I didn't' really understand. It was all very 'far out'

for me but I had slept and reasoned that it was

worth booking another session just for the sleep.

The next time I arrived at his shop, he told me he

had a cancellation and so, if I had extra time, we

could have a cup of tea and have a chat as

knowing a little more about me would enable him

to give me a much better 'treatment'.

I thought this was incredibly generous of him and

interpreted it as his commitment towards helping

others. This was further confirmed when he told

me of his 'service work' that is, all of his free

meditation groups which he insisted would help lift

up the vibration of humanity.

Making The Invisible Visible

By the time I had finished my tea, I had told him

all about my relationship breakup and he had told

me of how, in all of his past relationships, he had

been cheated on. At the time, I thought he was

extremely unlucky and was actually grateful that I

had only been in one relationship like that. I asked

Theo if he had ever cheated and he told me he

hadn't but his ex wives thought that, because he

was always surrounded by women and they were

always phoning him, he must have, but he

assured me that he was helping the women on

their journey on the 'Ascension Path' and that it

was his obligation to maintain a soul connection

with each of them.

As Theo spoke, I too was starting to feel a

connection. He was trusting me with his personal

information and I was flattered that he felt he

could open up to me like this. His experiences

also seemed to put my troubles into perspective

and made me feel guity for seeming so selfish.

The second ‘ treatment ‘ was very different to the

first. He kept telling me to 'stay in the moment' as

he chanted out strange names that he later told

me were 'Ascended Masters'. He held a quartz

pendulum over me to 'dowse'.

When the session ended, it suddenly got very

dark. Theo told me that he had been repairing

some tears in my 'etheric field'. I didn't know what

that meant but he proceeded to tell me about my

various past lives. What struck me was how

gruesome it was. In one past life, my hand had

been chopped off for stealing bread for my family,

in another, I had been killed by a ruler who had

feared my healing power. I had also been buried

alive, witnessed my soulmate and children being

murdered and been cast out of society.

The only positive thing that came out of looking at

my past lives was that I had been a powerful

healer. Everything else was a mass of violence,

betrayal and despair. I was incredibly upset, felt

as though my whole existence was doomed and

broke down in tears but, I had already been at

Theo's shop for several hours and needed to get

home so I left in great distress.

The next day, Theo rang me to ask how I was. He

told me that I had an extraordinary soul and an

exceptionally high vibration and that once I had

learnt my past-life lessons, I would have a magical

life full of abundance and joy. I had spent the

night crying as I had felt so low so this was good

to hear. It was certainly better than what I had

envisaged for myself. Determined to stop my past

life from repeating itself, I booked a third session

with Theo.

Making The Invisible Visible

Theo told me that, if I was comfortable, I could

place the crystal phallus inside my underwear but

I wasn't. We continued the 'treatment' with him

once again calling on the 'Ascended Masters.'

A few days later, Theo rang me to say a crystal

had come into the shop and he felt that I would be

drawn to it. I went to take a look. It was a beautiful

geode and cost £470. I told him that it was way

too much but he told me to take it home and

connect with it, saying I could bring it back, if I

didn't want it. He told me that once I had taken the

crystal home, I would not want to be without it and

that money was not an issue as he saw a life of

abundance for me.

I was taken aback by his generosity and asked

him if he was worried I’d steal it. He told me he

had seen inside my soul and we had connected

on a spiritual level so it was all good.

This time, when I arrived at his shop, Theo was

with another woman. He introduced me as his

friend and told her about my exceptionally high

vibration and my potentia as a great healer.

She was really excited and promptly told me that I

had a wonderful aura, before hugging me and

telling me how blessed she was to have met me.

She then hugged Theo, who then hugged me. To

an outsider, it must have looked as though we

had known each other for years.

The next day I paid him money I had put aside for

my rent. Looking back, I now realise that was the

point at which he "owned" me. I had invested a

huge amount of money I could not afford into

something that I now could not afford to fail.

It suddenly reminded me of all those pyramid

schemes selling water filters and the like, where

an initial investement was needed to travel up the

rung. I put that thought to one side.Theo didn’t

want me to sell water filters. He told me that I was

on this earth to heal people ,that it was my higher

calling. If it didn't work out, I could always sell the

geode to someone else, I reasoned, it was a


“The next day I paid him money I had put aside for my rent.

Looking back, I now realise that was the point at which he "owned" me.”

for this 'treatment', Theo told me I needed to learn

certain karmic lessons or else I would always end

with someone who would cheat on me. He once

again he told me of the many women who had

cheated on him and how he understood my pain. I

felt a huge surge of warmth towards him and

wanted to hug him but didn't.

I once again lay down on the massage table as

Theo talked about chakras and energy points

whilst placing several crystals on me. He then

pulled out a velvet pouch and pulled out a rose

quartz phallus. He told me it would help heal any

sexual hang-ups that could be responsible for me

making poor relationship choices, before placing

the phallus on my pubic bone.

Theo sent me lots of texts. He had a very

particular style of corresponding.Certain words

would always be in capital letters, words like:

Healing, Love, Blessings, Light, Energy, Higher

Self, Universe. I soon realised that he also talked

like that- using the inflections in his voice-to

denote some kind of deeper meaning. He got me

to sign up to one of his crystal healing courses.

Yet more money, but I was on the train and it

hadn’t yet arrived at my destination. The course

would be held over a weekend.

The night before the course, Theo rang to tell me

how much he was looking forward to teaching and

working with me. He suggested that I place my

geode at the foot of my bed in order to absorb the

healing energy in preparation for the next day.

Making The Invisible Visible

Once again, he placed the crystal on my pubic

bone. I was much more uninhibited than before,

so placed it inside my underwear. What followed

next seems vague. Maybe because it was the first

time I was stoned, I don’t know, but he looked

straight into my eyes and told me that, for the

treatment to work fully, I would need to have sex

with someone other than my ex. I remember

laughingly telling him I wasn’t in the mood to trawl

the streets looking for someone to have sex with

me. At that point, he kissed me. We ended up

having sex and I stayed the night.

The following day was the second day of the

healing course and we spent it smoking weed,

looking at crystals and having sex. It was the start

of a relationship that would last several

weeks.Theo told me I was his 'soul mate', his 'twin

flame'. He knew as soon as he saw me. He saw a

future for us, working together to raise the

vibration of the universe.

As soon as I arrived at his shop,Theo told me he

had 2 cancellations, so I was his only client. I

offered to go home, but he insisted on teaching

me so that I would be ready to work with him


The first day ended at around 5.00. It was

interesting but intense as much of what he said

was new to me. Theo asked me if I had any

questions so he made a cup of tea and we talked,

as we ate the left over sandwiches.

My training consisted of working in Theo's shop.

He wanted me to fee accustomed to the various

energies emitted by the different crystals and it

seemed like a good way of increasing my

knowledge, except, that he never paid me. At the

time, I was happy to work for free. We were in a

relationship, I reasoned, and it had never entered

my thoughts that he could be exploiting me.

It never occured to me until afterwards. I now

realise that even though we were supposedly in a

relationship, he was still charging me retail for the

crystals. Looking back, I was never paid for any

work I did and he encouraged me to spend money

I did not have on crystals I did not need.

“He also told me that the best way to break my bonds with my ex

and stop me being drawn to bad relationships

was to use the rose quartz crystal phallus.”

At one point, Theo got up and asked if I wanted a

'Bud'. I automatically assumed he meant a beer

so I accepted but, he returned carrying a joint. It

was my first time smoking cannabis and I became

woozy and giggly. Theo told me how cannabis

helps people connect with their 'Higher Self'. He

suggested we meditate.

With my new-found knowledge of the properties of

the crystas, I was keen to choose the stones.He

showed me another crystal phallus and told me

that the best way to break my bonds with my ex

and stop me being drawn to bad relationships was

to use it both in my mediation.

I giggled, out of embarrassment but was also very

relaxed and so I allowed him to lead me to

his massage couch.

The relationship, if I can call it that, ended

suddenly. I was at the supermarket one day and a

woman came up to me asking if I was Theo's

latest conquest. Taken aback by her manner, I

lied and said 'no'.

The woman told me she was glad as he had a

reputation of drawing in women who had recently

become divorced or single by claiming they were

natural healers, sleeping with them and getting

them to work in his shop for free. I asked her how

she knew and she told me that she had been one

of the women, and so had her daughter. I felt sick

to the stomach and stupid, really, really stupid. I

made my excuses to leave.

Theo never heard from me again.

Making The Invisible Visible

Since meeting that woman, I have come across

several other women who have shared a similar

experience and it has left me highly sceptical of

the 'New Age' scene.

Theo, and he is by far not the only one, surrounds

himself with groups of women who all seem to

believe he is some kind of 'Higher Vibrational

Being'. Many have also worked in his shop or

attended festivals with him whilst he has plied

them with free crystals and drugs.

Being surrounded by all these women also gives

a false impression that he is trustworthy and safe

whereas I now realise he is a sexual predator who

preys on women looking for answers to a better

life, finding a soulmate or to ease their pain.

He reminds me of an esoteric Pied Piper, using

shiny stones to lure his prey and the more I think

about it, the more convinced I am that Theo sees

himself as some kind of cult leader, albeit on a

much more provincial scale.

He even talks the language of cults:







All designed to draw in women looking for

answers. With Theo, there is also an obsession

with phallic objects like the crystals and wands

and, what worries me most, is how the recently

bereaved, victims of abuse and rape, the newly

divorced, newly single or terminally ill will

invariably come into contact with him and there is

nothing to stop Theo and other unscrupulous and

exploitative people like him.

How many people has he offered a joint to,before

telling them that the best way of ridding

themselves of the ties of past relationships is to

have sex with someone else?

It worries me that preys on the vulnerable.

It worries me a lot.

Making The Invisible Visible

Recognizing manipulative or unethical behaviours in a psychic,

healer or spiritual teacher

1) They flatter you by claiming you have some unique gift.

2) You are expected to part with often quite substantial sums, to develop

that gift.

3) They can blow hot or cold. Really attentive one minute and distant and

dismissive the next. This is to ensure you become trauma bonded to them.

4) There is often a need to change your habits and diet which can leave

you disoriented and confused.

5) They claim to have some kind of connection with you.

6) They very quickly introduce you to other people who put them on a

pedestal, to convince you they are more special than they really are.

7) They discourage opinion.This is reinforced by the fact that everyone in

their group has exactly the same beliefs.

8) They disparage and will undermine the credibility of any other healers

or advocates who are performing similar work.

9) They seek out survivors who are desperate to heal.

10) They are not afraid to look into your eyes and claim they can see into

your soul.

11)They purposely push the boundaries to guage your reaction.

Making The Invisible Visible

Cath Kane


Broad Cairn Associates

M: 07795 077728

Making The Invisible Visible

Cath Kane

founder of Broad Cairn

Broad Cairn can

be found in the


Mountains in


The word ‘cairn’

comes from the

Scottish Gaelic,

and means a



important in



They are built by

those who have

the courage and

sense of

adventure, to

mark out new




for the Carers:

Building Resilience

In 2015 the Guardian commissioned a survey looking into the impact of

working in public services on staff. The survey found that 93% of

respondents ‘feel stressed at work all, some, or a lot of the time; those

working in jobs ranging from social work to police and probation, social

housing to the NHS, civil service and charities’. The headline for the

article read ‘stressed, angry and demonised: council staff in austerity

Britain’ acknowledging that local government workers are feeling the

emotional strain of maintaining services with diminishing resources.

This raises the question; how can we build resilience in organisations

that support staff to effectively meet the ever-increasing demands of

delivering frontline services? Those of us who work or have worked in

local government and voluntary sector organisations, will have

experienced the pressures to deliver on national government policies

while offering appropriate, accessible services at local level that meet

the needs of our communities and service users. Localisation has

allowed local authorities to define their own priorities based on

community need. However, this has created challenges when

implementing national priorities such as changes in legislation to

address coercive control and psychological violence.

How can we ensure consistency in information, advocacy and support

when there may be gaps in services at local level? Austerity may have

reduced budgets, but the social issues they address have not reduced.

Most professionals working in the public sector and specialist third

sector are overwhelmed by demand. That demand for services is often

increased with successful public awareness campaigns, landmark

legal changes and political re-prioritisation. Welcomed as many of

these changes may be, for managers and staff responsible for

delivering change, the task may seem impossible at times.

Having managed a diverse range of teams, projects and partnerships

over the last thirty years, here are 3 things for senior managers to

consider when supporting your teams. 1. Build self-care strategies into

systems, processes and team conversations: this is an important

strategy to reduce stress and build resilience in your service. This also

embeds trauma-informed principles into organisational structure 2.

Foster control rather than dependency: if you can foster this in your

teams, then workers will be more able to authentically mirror this with

service users and recognise techniques to enable empowerment 3.

Foster a sense of trust: this allows staff to develop confidence and

reduces the stress of ‘getting it wrong’. In turn this can help staff build

positive relationships with service users, which is central to

understanding and managing risk.

Making The Invisible Visible

“There is huge gap between what we believe

and respond to as a domestic violence crime,

and the lived reality of battered women and

their children.”

Professor Evan Stark

Making The Invisible Visible

JENNIFER, 42 is an animated

documentary feature film that tells the

true story of Jennifer Magnano, a

suburban mom of three, and her

journey through a 15-year brutally

abusive marriage, the family's daring

escape, and their battle to be free from

the coercive control and violence of

husband and father, Scott.

The film is voiced by Jennifer's

children–Jessica, David, and

Emily–along with Jennifer’s best

friend Tracy, and experts who were

directly involved in the case.

To find out more:

Making The Invisible Visible

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