sounddelivery has run several storytelling projects with with survivors of domestic abuse and we firmly believe that those with firsthand experience should be given the confidence and skills to share their stories not only as part of their healing but to put a spotlight on an issue that is not going away. On Friday 16th September 2016 Mandy Thomas shared her story at sounddelivery’s Being the Story. She has given us permission to publish in full her speech which contains some details that people may find distressing.
“Who would have thought that a long running radio soap opera that was originally focused on the simple country life , has over the last year led the way in putting the spotlight on d.v. Provoking conversation ,debates and ideas well beyond its radio audience.
You may not be a listener of the Archers but I’d be surprised if you’ve not heard conversations about it.
My name is Mandy and I’m a real life Helen. In fact, my experiences have helped influence the Archers storyline to ensure the accuracy and authenticity of the story.
Domestic Violence is not just a black eye, it’s a multitude of subjects from Physical, to Mind control, to Life control. It is a continual torture that has no let up to breathe, to be normal. You live in a bubble controlled by one person. As Helen portrayed the slow insidious coercive control of Rob.
It starts with the abuser choosing what you wear, stopping you seeing your friends and family saying they are no good for you. Over time the badgering and mockery breaks you down. If you do not have the strength mentally it can destroy you completely.
Tactics like sleep deprivation, starvation, constant questioning, beatings and rapes can consume you inside out. Mind games to make you believe it’s your fault and that you have no self-worth. You’re fat you’re ugly you’re stupid. Helen suffered a long period of this type of breakdown anxiety, fear and emotion of being under the thumb. Rob piece by piece takes her self-worth and mind. Until she hits a low point where Rob goes for her son. Not thinking clearly and to protect her boy she ends up stabbing him.
I met my ex when I was 18yrs old in a shopping Centre in Birmingham. His line ‘ Have you got the time? ‘ put me under a spell that I was not to break free from. As all abusers he started with imprisoning me in a flat, kept me from friends and family. He threw my clothes away replaced them with his choice. He would say it was because he cared. I thought he loved me. Slaps turned to punches, jokes about me turned to degrading taunts and threats
I remember the first time he raped me. Daniel my first born was in a cot at the end of the bed. I was not to scream in case I woke him. My clothes were torn off scissors to my throat. I gathered the courage to tell the police the next day I wrote a statement but nothing happened they just drove me back to a hell I couldn’t escape from.
18 yrs of running to be tracked down by a computer hacker Jeckyll & Hyde he could put on the sob story to get officials to believe him. I tried everything possible to keep my 5 children alive. Changed our names by deed poll went underground. He was arrested and locked up for various offences over the years but always got off. My injuries from nearly losing an eye, a chewed hand to the bone by his teeth, to a cracked skull were noted at hospitals throughout my moving from town to town. I escaped to refuges but he tracked me and followed me everywhere I went. The police did not stop him. There was nothing I could do. He was and still is a law unto himself. No one can stop him he would sing ‘ You can’t run You can’t hide I will find you and take it slowly’. Hence the title of my book ‘ You can’t Run ‘.
I was asked by the Archers team to help Louiza (Helen) portray the ugliness and truth as real as possible. She cried when we met as I told her my story. She was clearly moved shocked and appalled by what had happened. She promised she would act as best she could though it was going to test her mentally. She has had to live and breathe the life of d.v. The hardest role to act which has shook her to the core. Not something she can leave at work as it affects her deeply.
I am proud of the Archers team for raising awareness to D.V. in all its forms. It is vital that all forms of media learn and understand the widths and depths of this ever growing ‘ disease ‘. We cannot live in ignorance to such things as it is rife in society. This is no longer a taboo subject.2 women a week are killed!
By speaking out publicly I am giving strength to those going through situations similar to mine. I receive 500+ emails a day of stories. People ask for guidance and also thank me for helping them to freedom. It started off local then U.K. Europe and now as far as Kenya
My ex was arrested July 2002 Pleaded not guilty. Thinking he had covered his tracks by wiping hospital, doctors, prison record systems clean. No past offences! Dragged me and our 5 children through crown court for a whole year. Sentenced 03/03/03 my lucky number being 3! GBH with intent for attacking me with broken glass, knives and a blow torch, rape and false imprisonment. He got a total of 15 yrs. The judge said he was ‘Devious Evil and Calculated’. Whilst in prison he sent death threats and studied law to get what he wanted. After biting off a wardens nose he was transferred to the Albany a prison on the Isle of Wight for hard crims. Category grade A Dangerous Criminal.
Then in 2008 he was released early. We were told by the police to uproot again. Daniel went missing His body was found a month later. Dan couldn’t face living on the run from his father he wanted to be free. He had witnessed horrific scenes of torture and we lived under the threat of being killed daily. The injustice of our system broke him. He took his life. My cross to bear feeling of failure. Suicide is a demon that runs through our minds like a poisoned river.
My ex is still out there playing the system because they let him play. I shall not rest until a huge change has been made. I shall not be silenced. The justice system needs a complete overhaul for it to make sense. The government need to put human worth at the top of the agenda not the bottom. The media has a huge impact on society, I feel they have a duty to educate. We must work alongside all forms of media so that D.V. isn’t shunned ignored as a taboo subject, but openly dealt with, spoken about and addressed. Then maybe it will be taken seriously for the horrors and destruction it causes. How can we allow this to continue? It affects everything and everyone from your baby’s first cry, to workplace and schools.
“Charities really benefit from having people with a lived experience involved with their work”
Being made a Survivors Ambassador by Woman’s Aid has given me a platform. A Voice that can be used to speak out for all the silent victims suffering as we speak. It’s a different role from the usual celebrity ambassador which is for profile raising money etc . Although I do both. My experience is a learned knowledge of survival amongst the most difficult circumstances. Charities really benefit from having people with a lived experience involved with their work I shall continue to work alongside anyone that needs my input, viewpoint and thoughts on domestic violence situations.
The government making cuts to our services takes the choice away from the victim of life or death. My aim is to make a change that will go down in history and preventing stories like mine from happening in the future. Women’s Aid, Victim Support, Rape Crisis and all the local services, together, have an ongoing battle of repairing and saving people daily.
You cannot offer help to victims and then have to send them away because of lack of funds or no room at the inn. All the sectors connected to D.V. are fighting for survival to keep people alive. My family live under Witness Protection so that my ex can walk free.
We live in an invisible prison so that he can live a normal life.
D.V. spiders out and effects the world we all live in. I wish to break free of this invisible prison, I want justice and freedom. Our children, the future generation, need protecting and guidance. I am lobbying for changes in parliament alongside Rachel Williams and Becky o Brien fellow ambassadors with regards to licenses and molestation orders. These are judge stamped orders given to perpetrators on release from prison, with restrictions attached that they must follow. Rules attached for eg not to make direct or indirect contact with the victim or close family. If they breach, there is usually an order to be returned to prison until a set date. Abusers are constantly breaching the terms of license set with the system not following through with the set rules. Which defies the point in it all in the first place. It gives a false sense of security to victims at the most dangerous time – prisoners release. This can lead to deaths!
I am told to tackle one thing at a time. I also want a lesson added to the curriculum at schools on life skills to cover abuse. I shall continue until such changes are made Sentencing also needs to make sense. To deter this crime in the first place. The aftermath of mopping up broken souls FOR ME is too late.
For some tomorrows are not promised.
There needs to be an overhaul in the system. One that dictates to the world that we will NOT accept violence. A change that represents and respects the deaths of those lost to d.v. One that gives their lives meaning and worth. Change that would deter this misunderstood crime. I would like to see perpetrators sentenced with a fitting time with no early release. They should serve a worthy amount of years for rape, attempted murder, murder, false imprisonment, grievous bodily harm with intent. These crimes need to hold high sentencing; we need to publicise that continuously to society to deter this crime. Deterrence is the key, is it not? ‘
“I feel my mission, my reason for surviving and even coming back from the dead is ……to gather enough people together to stand up for change.”
I feel my mission, my reason for surviving and even coming back from the dead is ……to gather enough people together to stand up for change. It’s important that I keep speaking out even if I am ill. My aim is to show others that they can speak out too by building up their self-worth and confidence. Being in the thick of it you really feel like there’s no way out especially when the system lets you down. Staying is not the answer. Staying quiet is not an option for survival Speaking Out is the first step to safety and freedom.
United voice however holds more power. Linking up with survivors has given us more strength to demand change within the justice system.
My book ‘You Can’t Run ‘highlights the mistakes made by the system and the consequences of those mistakes. It is being used by a wide network of agencies linked to d.v. The feedback has been amazing, people asking how they can help and victims that have been freed because of my work.
I do not wish my life on anyone. So if I can make a change that saves lives then it’s reason for surviving. My eldest son now is Jahmene. Runner up on x factor 2012. His singing style is gospel soul r n b his latest single ‘I Wish’ is the anthem for peace one day. Jahmene is the ‘ Youth Ambassador ‘ for Women’s Aid. His PURPOSE is to spread the message of Peace and Love through his lyrics.
Donations through my fundraising page are for saving services that save lives. So for every small donation that we receive at women’s aid, it goes towards a part of a large movement of change that will not only save the lives of today’s victims, but will educate the future generations to Eradicate D.V.
What can you do to help?
You can contact your local M.P. voicing your concerns on the cut backs Explain how it will affect victims. It will mean more deaths that’s a fact! and the children involved – our future! need educating, protecting and guidance
You can simply be aware of people in your life at work , neighbours etc don’t turn a blind eye reach out and help
A listening ear can save a life.
There are 1500 Donkey sanctuaries compared to 300 refuges.
We need to support each other as a nation not ignore the situation.
I had no idea of the verdict of Helen’s Trial. I felt sick throughout that episode listening to the Jurors and their ignorance of D.V. and the powers of coercive control. Elated she was freed but then worried as Rob quietly threatened her in the court as she was leaving .
For Helen and so many of us victims this is not the end.”