Supporting families to move on from domestic abuse: Emily’s story

Thursday 01 December 2022
Mother taking a selfie with her two young sons outside in a field

After leaving an abusive relationship, Action for Children helped Emily and her sons navigate their new life

Trigger warning: This story contains themes of domestic violence and suicide

Mum of two and nurse Emily*, 42, endured abuse from her ex-partner Brad* – emotionally, financially and physically. And it didn’t stop there, her two sons Henry* and Fred* were subject to his abuse too. This put immense pressure on them and Emily felt trapped. As things deteriorated, Emily hit rock bottom and tried to take her own life three times.

If it wasn’t for the work Action for Children [has] done with me, I don’t believe I’d be the person that I am now.


At the time, Emily’s family were being supported by social workers, but when she “started to be was decided that [the social worker’s] involvement would stop.”

Thankfully, Emily was soon put in touch with Rebecca from Action for Children for support. As well as this, the family also received a Christmas hamper full of treats and presents that would normally be outside Emily’s budget.

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Moving on and looking forward

Rebecca is an Action for Children support worker and she worked with Emily on completing Domestic Abuse programmes. These programmes help survivors of domestic violence recognise patterns of behaviours and move on positively with their lives.

“Rebecca was amazing. She was always patient and always there if I needed to call her. When I was really struggling, she'd always get back to me quickly,” Emily shared.

I’m coping because I’ve been given the tools to deal with it.

The relationship with Brad ended over a year ago and Emily credits Rebecca with helping her to move on and look forward.

“She was amazing from the start,” said Emily. “With the Domestic Abuse programme, she took the details about our relationship and helped me see that it wasn’t normal. He brainwashed me. I used to think maybe it was my fault, something I did but she helped me see the games that he played.”

Support for the whole family

Rebecca also supported Emily in caring for her boys as they dealt with the trauma of having been in an abusive household. She made a referral to a local counselling service for the boys to help them process their trauma, which they’re still waiting for.

“Brad was horrible to the boys. They had to be quiet and play in their bedrooms and he wouldn’t allow any noise. He was awful to them if they did,” Emily remembers. “I was so consumed in calming him down, that they went to the background, but I have really worked on that.

By working with Rebecca, Emily was able to understand the boys’ reactions as they recover as a family from their trauma. She shared, “Rebecca helped me understand that my feelings and behaviours impacted them. If I was stressed with Brad, a text message comes in and I’m on edge, then my patience with them is shorter and then they react to that – it’s a vicious cycle.”

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An unforgettable Christmas surprise

Working as a nurse and caring for Henry and Fred on her own is challenging. Juggling the little time and budget she has, means that Emily and her sons often miss out on extra treats at Christmas. This was until Action for Children donated a hamper full of food and toys to the family.

I wasn’t expecting the lovely treats and it was like getting a goody bag. We don’t always have the luxuries and those extra treats. I’m paying for everything myself now, so it’s harder.


Emily was so thankful that her family got to experience the magic of Christmas. She was grateful to watch her sons smile and laugh for hours as they played with their new games.

"I expected things for the boys but there was nice coffee for me. There was lots of lovely treats and special party food," said Emily. "As a single mum, to have someone go out and do a shop for us like that, it was such a treat. We don’t ‘struggle’ struggle but getting those treats meant a lot. With two small children and working the hours I work, to have someone do that for you, it was overwhelming and I really appreciated it.”

UK children and families need your help

There are so many more families who, like Emily, Fred and Henry, need support. Families with nowhere to turn. We want to be there for as many families as possible, but we can only do this with your help.

This Christmas, become a Secret Santa for a vulnerable child. Help put the magic back into Christmas.

Be a Secret Santa

Many children will wake up on Christmas to no stockings. No presents. No festive food. Your gift could change this.

Choose a gift