Pride of Manchester winner Jane Gregory knows what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship, but it was the murder of local mothers Leanne McNuff and Linzi Ashton by their ex-partners – after years of abuse – that made her realize that she had to do something. Unfortunately, their cases were far from unique and in 2013, Jane founded the Salford Survivor Project to help others in the same situation.
She had feared that her daughter would become involved in a difficult relationship with her own partner. “I just thought: I have to change something. I’m not going to sit around and wait for my daughter to be the next victim,” says Jane.
The 51-year-old found that while services were available for people experiencing domestic violence, they were not quickly and easily accessible – and she knows from her own experience how difficult it is to find help.
“I come from a house where my father beat my mother regularly, and I just believed that it was. People who are abused naturally blame themselves, so they will compensate for the behavior of their abusive partner.”
When Jane got together with her now ex-partner, she also found herself in a violent situation, but admits she didn’t see how bad it was until they broke up.
“It wasn’t until I left that I realized I was also being abused financially. He didn’t steal from my wallet or anything – he did it in other ways, like locking up the house without me knowing.”
But now Jane buys her own home and has a bright future ahead of her – and she’s determined to offer other women a lifeline to that same freedom. She and her team of volunteers from the Salford Survivor Project have years of experience; they can provide support at court hearings, help find housing and, of course, provide a shoulder to cry on for those in need.
“It’s important that we talk about abuse – especially financial abuse – because the victims often blame themselves when it’s not their fault,” she says. “If your partner does something that makes you uncomfortable, it’s a sign of abuse.
“They can make you doubt yourself and deny what they’re doing in such a convincing way that you start to believe you’re wrong. I meet people who have never had a bank account, and when they break up with their partner, they have no idea what to do because their partner had everything under control.”
But Jane has shown that it’s possible to break free and enjoy a brighter future than you could have ever imagined when your trust has been shattered by an abusive partner.
She says the first step to liberation is setting boundaries, although she admits it can be difficult. “It’s very hard, but you have to learn how to do it and not feel like you’re doing something wrong by pointing out how someone makes you feel.”
And if that person continues to behave in a way that makes you uncomfortable, there is help. In addition to local aid organizations such as the Salford Survivor Project, the UK SAYS NO MORE campaign, supported by the charity Hestia, provides safe spaces where people suffering from domestic violence can walk into a TSB branch and talk to a staff member, who will take them to a private room to access help. The arrangement is free, confidential and can be the first step towards a life of freedom.
Safe Spaces are available in all TSB locations as part of Hestia’s UK SAYS NO MORE campaign. Ask any staff member and they will direct you to a private room but will not include your contact details as the schedule is confidential.
Once you’re in a Safe Space, you’ll find contact details for the National Domestic Abuse Helpline (0808 2000 247) and information about Hestia’s free Bright Sky smartphone app.
“One year after the launch of this service, our specially trained colleagues remain vigilant and ready to support the needs of vulnerable local people – and will welcome them to a safe and private Safe Space space to get the help that they need,” said Lea Dickson-Dayus, TSB’s Manchester Regional Branch Manager.