Pride of Manchester winner Jane Gregory knows what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship, but it was the murder of local mums Leanne McNuff and Linzi Ashton by their ex-partners – after suffering years of abuse – that made her realise she had to do something. Sadly their cases were far from unique, and in 2013 Jane set up the Salford Survivor Project to help others in the same situation.
She had been concerned that her daughter might get involved in a troubled relationship with her own partner. “I just thought: I’ve got to make a change. 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 although there were services available for people experiencing domestic abuse, they couldn’t be accessed quickly and easily – and she knows from her own experience how hard it is to find help.
“I come from a home where my dad regularly beat my mum, and I just believed that’s how things were. People who are abused naturally blame themselves, so they’ll compensate for their abusive partner’s behaviour.”
When Jane got together with her now ex-partner, she also found herself in an abusive situation, but admits she didn’t see how bad things were until they separated.
“It was only when I’d left that I realised I was financially abused too. He didn’t steal out of my purse or anything – he did it in other ways, like remortgaging the house without my knowing.”
But now Jane is buying her own house 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 between them; they can provide support at court hearings, help to find housing and, of course, offer a shoulder to cry on for people going through tough times.
“It’s important that we speak about abuse – particularly financial abuse – because the victims often blame themselves when it’s not their fault,” she says. “If your partner’s doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable, then that’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 in the wrong. I come across people who’ve never had a bank account, and when they split up from their partner they haven’t got a clue what to do because their partner controlled everything.”
But Jane has shown it’s possible to break free and enjoy a better future than you could ever have imagined when your confidence has been worn away by an abusive partner.
She says the first step to liberation is setting boundaries, though she admits that can be tough. “It’s really hard, but you need to learn how to do it and not feel like you’re doing anything wrong by pointing out how someone’s making you feel.”
And if that person continues to act in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, help is out there. As well as local help organisations like the Salford Survivor Project, the UK SAYS NO MORE campaign, backed by the charity Hestia, is providing safe spaces where people suffering domestic abuse can walk into a TSB branch and talk to a staff member, who will take them to a private room to access help. The scheme is free, confidential – and could be the first step to a life of freedom.
Safe Spaces are available in all branches of TSB as part of Hestia’s UK SAYS NO MORE campaign. Ask any member of staff and they’ll direct you to a private room, but won’t take your contact details as the scheme 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 smartphone app, Bright Sky.
“One year on from launching this service, our specially trained colleagues continue to be alert and ready to support the needs of vulnerable local people – and will welcome them into a secure and private Safe Space room to get the help they need,” says Lea Dickson-Dayus, TSB regional Manchester branch manager.