Pride of Manchester winner Jane Gregory knows what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship, but it’s the murder of local mothers Leanne McNuff and Linzi Ashton by their ex-partners – after years of suffering of abuse – which made her realize she had to do something. Unfortunately, their cases were far from unique, and in 2013 Jane set up the Salford Survivor Project to help others in the same situation.
She feared that her daughter was involved in a difficult relationship with her own partner. “I just thought: I have to make a change. I’m not going to sit around and wait for my daughter to be the next victim,” Jane says.
The 51-year-old found that while there were services for people experiencing domestic violence, they weren’t quickly and easily accessible – and she knows from her own experience how difficult it is to find help. ‘assistance.
“I come from a home where my father regularly beat my mother, and I thought that was how it was. Abused people naturally blame themselves, so they will compensate for the behavior of their abusive partner.
When Jane reunited with her ex-partner, she also found herself in an abusive situation, but admits she didn’t see how bad things were until they split.
“It wasn’t until I left that I realized I was also a victim of financial abuse. He didn’t steal my purse or anything – he did it in other ways, like remortgaging the house without my knowledge.
But now Jane is buying her own house and has a bright future ahead of her – and she’s determined to give other women a lifeline for that same freedom. She and her team of volunteers from the Salford Survivor Project have years of experience between them; they can offer support during court hearings, help find accommodation and, of course, offer a shoulder to cry on to people going through difficult times.
“It’s important that we talk about abuse – especially financial abuse – because victims often blame themselves when it’s not their fault,” she says. “If your partner does something that makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s a sign of abuse.
“They can make you doubt yourself and deny what they’re doing so convincingly that you start to believe you’re wrong. I meet people who have never had a bank account, and when they separate from their partner, they don’t know what to do because their partner controls everything.
But Jane has shown that it’s possible to break free and enjoy a better future than you could ever have imagined when your confidence has been worn down by an abusive partner.
She says the first step to liberation is setting boundaries, although she admits it can be difficult. “It’s really 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 act in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, help is there. As well as local aid organizations like the Salford Survivor Project, the UK’s SAY NO MORE campaign, supported by the charity Hestia, provides safe spaces where people experiencing domestic abuse can enter a TSB branch and talk to a member of staff, who will take to a private room for assistance. The program is free, confidential and could be the first step towards a life of freedom.
Safe spaces are available at all TSB branches as part of Hestia’s UK SAY NO MORE campaign. Ask any member of staff and they will direct you to a private room, but will not take your details as the program 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.
“A year after the launch of this service, our specially trained colleagues continue to be vigilant and ready to meet the needs of vulnerable local populations – and will welcome them to a secure and private Safe Space room to get the help they need. says Lea Dickson-Dayus, director of the TSB regional branch in Manchester.