My first port of call once my mind returned to functioning was to move us out of the house where the abuse had taken place. Although my daughter was not upset, per se, about being in that house, there were all too many reminders of X that no amount of clearing out or redecorating could solve.
Moving house isn’t easy at the best of times, but an emergency move in the midst of such a traumatic time is something else entirely. It took me a month and a half of desperate phone calls, begging and pleading with councils and housing associations, private landlords and even banks (who would not lend me a large enough amount of money to cover deposits).
It was past 5 pm at night, and I had just gotten off the phone after being rejected for yet another house. I lit a cigarette and cried in the back garden, cursing everything that was working against us. I was about to call my father and let him know that we didn’t get the place, when my phone rang. It being after working hours, I was completely unprepared for the housing officer on the other end, who was offering me not just a property – which would have been absolutely fine, at this point I would have taken a glorified shed – but the one property that I had wanted more than all the others; the one nearest to my father. I cried down the phone, telling her that I would take it without even viewing. I called my current landlord and handed in my notice, and then crept into the living room where
my daughter was watching television. She was just as happy as I was, and we soon started packing our things, ready to move.
The whole process was painstaking, and sometimes I’m surprised that the friends who helped us move still talk to us – they worked through the night packing and painting and moving and unpacking. None of us ate, or rested, we just survived of caffeine and pure determination. I cried several times during the process, out of sheer frustration at not being able to just do it all overnight, and partially out of sadness at needing to leave the beautiful home I had made us. Still, I knew that I no longer wanted to live there, and the excitement for the new house and clean slate grew.
After we moved I worked tirelessly with the same friends, and my father, to decorate and furnish the new house as beautifully as possible, in as little time as possible. Within days it had gone from being an empty shell to looking like an actual home, and it kept getting better. My daughter started a new school, where she immediately made friends with everyone, and overall she seemed much happier in herself. I started to relax; despite the looming trial and sentencing, the continued Local Authority involvement and the fact that I still, months later, couldn’t keep food down, we had done it. We had moved forward. Everything finally seemed to be falling into place.
A beautiful family Christmas came, and all the services involved agreed graciously to allow us two weeks without any visits or meetings or stressful phone calls, just to enjoy it. I managed to get my daughter the bike that she had so wanted, and despite my bank account running on empty since the move, she got more presents that Christmas than she ever has before. I usually object to her being spoiled, but at the time she deserved every last one of them. The local council also dropped off a huge bag of goodies for her, after hearing about our ordeal (which we explained to them when we were moving, for the
purpose of moving) which really restored some of my faith in humanity. The best gift of all that year was that my daughter didn’t mention X, not even once, over Christmas.
Still, despite our successful move and happy Christmas, there were court dates and meetings and various other challenges awaiting us in the new year, and it was at this point that I realised just how scary the future looked. Sure, we had made a nice home in a nice place right near our support network, and my daughter had settled into a new school with new friends no problem, but the question, “What next?” hung in the air, thick and heavy, and full of foreboding. I couldn’t leave her with anyone; I didn’t even trust registered child carers. How was I supposed to go and get a job? How was I supposed to integrate myself back into society? How could I keep moving forward?
I could be wrong, but I think this is probably a normal thing to feel once finally getting back on one’s feet after such a massive situation. After all, being consumed by something so life changing really takes you out of the loop, and once you try to get back into daily life and normal routines, it becomes obvious that the playing field has changed. I no longer had a partner, and that was a very big game changer for me, having always had somebody to turn to – even if that person wasn’t always exactly ‘reliable’.