Probation helps Lisa break free from abuse

Lisa* has praised probation after the support she was given helped her to leave her abusive partner who had repeatedly raped her and threatened her with knives.

The 28-year-old was sentenced for possession of fire arms after she was arrested and tear gas was found in the car she was travelling in. Lisa was sentenced to a 12-month Community Order supervised by the Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company (CGM CRC) and required to attend the Tameside Women’s Centre, which is run by the CRC in partnership with the Greater Manchester Women’s Support Alliance (GMWSA).

Lisa started her order in May. At the time she was addicted to crack cocaine, had alienated her family and her son had been placed in the care of Lisa’s mother because of her inability to look after him.

Helen May, CGM CRC probation case manager, supervises Lisa. Lisa attends the women’s centre on a weekly basis to carry out her order and take part in group-work programmes aimed at helping her to make positive changes to her life.

Lisa said: “I’m glad I got arrested because the help I’ve got here has saved me from either becoming a crackhead on the street or ending up in a coffin.

“My life was hectic. I was homeless, I’d lost everything because of the company I kept and the drugs.”

Lisa occasionally missed probation appointments and Helen could tell she was holding something back which was stopping her from properly complying with her order. Nancy Morrison was Lisa’s key worker and also spent a considerable amount of time trying to encourage Lisa to engage.

Lisa said: “Helen kept mithering me, which is what I needed. It was really hard to talk about it, but I ended up telling them the reason I was struggling was because of what my partner was doing to me.

“He used to lock me in my room. He had knives and threatened me. He’d have sex with me while I was asleep. He threatened my friends, even my gran. The tear gas was his too.

“I had a good upbringing but when my parents split up when I was 14 I started using crack cocaine. I was clean for six years when I had my son, but I ended up falling back into it. When I met my ex-partner things just got worse and worse.”

After Lisa disclosed the horrific abuse she had been dealing with on a daily basis Nancy worked tirelessly to find her emergency accommodation. Lisa’s mum organised her a hotel for the night after housing authorities failed to find a suitable alternative, then the following day Nancy managed to find a bed at a women’s refuge.

Lisa said: “Nancy stayed with me until I was sorted. To help find accommodation she took the bus with me, worked late and did all of it without ever once putting herself first.

“The fact she did all that means so much to me.”

Lisa’s weight had dropped to six-and-a-half stones before she left her partner. She has now been clean from drugs for five weeks, has gained two-stones, and has been allowed to see her son. In addition, a non-molestation order has been served on her ex-partner.

She said: “I’m never going back to the drugs. I know that means I’ve got to change my whole life, but I’ve got a couple of good friends who don’t do drugs, I go to the gym and I’m really enjoying coming to the women’s centre.

“It’s great at the centre because I meet other people who have experienced things like I have. I thought I was alone. But that’s not true. Knowing that really helps.

“Probation has changed the way I think. I used to be nasty, horrible. But that was my defence.”

Helen is based at the women’s centre. She co-facilitates the WISER programme which was designed by the CRC and is specifically for female offenders.

Helen said: “When we first met Lisa it was obvious that something was badly wrong, and it took her almost six-months to be able to tell ourselves and social services about her ex-partner.

“That’s not uncommon because often the women we supervise are in fear and some also struggle to understand that their relationship is abusive.

“Since she moved away from her former lifestyle the difference in her has been truly astounding and is testament to the effort she has put in to change. I am deeply proud of the progress Lisa is making.”

Lisa volunteered for the support provided by Nancy, a criminal justice co-worker whose role is funded by the CRC.

Nancy said: “I am thrilled we were able to support Lisa, to find her new accommodation, and that she is now embracing a new life. She is looking wonderful and I firmly believe she is making lasting change.”

Lisa added: “It didn’t matter how bad I was or the fact I was a crackhead, Nancy was just so compassionate. There needs to be more people like Nancy in the world.”

*Lisa is not the lady’s real name. In order to protect her identity we have change her name.