Suki’s story

Suki* (20) and her sister Harjit* (17) are sisters living in a refuge together. They left home to escape their father. Suki tells their story.
 
“Our dad was only abusive towards us, he would manipulate us so that we always felt alone. He didn’t hit us, but he was very controlling. No one else in the house knew, only our auntie had any idea at all and she didn’t know all of it. Mum could see it but never asked us directly about it. She just asked if we were ok.
 
…I left home when I was 18
 
I first left home when I was 18, but I had no idea who to go to or what to expect. I heard of Connexions through a friend whose mum happened to work there. They put me in touch with a local domestic violence organisation who told me about Women’s Aid refuges. At first it was really hard, not knowing anyone and being so far from my friends. Last year, Harjit also decided to leave, and joined me at the refuge when she was 16.
…people can’t just knock on your door
 
Going into the refuge was really difficult at first, because there were lots of younger or older people, and we found it hard as there was no one our age there. There was a playroom but there wasn’t a lot for teenagers to do. You’re told that it’s just a normal house but then you have curfews and can’t always do the things you want to do. People can’t just come and knock on your door like in a normal house, you have to meet them somewhere else.
 
…growing up really fast
 
Going into the refuge meant growing up really fast. We didn’t know anything about housing benefits, bills, and generally looking after yourself. I’d never had to make my own dinner before and I shrank all my clothes when I first got into the house! Harjit didn’t know that people went to the post-office to get their benefits or that jobseekers queued up at the jobcentre every week… it was a learning curve and we had to learn to budget.
 
…dealing with our emotions day by day
 
We are both gradually dealing with our emotions day by day – you shouldn’t bottle up your feelings. When both of us left we kept things inside and then it just came pouring out. You think you have control of the situation and then it hits you suddenly. I just heard a song recently and it brought everything back to me. It’s hard but things are getting better. We’re thinking of getting a place together. We both want to go to college and move on from what has happened in the past.”
 
* Names have been changed