7th September 2017
Tee Falcone is an ambassador for the Woman's Trust and St Mungo's, the homelessness charity. She is a member of the Client Advisory Board, a formal group of current and former St Mungo's clients who work closely with the Chief Executive and Board, offering valuable insight into proposals for projects and services. In this blog, Tee looks at the connection between domestic abuse and homelessness, and her experience working with St Mungo's. For an audio version of this blog, scroll to the bottom of the page or visit our Soundcloud profile.
Shall we start at the beginning? Can you imagine what that looks like? Fresh, bright, exciting?
In fact – no.
What if the beginning is lovely, but also frightening, chaotic, cloudy? That's more like life after domestic violence.
Escape planning – and a new beginning
Escaping a perpetrator of domestic violence can take months of precision planning, like an army exercise. Imagine making your escape, only to find yourself homeless. You have left behind your entire home, your belongings and a part of yourself.
Your vision of the imminent future is uncertain, and you are longing to block out the past. Perhaps you revert to putting on a brave face, the all-too-familiar mask you'd been wearing during your destructive time with your 'other half'.
Domestic violence comes in many forms: physical, psychological, coercive, financial. There isn't necessarily a particular 'type' of perpetrator – however deep low self-esteem and the hunger for power and control is the common factor. All too often when I'm in groups of women affected by domestic violence, you hear the comment: 'he sounds like my ex'.
So what's next? You'll need to rebuild your life, your trust, your future – but not yourself! You are perfect as you are and as you were.
Many specialist organisations can help with counselling, therapy, workshops, support groups – the list is endless. I focus on empowering women to gain back their confidence and self-worth through my talks, discussion groups, motivational speeches and therapeutic writing sessions – this passion runs through my veins.
'I work to empower homeless women'
When I was first told that the St Mungo's Client Advisory Board was looking for new members, my initial response was 'I've never experienced homelessness so what can I bring of any benefit?'
But thinking about my work as an ambassador for the charity Woman's Trust – which helps women in London affected by domestic violence and abuse to overcome the mental and emotional harm and rebuild their lives – I decided that, in fact, there was something of great value I could contribute to St Mungo's.
My passionate commitment to the Client Advisory Board has enabled me to be a voice for women affected by domestic violence. During our meetings I address women's issues in particular; this has become my specialist subject. I work to empower homeless women at St Mungo's but also all survivors of domestic violence who have been broken down and stripped of their confidence.
My involvement with my many projects involving homeless women has given me first-hand knowledge of the barriers they face. For example, applying for a passport without a birth certificate. If your only means of survival was to escape your perpetrator, then you may well have left all your important documents behind. As I said earlier, precision planning is often needed just to escape safely.
Two women each week die at the hands of their abuser, often at the point of leaving. This is the most dangerous time. Let's never forget this heartbreaking, shocking and very real statistic.
A message for survivors
Through my work, I urge women to find your voice. Don't shy away, ask for assistance in rebuilding your shattered perception of life – it will improve.
My message to survivors at their new beginnings is this:
You will find yourself reading signs of unhealthy relationships much better, and slowly you will feel energised to put yourself first and be non-accepting of any form of controlling behaviour.
Until then, choose your peer group carefully and don't become co-dependent. This is your healing period to regain your sense of self.
Please believe there is a better future ahead, away from any form of the controlling narcissistic behaviour of others. You won't always be consumed by fear and the past. You are valuable, be kind to yourself.
With sincere gratitude for the journey I've walked.
Read the St Mungo's report on women and homelessnes: Rebuilding Shattered Lives