Daniella's story

When I was 13, my mother’s boyfriend raped me during one of my visits to her house. I told my dad, who called the police. By the time they arrived, the boyfriend had left. My mother did not believe me, or maybe she was in denial as she had washed the bedding. This had a devastating effect on me as I was already being bullied at school.

I was referred to adolescent mental health services (CMHT) to discuss the issues in therapy and at 14, I spent two days in a psych unit. There, I got ideas about cutting other parts of my body, not just my arm. The talk therapy received on the psych unit didn’t help much and I began to spiral out of control. I started overdosing on tablets. At 15, I also began smoking cannabis and drinking heavily. I essentially went off the rails!

My dad finally reached breaking point and gave me a beating to ‘straighten me out.’ I informed social services and was taken into care.

Whilst in care, I met people who had come from broken homes, with drug addicted parents etc. I was also bullied in the care home. Whilst there, I met a 23-year-old, who groomed me from the age of 15 ½.

I got pregnant at 16 whilst completing my GCSE exams. At my 12 weeks scan it was determined that the foetus had no heartbeat. Late miscarriage was diagnosed. I got pregnant again at 17. With an abusive partner, who stole my money, and was physically and emotionally abusing me. Social services were monitoring me. Arrangements were made for me to be sent to a mother and baby unit. Social workers had seen the bruises on my arms and child social services placed my unborn child on the child protection register. I gave birth to a daughter who was immediately placed on the child protection register. After two weeks, she went into foster care while my dad was assessed for special guardianship. My dad was awarded guardianship and I went back to a hostel, and my abusive relationship. I started drinking heavily again.

I got pregnant again at 18, and once again, social services became involved since I was flagged on the system and still with my abusive partner. I continued to drink heavily and did not care what happened since I knew the baby would be taken from me. The baby survived despite the drinking, smoking and beatings. I contracted an infection and delivered 5 weeks early. The baby was taken to the neonatal unit and I spent a week and a half in hospital then discharged myself and went to stay with a friend. But I breastfed my son and bonded with him during the 5 weeks he spent in neonatal. He was taken into care and once again, my dad fought for him and was awarded guardianship of him as well. I began to see my children at contact centres but found the experience traumatising. I told services that it was too hard for me to see the children there and the contact was stopped. Because they were happy and thriving with my dad, the child protection label was lifted, and my dad remained their primary carer.

I remained with my abusive partner until I was assaulted by him on the grounds of the hostel and the police were called. He was arrested, charged and remanded for 3 months. This broke the cycle of abuse and the relationship ended. I spiralled and began to drink heavily once more.

At 19 I met a man in his 30s who later became my husband. By this time, I had received a flat from the council and he moved in with me. The relationship started out fine as he showed me love, decorated the flat and did a lot to make me feel loved and wanted. The relationship seemed ideal until the abuse started after about a year. He began to cheat on me, take my money for drugs and alcohol and was violent. We were married and the abuse continued. Eventually, he was sent to prison for handling stolen goods. I visited him in prison this time and the other occasions when he was in and out of prison. We still loved each other so we stayed together despite everyone urging us to part. At one point, I was placed in a refuge after the police were called one too many times. I got an injunction against him, but later dropped the charges. The abuse continued. We abused each other really and there were lots of name calling, biting, broken noses etc. Throughout, I continued to cut and was on medication for my mental health. I continued to drink and misuse drugs as well as my medication.

I started to see my kids once per week at my dad’s house. Then after a visit there, I returned home and found a woman there with my husband. A fight broke out and I saw red and stabbed the woman in the face. The police were called, and I was arrested. I was charged with GBH section 18 with intent. My mental health was assessed but whilst they were looking for a bed for me, I was remanded without bail due to the nature of the crime. I threatened to commit suicide so was being monitored. My mental health and the re-connection with my children were taken into account and I was sentenced to 6 years in prison, of which I served 3. I decided to make a change whilst in prison.

I did a hairdressing course, GCSE math and English, a victim awareness course (which was eye opening), CBT, DBT and domestic violence awareness. I left prison and am now 3 years on license until 2022. I was sent to a bail hostel where I had a few lapses and drank. But I have fully engaged with mental health services and taken everything that they have offered. I am applying for a divorce through probation services. I was referred to and AP approved to HerStory House and moved in last September.

At Herstory House, I have engaged with my key worker and other residents and started learning to cook. I also get support with laundry. I am socialising with positive people and going to AA and local services and so far, my breathalyser tests have all been clean. I am working and have a better relationship with my family. I did a ‘mothers inside and out’ programme, which helped to boost my confidence. My dad told me he is proud of me.

The staff at HerStory House have been great. They’re like family. They do welfare checks and we enjoy activities. I am really looking forward to using the hub once it’s working properly.

I can honestly say, today, I know my worth. I enjoy being responsible for myself, working and making an honest living and seeing my kids once per week. I attend my probation and mental health appointments and try to keep busy. I know that I can survive even after a lapse. It can derail you or you can use it to move forward.

My mental illness, past gang life, addiction and prison are not going to define me. You only get one shot at life and I want to be an inspiration to others who have gone down the wrong path. Society is too quick to judge others. There should be more positivity in the world. I would like to spread my Daniella dust to bring more love, peace and hope.

The future I see, is one with a stable home, stable mental health, medication free, good relationship with my family and a peaceful life.

Prison changed me and Herstory house saved me!

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