Freedom from Abuse – Marilyn’s Story

Marilyn Hawes is the CEO of Freedom From Abuse and joined the Healthwatch Essex Trauma Ambassador Group in order to extend her work in helping people living with the effects of trauma. She has shared her story with us in the hope of helping others.

‘Back in 2002, I discovered my three sons had been sexually abused by my best friend of 17 years, who was also my boss of 10 years. I was the Deputy Head of the same school. This revelation came only only three years after escaping 19 years of domestic abuse.

My world as I knew it ended there and then when the police informed me they were investigating this man, it created a tsunami of emotions ripping through our home. Nothing could have prepared me for what we as a family were going through.

My first emotion was denial. I soon realised I had been very effectively groomed by him. And of course, these abusers know how to identify vulnerability in a person. As one abuser in prison told me, when on my journey to discover why people abuse” we smell vulnerability like French perfume “.

After six months the abuser was arrested and pled guilty. This took away the denial from me, but instead left anger which was like white heat from a laser.

He left the Crown Court, having admitted his guilt, with a £200 fine and a suspended sentence. And this is where my journey began.

I fought against all the odds, including threat of a Court order, to get him jailed. And within three months I managed to do so without any lawyers at the High Court of Appeal.

Suddenly I was on the front page of the Daily Mail who called me “the children’s champion “.  The case was all over the media and made front page news in every newspaper. It was mind blowing.

After this I collapsed and had a nervous breakdown through the extreme trauma. I suffered PTSD, agoraphobia, severe anxiety, and deep depression. I had planned my suicide.

I had waited nine months for an NHS counsellor who failed to help me; she burst into tears, another told me she only had experience of domestic abuse, another said “I feel like you are unravelling a ball of wool when you talk to me !!” None of this was any help to me – in fact, quite the opposite.

In the end I went to a psychiatrist who was plain speaking, but effective. He told me this abuser had effectively thrown me out of a plane without a parachute and everything inside was broken. Had it been physical I would have been wrapped in plaster casts for all to see.

However, he said “somewhere in that mess is still the essence of you, Marilyn.” He asked me to tell him three things which were the essence of me before the age of seven. I replied “animals, nature and music “. I had been Head of Music at the school. He said “you can’t change your past; you can only change today and the future. You are more resilient than you imagine. Go and buy a puppy, it will build trust and unconditional love and get you to go outside into nature and go back to playing the piano. I’m not saying this is a quick fix, but it will work”.

I was furious but later realised it was the best thing anyone could say to me, and slowly it worked. After that I founded The Thrive Programme – eight one-hour sessions, and here I am today.

I have never looked back, and this is how Freedom From Abuse was born back in 2004. I am passionate about trauma healing, as it is essential to be able to live our lives better than before, yet still there is not enough understanding or support for those in need.’