TDAS (Trafford Domestic Abuse Services) run regular True Colours courses delivered by specialist domestic abuse advisors who have many years’ experience supporting victims of abuse. These courses are for women who’ve experienced domestic abuse and help participants understand the dynamics and effects of domestic abuse.
They are funded by Community Foundations for Lancashire and Merseyside from the Tampon Tax Community Fund.
In this interview we catch up with Carrie* who completed the course a few months ago to hear about her experience of True Colours.
How did you find out about the True Colours course?
Through social services, they recommended that I go on the course. At that time, I had a social worker due to my ex-husband making false accusations about the quality of my parenting. It was the social worker who could really see how abusive he was being.
How did you feel about taking a course on the dynamics and effects of Domestic Abuse?
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the course or if it would be for me. I was experiencing coercive behaviour from my ex, but I wasn’t fully seeing it. I didn’t see myself as a victim and thought that other people were victims or that they had it worse than me.
How was the first session?
In the first few sessions I was quite guarded, we all were. We were still weighing it all up. The TDAS trainers were really brilliant, I have nothing but praise for them. Right from the start the trainers made it clear that we didn’t have to speak, but that if we chose to everything would be kept completely confidential. After two or three sessions we all started to open up.
What were the other women on the course like and how did you interact?
It was a very diverse group; young, older, from different walks of life and very different from each other on the surface. It makes you realise that abuse doesn’t discriminate and a person can have been in the relationship for 5 weeks or 50 years. Our situations were in reality very similar though.
We learned a lot from each other. It was great to see people making progress and giving their different opinions. I learnt that it doesn’t matter who you are, the effects of domestic abuse on you will be similar. I saw that we’ve all experienced a version of the same thing. Sometimes someone would say something in such way that would really help you to think differently about an aspect of the abuse, which was really useful. It’s was a great comfort to know that I wasn’t alone and was not crazy.
Did you find anything surprising or unusual about the course?
Although it might seem strange, there were a lot of times on the course where we had fun and laughed together. It was often serious but with very funny moments. I found it a unique and valuable course.
What has been the impact of the course? What did you learn?
As I understood that my ex had done all the different domestic abuse behaviours – financial control, physical violence, insults, withholding access to the kids and even trying to use the court system to control me. I was able to name it ‘abuse’. I also saw the damage that he’d caused me, for example, I used to regularly tell people ‘I’m not thick’, because he was always saying that I was stupid. These things can stay with you if you don’t confront them. True Colours was part of unpicking the damage he’d done. I used to cover up how I was feeling by laughing or making a joke, now I can let myself cry if I need to.
The group really helped me to deal with the shame I felt. Shame that I’d let it get so bad and that it had gone on for so long. By opening up to the group I felt supported and less ashamed, knowing that they understood.
He had me convinced that I had mental problems, but it was all gaslighting. He was so convincing at making me think I was very forgetful. He was messing with my mind – it was sick fun for him but terrible for me.
What have been the long term benefits of doing the course?
There are so many! One key thing for me is now that I have a greater understanding of the abuse, I am able to better help my kids. They still have some contact with their Dad and the course has helped me to manage this so that he can’t manipulate me, which has been so important.
When he tries to manipulate the children to get at me, I can be ready to help them understand and diffuse it for them. I still have some anxiety related to my ex but it’s getting better all the time. The course has helped me see his abusive patterns of behaviour and what he’s trying to do. This helps me be aware and make sure he can’t get to me anymore.
Were there any memorable moments on the course?
A key moment for me was when we were looking at some domestic abuse scenarios in the group; although the scenario was one I’d experienced, when I was reading it I no longer imagined myself in that situation, I was picturing someone else. I knew then that I’d really moved on as I could no longer picture myself in that situation. It might seem really dramatic to call myself a survivor, but it is true. I am survivor and no longer a victim.
How would you sum up the True Colours course?
I found the course really amazing and life-changing in so many ways. It was the best group ever. It even gave me the confidence to stand up to my ex in court!
I can't believe that I let it get so bad but TDAS was my saving grace. For that, I will be eternally grateful.
What would you say to someone who’s considering doing the True Colours course?
I would say, “Please do the True Colours course, take the leap! You can learn how to step back from the situation and really understand it, so that you won’t be terrorised anymore. Otherwise nothing will change.”
Someone recently opened up to me that she had been assaulted by her husband and I encouraged her to contact TDAS as I know she’ll get the support she needs.
Is there anything else you want to tell us about your experience on True Colours?
I’m still in touch with the women from the course. We are now good friends. We keep in touch regularly on a Whatsapp group supporting each other with encouraging little messages. It’s really great to still be able to reach out to people who I know understand.
Thank you Carrie for sharing your experience of the True Colours course.
*Name has been changed to protect identity