Tenter hooks and Pitiful Looks. (The Refuge)

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This is a continuation from my previous poem, Tenter Hooks and Telling Looks.  This is a series of poems that will attempt to take the reader into the experience of domestic violence through the eyes of the survivor. The first poem attempted to convey (very briefly) the first attempt at leaving an abusive partner. My intention is follow my own personal experience of going through the system. This poem is a recollection of my first contact with a refuge. 

Taxi for Clare!

Yes, she will be there in a minute!

“Where am I going?”

“ The driver knows where he is going. He will take you somewhere safe”

Erm… OK. But I have no money, I had to leave in such a hurry!”


“There’s no need to worry, it’s all taken care of.”

“Wow, Thank you! But please can you tell me where we are going?”

“I am so sorry, I just can’t say, but rest assured it is somewhere safe.”


Taxi driving through familiar streets

The rain has now turned into sleet

Baby’s crying

I’m all alone 

I really wish I could just go home


Down a side road

We pull into a stranger’s driveway

“Alright love, this is us. Just ring the bell there’ll be someone to let you in.”


Err… hello. My name is Clare, I believe you are expecting me?”

Warm Office and a friendly smile

I’m not sure how long but it’s been a while

Same questions just a different style


“No, well … I don’t think he ever really hit me.”

“There was the time he tried to strangle me … perhaps more than once.”

“Oh there was the time he locked me out of the house for hours, but he did apologise with flowers!”

Erm… I can’t really say … it’s really hard to describe. One minute he’s kind the next, well he loses his mind.”


“No, I’m so sorry, I left in such a hurry. Everything that I have is in the nappy bag.”

Kind people have donated all sorts of things

I find myself under the stairs rummaging.

A toothbrush!

Some baby grows and some clothes for me!


“This is home now.” She says with a pitiful look in her eyes 

“Don’t forget you have to make an appointment with the DSS.”

Then I’m alone, just me and the babe


I rest my eyes over my new ‘home’

One single bed that almost fills the space

One single wardrobe for the clothes I don’t have

One baby cot squeezed into the corner

One cracked mirror reflecting my sad

Pathetic face

I really wish I could go home. 


◄ Crown

Tenter Hooks Once More. (The First Night) ►


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John Botterill

Thu 11th May 2023 08:35

Amazingly honest writing, Clare. I was back there with you, as it were. The power of your writing conveys the desperation you must have felt.

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Tue 9th May 2023 14:47

Thanks Uilleam. I’m afraid the situation is pretty dire for refuges now. I consider myself very lucky to have been able to access one when I needed it - my heart breaks for women today.
My experience goes back over 20 years and I have a very good life and partner now. But I dread to think what might of happened if there had been nowhere safe for me to go.

This is a new project for me, I have written bits and pieces before but never attempted to write a whole series - it just seems to have come out of nowhere! I don’t mean to make people sad, or angry. Hopefully as it continues you will start to see the strength of these women and how they able to rebuild their lives. For me it’s not so much about the abuse it’s more the aftermath. So many agencies intruding into your life when you are at your most vulnerable.
Anyway, thanks again for taking the time to comment☺️

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Uilleam Ó Ceallaigh

Mon 8th May 2023 22:13

Thank you Clare.
I always feel terribly sad, and angry, when I read pieces like this.

I remember writing some years ago about domestic violence and the cutting of funding for women's refuges.

I don't know what the current situation is, but here are some quotes from an article dated March 2018.


"Council funding for women's refuges cut by nearly £7m since 2010".

"Funding is down at two-thirds of local authorities across England, Wales and Scotland".

"The fall in financial support comes at a time when the government is planning to remove refuges and other forms of short-term supported housing from the welfare system."

"In the year to March 2017, about 1.2 million women in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse, according to official estimates."

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