Kind gestures and suspicious looks. (The First Morning)

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Poem 4.  Continuing the Tenter Hooks series of poems based on leaving an abusive relationship. This poem attempts to express some of the emotions experienced when you find yourself in a women's refuge. 

There’s a wait for the bathroom

With babe in arms, scavenged toiletries and one clean towel

We wait our turn

Some take longer than others

We don’t say very much

Tentative smiles

And under breath



We mostly avoid each other’s eyes

Something too personal

Too intrusive

For those who are here to hide

Strange that we share the same loo

But are not brave enough

To say how do you do


Babies are crying

The toddlers are restless

The older ones run wild

Some mothers have given up

It’s not to say they haven’t tried 

It’s just they are exhausted

And the kids are wired


Away from home

Away from family and friends

The unspoken question 

Hangs in the air


When will this end?


The kitchen is surprisingly small

When you consider how many mouths there are to feed

“You get one shelf in the larder 

But you must share a shelf in the fridge.”

She smiles as she speaks

“If I were you I’d do like I do

And keep your stuff in your room, otherwise someone might steal your baked beans!”


“It’s OK.” I say

“I haven’t got any food, I left without any money.”

“But you must eat, you are breastfeeding!

I don’t have much but I’ve got some bananas in my room. You are welcome to have one. Come with me!”


I think I may have made a friend

She is full of smiles

And kind gestures

She tells me she’s been here a while

It’s her second time 

But there are others on their third

And forth!


“There’s Pam, the last time she left him

He broke into her house

Cut her neck from ear to ear

She’s lucky to be alive

It’s a miracle that she survived!” 


“Julie, she’s from Liverpool 

I feel sorry for her being

So far from home

But her guy’s a nutter

He always finds her!”


Julie is holding a small child to her breast

While chastising two boisterous boys

Who are giving her the runaround

I can’t help but notice the fading bruises

That appear to be tattooed over

Arms, face and chest


“I have to go now.” I tell my new friend

“I need to see someone at the DSS.”

Before I leave I allow my eyes

To sweep the room

A woman or child in every corner

Each with their own stories to tell

Each with their own versions of hell



41% (37 of 91) of women killed by a male partner/former partner in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2018 had separated or taken steps to separate from them. Eleven of these 37 women were killed within the first month of separation and 24 were killed within the first year (Femicide Census, 2020). 












◄ Tenter Hooks Once More. (The First Night)

Twenty Four Hours Can Change a Life ►


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Thu 11th May 2023 18:14

Thank you to everyone that took the time to read, like and comment on this.
I realise it is a very heavy subject and that it may elicit some strong feelings. (Isn’t that the job of a writer?)
This is a project very close to my heart - I would like to point out that I was in this situation over twenty years ago and that I am happily married to a wonderful man☺️ In addition to my own personal experiences, I have worked supporting DV survivors for many year's. The aim of this project is to explore some of the issues faced after leaving. I hope I can do it justice - it’s a huge subject! Thanks to all.

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Thu 11th May 2023 13:03

We weep, we try to understand why, but we can't, not fully. Perhaps these are questions that can only be answered on the soul level, when we have left our physicality. Clare, this poem is so vivid I could almost smell the sadness and desperation. The kids and the tentative friendship beween the women in the shelter provide a spark of goes on and there are breakthroughs...including the poetess who got away. Thank you Grace for sharing your sister's story....people going through family heartbreak appreciate knowing they are not alone. Blessings on all.

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Uilleam Ó Ceallaigh

Thu 11th May 2023 09:31

Government funding of refuges ought to be a priority, in a nation which calls itself "civilised"; it is perhaps no coincidence that a high profile abuser has recently been recommended for a knighthood!

It has been callously sugested (also in these pages) that abused women could "walk away" from such abusers.

However physical and emotional control / abuse involves fears about financial security and acess to shelter, and other factors; personal safety, and that of children coming second to other considerations.

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John Botterill

Thu 11th May 2023 08:25

Amazingly powerful story telling, Clare. As always, you paint a vivid picture, which is terrifying, and yet obviously an accurate depiction of what happens. Thank you. It has opened my eyes.
This series of poems deserves a wider audience, in my view.

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Stephen Atkinson

Wed 10th May 2023 21:44

Powerful & affecting piece of writing, Clare. 🌈

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Wed 10th May 2023 21:28

Grace, I am simply trying to record my own personal experiences and to highlight all the rings women have to jump through once they find the courage to leave. I cannot speak for individual women and their reasons for staying with abusive partners.
All I can say, based on my own experiences and the years that I spent working with survivors is that many women have their reasons for staying. They may not make sense to you or me; but we have not walked in the same shoes.
I am sorry that your sister appears to be lost from you. I truly hope that she finds the clarity and strength to break free.
There is a lot of info on women’s aid and much research done into why women stay - perhaps they can shed some light.
Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on such an important issue.

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Grace Meadows

Wed 10th May 2023 21:02

Thank you Clare for so importantly reminding us about the suffering that these poor women and children are no doubt going through today and many days to come. Horrendous to say the least, and as you point out, quite a few times ending in the death of some of these poor souls.

I have a sister I haven't seen for years because of her demonic husband who used to beat the living daylights out of her on a regular basis-but!-no matter how many times I and my family tried to help her to escape his clutches, she always went back to him! Now you tell me, would she have loved him that much despite his cruelty or out of fear of her situation one day ending in her losing her life like the poor ladies you mention in your footnote? I think the only way she would get any kind of peace would be for the 'demon' as I call him to die-ASAP!

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