A mum-of-two from Gwynedd told how the devastating effect years of emotional abuse from her partner left her and the children with severe psychological problems.
Claire – not her real name – is now separated from the father of her two daughters after his insidious coercive and controlling behaviour left her and the girls with emotional scars so deep, they may never heal.
She said he was never physically violent towards her or the children but his cruel mind games where hugely damaging and hurtful.
In the end Claire found the courage to seek help from Gorwel – the Gwynedd and Anglesey-based branch of the Grwp Cynefin housing association which supports over 100 children who are the victims of physical and mental abuse.
They have been backed by a three-year grant worth £47,000 from North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones to provide a Children and Young People Support Worker as part of a programme which operates from centres in Blaenau Ffestiniog, Caernarfon and Llangefni.
Claire, 40, said she went to Gorwel because of her concern over the effect her partner’s behaviour was having on their daughters: “If their dad is losing it and seems to be insane even if there’s no violence, I’m well aware of the psychological effects on the children,” she said.
“But he wouldn’t be aware of the damage. I might get a ‘sorry’ but the next week it would be my fault, you just don’t know.
“The abuse was never physical but it was verbal; and inappropriate things would be said in front of the girls and you just have to stand there and take it.
“They’ve seen me crying and you’ve got two young girls there and you don’t want them to think this is OK or that this is what they should expect in a relationship.”
Arfon Jones said: “The aim of these grants is to deal with the terrible problems caused by Adverse Childhood Experiences because the sooner you can get to grips with them the less damage is done and the better the outcomes.
“They can grow up into people who are abusive themselves and we’re trying to break that cycle because the lifetime cost of dealing with these problems is in the tens of thousands of pounds.
“These child victims will end up in social care, they will find partners who are abusive. It’s a minefield so to deal with it at this early stage is a win-win.
“It’s a well-being win for Claire and her children and it’s a win for the community because the healthier people are, especially mentally and psychologically, then the better it is for everyone around them.”
A spokeswoman for Gorwel said: “There’s no typical case, every story is different and not all domestic abuse is physical, a lot of it is emotional and psychological.
“With victims of emotional abuse, the children often have more complex needs – they don’t know what’s right or wrong but if someone punches you, you know that’s wrong.”
Claire, who has now left her abusive partner, said: “A friend told me about Gorwel and the reason I brought the girls here was that I wanted them to have support.
“Coming to Gorwel gives you a different perspective on what’s happening to you and the reassurance that it’s not right, that you are being manipulated.
“Both the girls have had problems with anxiety and my eldest feels very guilty. She has mental health issues and her dad wasn’t supportive which left her in a terrible state.
“One day he is fun dad and takes them out and has a great time and the next time he doesn’t want to know.”
She added: “If you wanted to go out to the shop you had to take the kids with you, if you made arrangements to go out with friends something would be wrong – it’s controlling behaviour.
“I couldn’t get a job or go to work because I would have had the kids with me but I could come to Gorwel and bring them.
“When I became ill that didn’t suit him and he became abusive. He wouldn’t be supportive, he just shouted at me.
“I have good friends and that’s been a saving grace and they have helped me but they wouldn’t come to the house when he was there. To other people he could be charming and helpful but that wasn’t the case with me.
“When you are crying because you have been upset and you have someone standing over you shouting at you and calling you names, that’s not right and children shouldn’t see that.
“It’s a tactic to blame you or to engineer a situation where you react. It’s very clever and you do feel you are failing your children.
“I’ve never known what a healthy relationship should be and that’s something I should know and the children should know it as well.”
Gorwel Manager Gwyneth Williams said: “We deal with more than 100 children across Gwynedd and Anglesey and most of our funds come from public bodies like the local authorities and the Police and Crime Commissioner.
“That funding enables us to carry out this vital work and it is scary to think what would happen to these children if this funding wasn’t available because these services and these families depend on it.”