Meet the three brave abuse survivors helping domestic violence victims feel at home after escape
Three domestic abuse survivors have told their stories as they set up an organisation to provide furniture and toys to women and children fleeing abuse.
Gemma Muncaster, Melanie Thornton and Lauren Beattie set up Sunderland-based Help Me Out to provide essential household goods and furniture for victims, many of whom have fled abuse with nothing but the clothes on their back.
In a matter of weeks, the determined survivors have set up the organisation and secured a storage unit to store furniture, toys and clothes donated to the cause.
Mum-of-three Lauren said: “There’s a lot of help and support out their and people to help set you up in a new home but then you’re left a bit high and dry – there’s not a lot of support to help furnish a house from nothing.
“We’ve had a lot of support from other organisations who have backed us and it just shows this service is needed.”
The 34-year-old left an abusive relationship in August last year and lived in hotels for months before getting her own home in October 2019.
The mum-of-three suffered a broken nose and fractured skull at the hands of her abusive ex-partner.
"You don’t see it as abuse because you’re with someone you love. I never thought I was mentally or emotionally abused but I was,” said Lauren, who lives in Houghton.
"I’d encourage anyone facing domestic abuse to reach out and speak to someone. Try and get help because their is a life after domestic abuse."
Help Me Out isn’t just looking to provide white goods and furniture but offer women important items – from cutlery sets to ornaments and toys - which turn a house into a home.
Gemma Muncaster, 37, of Hetton, slept on the living room floor of her new home for two weeks after she escaped her abusive former partner.
The mum-of-two, who now works as an inspirational speaker telling her story of domestic abuse and features in Avon UK’s Embrace The Change campaign, said: “I, like many women, was in survival mode, all I could concentrate on doing was getting up and making sure my kids were safe and fed.
"I didn’t have a fridge and I’d go to the shop on an evening and buy a bag of ice and some milk and keep it in the sink overnight so I knew my kids had something to put on their cereal in the morning.
"So many people have got in touch and donated because it’s something that they’ve been affected by personally and want to help.”
Shocking figures show almost one in three women aged 16-59 will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime.
Melanie Thornton, 50, who is also a councillor for Sunderland City Council, added: “So many women have experienced this and I think that’s why the service has been so successful, so early – people get it. They think if I was in that situation how would I feel or I remember how I felt.”
To donate visit the Fund Me page at www.gofundme.com/f/nk6cr-help-me-out