Joe Talbot, 22

“I’ve been a victim of abuse my entire life and lockdown led me to leaving.”

In 2020, Joe’s home life worsened. Having endured years of abuse at the hands of their mother, things only worsened when the pandemic meant Joe couldn’t escape their abuser.

“The pandemic meant both me and my mum were home all the time. It gave her more opportunities to abuse me and find more things to get furious about. Just being around each other more made the whole situation worse.”

“The abuse started to get worse in summer 2020. It’s really hard to talk about it because of how personal it is. My mum was abusive, but she didn’t want others to see her that way. So, instead of kicking me out of the house like she said she wanted to do a thousand times, she tried to find a place in supported housing for me. In her own words, she didn’t want to deal with ‘autistic Joe’ anymore.”

Joe’s mental and physical abuse started when they were a child. They were depressed at aged 8, began self-harming at aged 14, and the prospect of a happy and fulfilled life was entirely foreign to them. Joe hadn’t been taught the word for what they had to endure, or the word for their mother’s behaviour. They believed it was how every child was brought up.

“I didn’t know that other people had different childhoods growing up. When I casually mentioned stories to friends they would react in horror, and I couldn’t understand why they were shocked.”

“When you’re a teenager you might not know it as abuse. You think it’s normal. You can understand it’s bad and you know your parent is bad to you, but you don’t know the word for it.”

“I’ve tried to understand why my mum did the things she did, but I’ve learnt over the years that you never really understand why an abusive parent does something. They just do.”

It was only through therapy and a new, safer home that Joe was able to look back at their experiences with clarity and cognisance. For the past few months, Joe has been living at Evolve Housing + Support, a supported housing organisation for people without homes. Since their time at Evolve, Joe has learnt to grow as a person and is now focusing on what hopes and ambitions they hold for the future.

“My mum was my biggest bully. The arguments kept building up over time, but when I started going through therapy, I began to think more independently. Every time she would put me down, I would answer back and stand up for myself. She couldn’t deal with it. By the end of the year I had moved to Evolve.”

“The whole time when I was living with my mum I just felt so worthless. I couldn’t do school, I couldn’t do friendships and I couldn’t do living. After just two months of being away from her, I feel like I am growing more as a person. I feel like I’m getting older. When you go through abuse it can feel like you’re trapped in a child’s mind set. You become scared in the same way as when you were little, but I feel like I am finally moving past that now.”

“Without my support worker and members of my distant family, I probably wouldn’t be here today. My support worker is amazing! I mean she’s like an actual mum to me and that love has helped me to make close friends here. Just being around love and positivity has really made a difference.

“Evolve allowed me the space to talk about my issues and who I am. It’s provided me with a safe space to be autistic.”

“My mum had always put me down for my autism. It was a large part of my abuse. I’m finally in a safe space where I am allowed to be myself. Even being asked to share my story, I just feel happy to have my story told. It means a lot to be heard after a lifetime of being silenced.”

“I aim to get my diploma this year, but really I am the exact same person as I was before, just with more confidence. With my extra freedom I feel that now I can start to live more of an adult life. Like, I actually enjoy stuff like budgeting and taking care of my flat. I just feel like I am allowed to be my own person and now I have responsibilities I am loving it.”

“I’d like to keep thinking about the future. I know it sounds basic, but it’s one of hardest and most important things for someone with my background of abuse. For people who have gone through something similar, I want you to know, you need to love yourself no matter how impossible it seems. You need to look out for yourself and make sure you get what you need, even if in tiny amounts. Eventually you’ll meet people who can see your value and your existence in life. That’s exactly what happened to me.”

Evolve Housing + Support provides 121 meetings with support workers for all residents to discuss their past issues, their current barriers and their ambitions for the future. They talk to people and connect personally to build working relationships that encourage people to develop their independence.

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