Susan’s story: courage personified
Trigger warning: Please note, this story contains mention of violence and sexual assault. We’re using the names ‘Susan’ and ‘Jack’ to protect the identities of those involved.
Susan has experienced more abuse and trauma in her life than most of us could even imagine. But, with our support, she’s taken a stand against those who terrorised her and is summoning the strength to start over.
Susan first came to our attention in 2019, when she was sleeping rough. Once we connected, it soon became clear that her story was one of ongoing abuse that had left her needing a great deal more than just a home.
Caught in a downward spiral
A qualified teacher, Susan hoped she’d left the horrors of abuse in her past. But when her partner became violent and she started drinking heavily to cope, her life spiralled out of control. After being introduced to crack cocaine and heroin, the façade she’d kept up as a hard-working single mum shattered. Forced to resign, she was about to hit rock bottom.
While her children were away, a ‘friend’, Jack, suggested Susan go with him to visit a dealer. It quickly turned violent. Susan’s keys and phone were taken from her and she found herself being held captive in her own home, where she was fed drugs and sexually assaulted. After four days, the gang made her drive to another flat, where she was forced to watch as Jack was tortured and left for dead.
Thankfully, Susan managed to escape and that’s when the police got involved and put her in witness protection.
How our Legal team helped
The police asked the council to help with housing, but they refused – leaving Susan no choice but to sleep rough. Even so, she managed to get herself clean and put in her own housing application, along with a letter detailing all that had happened to her.
She wrote about her childhood abuse, violence, drug dependency, mental health problems, and kidnap. But the council maintained she wasn’t vulnerable and refused to budge.
That’s when one of our solicitors got involved and threatened the council with judicial review. Susan was placed in a bed & breakfast – and with our support, she felt confident enough to go to the trial. Her evidence helped to convict three violent gang members, all of them receiving lengthy prison sentences of 12 – 16 years. Susan’s kidnappers carried machetes, and talked openly talked about contract murder and acid attacks. No wonder she had been fearful about facing them in court.
Finally, the council accepted a full housing duty to Susan, and she was offered a flat. We helped with bedding, a food parcel, and a washing machine to help her get settled.
‘The help I have received from Shelter and my case worker has changed my life immeasurably… Thank you all, sincerely, for your unwavering and incredible support.’Susan
She is still clean of drugs, her mental health is better, and now sees her children regularly. She’s also planning a return to work and has been volunteering with us to rebuild her confidence. Frankly, she’s phenomenal – and your support has helped the world to see it. Thank you.