20/03/2024 - Permalink

Blog: Kate Connor’s story, and domestic abuse prevention services

Related topics: Adult social care / Children's services / Health / Partner organisations

Blog by Kate Connor, from Shropshire Council’s domestic abuse prevention team

My name is Kate Connor, and I am currently working in Shropshire Council’s domestic abuse prevention team as their lived experience project officer.

I have experienced domestic and sexual abuse and have worked in a range of local support services since 2011. In this role I am asking those with similar lived experience to join me in building our voices into Shropshire’s public service provisions, projects, updates and more.

This is my story. Please be aware domestic abuse and child sexual abuse are mentioned. Please don’t read on if this could cause you distress.

Kate Connor

Kate Connor


My experience spanned two countries I fled, once from Australia back to the UK, and again to a refuge within the UK.

I met my ex-partner at 15 (he was 19), shortly after my family and I had moved to Australia; the relationship lasted 10 years. He used control, humiliation, isolation, intimidation, sexual coercion/abuse, gaslighting, fear, financial control and so much more to keep me fearful, shameful and in his clutches. Then, when I did stand up to him and we were free, the system and society continued to keep me down and make me feel many of the same things he did.

When I fled the first time (by then my parents had moved back to the UK) I escaped while he was sleeping. I packed a holdall, gathered up my 6-month-old and two toddlers and walked to the end of the road calling my mum. I booked a taxi to the nearest hotel and hid for two weeks (Sydney/Canberra/Melbourne), sorting paperwork and passports, then got back to the UK.

Once here I realised I was pregnant again and after a month or two of building shame, guilt, and fear, he wore me down and flew over to the UK, and we got back together. His hold on me was overwhelmingly strong, the pull that he was the children’s father and ultimately, I wanted it to work, to be better like he promised, kept me there.

Fast forward two years and I found the strength to leave again. The reality had set in that he was only going to continue these awful, harmful abusive behaviours and my children would be affected. I then fled to a refuge. It was a lovely big building, and we had our own room (me and five children), communal kitchens and bathrooms in a lovely area with a great garden for the children. Here I found some strength and became able to tell him I wasn’t returning to him; he needed to leave our current home and find other accommodation or go back to Australia as my parents had offered to pay his flight. He took the ticket!

So, there I was back in Shrewsbury, just me and my five children, a house, trauma and a bunch of debt (shame/fear). The refuge was great and gave me the space I needed and talking to other victims/survivors really helped me. However, their follow up/on was not great all I remember was them chasing me for the weeks rent for when I was there. (Shame). This added to feelings of it not being severe enough, he didn’t hit me, so it wasn’t that bad. I know so much more now through my own learning.

I had the benefit of my amazing parents who supported me no matter what, but they couldn’t comprehend it all either. I knew no one else really and had no idea there was further support out there. Therefore, I bravely pulled my socks up pushed the trauma down and just got on as best I could.

During the next 10 years I had conversations/contact with housing, gas and electric, Department of Work and Pensions, schools and social services, to name a few. I told most of them bits of what I had been through and yet no one suggested or signposted to support, it seemed no one acknowledged it was domestic abuse. In fact, many made me feel ashamed through derogatory comments like “five kids, how many dads?” (Shame).

This all just increased the shame, guilt and fear I had. Except now instead of just fear of him it was a fear of judgement from the community, services and everywhere. This stopped me asking for help; I just kept trying to hide my pain and stress. Yes, in some ways this increased my resolve, but I have always felt pushed away by society; single Mum of five children, she must have done something wrong!!! Instead of, where is he? why is she having to do all this on her own? I wonder if we could help.

It breaks my heart that so many people who experience this are not acknowledged for being brave, resilient, and deserving of value.

Before the end of that first year my eldest daughter disclosed to me that her father had sexually abused her. When she was ready, we reported this to police. The pain and guilt I felt was and still is indescribable.

This led to an investigation lasting seven/eight years resulting in a six-week court case in Australia in 2017. My daughter is and was amazing, but I know she still has emotional scars she has buried. She held herself together during this process until they told her one lunchtime during court that she couldn’t spend it with me because it may contaminate her evidence. The one person that was always there couldn’t comfort her after cross examination.

By the time this went to court I was in my second year of completing a degree in criminology and I had to defer essays/tests and when I returned to go into the third year, they told me I didn’t have enough points to go on.

Imagine the distress! One tutor tried to sort it for me but ultimately it was a computer that decided that I couldn’t go on and had to postpone it a year. Imagine that! Single Mum of six children (by then) found the courage and determination to go to Uni, being told that two years stretching herself so thin to improve our lives, was not enough. All of it came down to a decision by a computer system. How human is this? I lost belief in it, in the system I knew now they didn’t care, I was just a number.

At no time throughout all of this did I ever feel my struggles to be really acknowledged or understood. I didn’t want and don’t want special treatment just a better system that understands people are not robots. Instead, nothing did and so I internalised it all to be my failure (Shame). However, this is a failure of the system. I tried to raise the issue with the university, but no one bothered to get back to me.

During this time, we received the result of court, and he got 15 years imprisonment, 10 before parole. I felt numb. I thought I would feel more when it was done but I still felt pain/shame/guilt/ANGER. Again, I just carried on. My daughter was offered counselling, but she chose not to have it and I might have done the same, but I was never offered any. The understanding that I had suffered too seemed non-existent. Sometimes people acknowledged my god! six kids on your own how did you do that. No one really sees the shame and guilt. I do always wonder, if I had been able to have some trauma support would things have been better; would I have understood that I wasn’t to blame, would I have had some help to improve the financial mess this all left me in, would I know I didn’t need to apologise all the time or hide when I was struggling?

Later we found out that my daughter could apply for compensation; however, we had to prove she was affected by this experience!!!  So, she must be a crumbling human unable to work/function to be classed as affected by the trauma of what was done to her. This led my daughter to question herself, was her experience that bad!! (Shame).

It is these types of procedures that need consideration and there are many more within our services in the UK that recreate the shame, guilt, and heap the responsibility on to the victims and not the perpetrators.

I want to say though, there are many amazing professionals out there offering the best support they can, but often the policies and procedures are lacking and therefore training is missing, so things are missed.

I was so lucky to have an amazingly supportive family and lucky he took the option to go away. Most must contend with their perpetrator in court, within social services procedures, continued harassment via the system, stalking and so much more. The fear, guilt, shame continues with the Perp but also with services who insist the children must have contact with the person who you have been abused by, seen them manipulate, control and shame your children and you know that they will likely continue to do this. Services aren’t set up to understand this.

Eventually yes, we got a good result and the teams involved in prosecuting him were fantastic and knew what he was. Yet we were all still impacted. Imagine when it doesn’t go well, and your concerns and worries are dismissed no one is listening in fact they are insinuating you are the issue. I have seen children removed and thought gosh that could have easily been me.

This is merely a snapshot of my story so you can see why I am so passionate about this role and what we hope to achieve. I know I can’t change things alone.

We know this goes on all over the world, but everyone is afraid to talk about it for fear of triggering others but mainly for fear of the people who abuse. The world of abusers keeps the whole world in fear and shame, and “Our society is still not good at talking about abuse, so victims eventually doubt the authenticity of their experiences and the validity of their claims against injustice” (Hart and Hart, 2018).

I have worked in frontline services in different arenas (care/mental health, domestic abuse) for 13+ years. During this time, I learnt a lot more about the services ‘survivors/victims’ encounter during their journey and the negative and positive impact they can have. I want to help services understand, from a lived experience point of view, how they can help to support a person who is impacted by abuse, feel heard and supported.

I tell you all this not for sympathy but to show how systems can be set up to fail people and why I am passionate about changing things for future people who need it. This happens everywhere, and it saddens me to say most of my story is not unique. I am proud of myself and my children, they are amazing, and we beat the odds. We live and manage the trauma the best way can because we have had each other and family. This is not the same for many people and that is why I am doing this work. The passion to make a difference and remove the taboo of speaking about my experiences is strong. I want those I can impact to understand that talking about abuse in any form is not taboo. We shouldn’t be made to feel we need to keep it quiet because society does not want to acknowledge it happens.

I hope those who feel ready and have similar experiences can join me and work with me to embed the changes we can across Shropshire.

Contact me on – 07977 577674– kate.connor@shropshire.gov.uk


What will your engagement with this look like? This is up to you as the individual. When you contact me, I will do my best to ensure you can input to this the safest and best way for you.

What does it look like?  I currently have a small advisory board of survivors that I am happy for more to join, and I have a WhatsApp group to help keep you all updated.

Who can join?  These groups are for anyone who has experienced domestic abuse and sexual abuse in Shropshire, inclusive of all genders and diversities. All groups will be managed with consideration of risk and safeguarding of all. Considering your individual needs and concerns via discussion before beginning the boards. Eventually, I hope to have one main board with a diverse mix of experiences and then smaller focus boards such as older person’s board, LGBTQ+,  Child-to-Parent Abuse board and so on, focusing on specific projects.