A domestic abuse survivor has paid a moving tribute to a north west Wales women’s refuge service for its ‘incredible’ work helping turn her life around.

The woman said that the refuge run by Gorwel was the only shelter out of 323 in the UK to accept her into their care.

Now the victim, who received support from Gorwel throughout a seven-month stay, has herself started working to support other victims of domestic abuse.

She decided to tell her story, on the condition of anonymity, in order to thank Gorwel staff and encourage other victims to seek help. 

The domestic abuse survivor was speaking at a re-launch by Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, to mark Gorwel’s expansion.

The woman, who is Russian and has lived in the UK for three years, said: “I had worked for a luxury cruise ship company for seven years as a croupier-cashier in the casino and a tour guide.

“It was a big decision to give up my well-paid job, family and friends, and move to another country to join the love of my life.”

She explained that, at first, the man she had met seemed to be a nice person, but things quickly changed.

“My partner possessed amazing charm and charisma. He convinced me that I didn’t have to work any more, because he would provide for me and I would live like a princess.  What I took as care was just control.” she said.

“My family life turned into a nightmare full of insults, abuse, limitations and prohibitions. I felt more and more confused and depressed.

After 18 months, her partner’s verbal assaults turned to physical abuse.

“I asked myself what happened to the loving kind man I fell in love with, how can someone change so drastically? Was it my fault? What did I do wrong? 

“How could horrendous fits of anger keep taking turns with calm times when he became a loving partner again and somehow made me forget recent abuse without even saying sorry? 

“I couldn’t find answers. I still loved him and continued giving him another chance.”

After she eventually realised that her life was in serious danger, she decided to run away, with a small bag and just £8 in her pocket.

“I spent seven months in the refuge where I was surrounded with a team of nice, caring and professional people. My support workers did an incredible job in helping me emotionally, mentally and financially.” she continued.

“Together we overcame a lot of difficulties dealing with my immigration status, financial stability and health, both physical and emotional, and new housing. I received counselling, and, most importantly, I made new friends.”

“Now, I just want to say thank you to all those who helped me to start a new life.”

Intially, the victim did not have the right to remain in the UK and Gorwel was the only provider which agreed to give her refuge and work with her to get the relevant paperwork to be able to stay.

She now lives in north Wales, and volunteers in a charity shop. She is looking for paid work, and is starting the process of being able to volunteer for Women’s Aid.

Gorwel work closely with partner agencies in Gwynedd, Anglesey and Denbighshire to offer expert help to older people, children and young people, and individuals who are finding it difficult to secure housing support.

Established in 2006, as a business unit within Grŵp Cynefin housing association, the company recently merged with De Gwynedd Domestic Abuse Service and now their services help 500 vulnerable people each week through its team of 54 dedicated staff.