I’m Mia Holdgaard, I’m a DJ and stylist and I work in a shelter for young people. I’m also the mind behind the TV-documentary “How to survive a violent relationship”. I started the project, because I lived in an abusive relationship for almost 10 years.
AM I ONE OF THOSE WOMEN WHO GET ABUSED?
It is difficult to get out of an abusive relationship, and for me it took something really bad happening to finally get out. I ended up in the hospital in the Center for Sexual Assaults, and there a nurse told me, that I needed to flee to a women’s shelter. At first I was like: “Nope, I’ll deal with this myself. It’s not that bad’’.
I didn’t take the offer immediately because going to a shelter would make the abusive relationship real. It would make me part of the statistics, and it would make me part of my own prejudice. I felt so much shame. Was I really one of those women who get abused? I thought about it for two weeks and finally decided to go. I took the daughter I have with my ex with me.
IT’S PURE SURVIVAL
You might think that the bad things go away when you seek protection at a shelter, but it doesn’t. That’s when the hard part starts. My ex hacked my phone, and my bank account, he called day and night, told everybody that I had a mental illness and took me to court to fight for custody of our daughter. At the same time my case worker told me that I couldn’t stay at the shelter for too long. If I did my daughter would have to go live with my ex because a shelter isn’t appropriate for a kid. It was pure survival.
Part of the abuse goes on to this day. I have my car smashed, my bike cut up regularly with a knife, GPS trackers attached to my car, and I have to have an attack alarm. The shelter advised me to move abroad and disappear. They’d seen this behavior before and they know that people like my ex will never stop with the mental or physical abuse.
YOU’RE NOT ALONE
When I went to the shelter I started talking to journalists about my situation. We ended up creating a TV series that features three women I got to know in the shelter. The series gives you practical advice on how to get out of an abusive relationship. For example, what to pack before leaving: Pack extra clothes, contact lenses, medicine and cash - cash is important. You live like a refugee.
Most importantly, the tv-series shows that this can happen to everybody. Personally, I didn’t think that other women like me experienced this. After my story came out I found out that a friend I’ve known since childhood was in a shelter for more than a year. And I found out that one of the women I worked with had been undercover for two years.
My hope is to reach some of all the women who don’t ask for help. Even though 40.000 women every year are exposed to violence only a fraction of those speak up and get help. I have received so many messages from people all over Denmark who identify with my story and want me to share how I deal with living like this. I hope they’ll know that they are not alone.
LISTEN AND BE AVAILABLE
You can do so much if a friend of yours is in an abusive relationship. First of all, never ask, “why didn’t you leave?”. Just listen, don’t judge. Be supportive, be available, and make space for their pain, even though it is difficult and other people’s conflicts are heavy.