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Highland domestic abuse survivor: ‘It won’t be in vain when I start helping others'

By Staff Reporter

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Elizabeth Hughes.
Elizabeth Hughes.

DOMESTIC abuse survivor Elizabeth Hughes was sitting in a police cell when the bolt from the blue idea she is now developing to help others came to her.

The Black Isle resident’s idea to create a simple way for victims to catalogue incidents was borne out of personal experience at the hands of an abuser she eventually plucked up the courage to leave.

Ms Hughes (31) is now raising funds to develop a trailblazing app with a team from West of Scotland University.

She said: “The idea is to create a simple, secure and discrete way for victims to catalogue incidents and seek help when they need it most.

“The main feature will allow them to create an incident record, by uploading photographs of any injuries sustained from physical abuse and screenshots of any threatening or abusive messages the victim has received from the abuser. Over time the app will detect patterns with respect to the frequency and severity of incidents recorded.

“From my own experience, another difficulty is in finding and knowing what help is nearby – especially if you’re not local to the area, so another planned feature is a map which shows all the relevant support services available in the vicinity.”

It will also look at easier ways of safely making contact with support services and authorities.

The idea was sparked after she reported a physical assault she sustained to police. Her then partner then followed on to make a false counter-allegation against her.

She said: “I was arrested and taken to the police station to be questioned. While I was alone waiting in a cell, I saw in a magazine they’d brought me an article about women who’d developed mobile apps from scratch; they only had a problem to solve, with no clue on how to do it at first, but they eventually found a way.

“I suddenly realised that all my feelings of frustration and suffering shouldn’t be in vain and that I had to draw upon my negative experience to do something positive about it – it was like an epiphany.”

She found the courage to leave with her daughter, who was only two at the time.

Ms Hughes rebuilt her life and now works with victims of domestic violence.

She said: “You have to rebuild your life; some are leaving their homes, friends, community and finances behind and anyone with children has to make the difficult decision of leaving them behind when you flee the abuse or uproot their lives too.

“My advice for people experiencing abuse is to speak to someone that they trust, seek support from your local domestic abuse support service and report to the police. I didn’t speak to anybody because, wrongly, I felt so ashamed, my confidence was at rock bottom. I was basically just a shell of what I am today.”

She stressed that survivors are not powerless or alone and charities like Women’s Aid and Rape and Sexual Abuse Service Highland can help, as can GPs and helplines.

She will be holding a fundraising event on November 16 at the Craigmonie Hotel in Inverness, with wedding band City Limits and a raffle lined up.

Those willing to donate can do so by visiting the page www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/fightingbackagainstdomesticabuse

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