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16 October 2014

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Scratching the Surface

By Debbie Rideout
November 2001, Abercarn
A digital story from Capture Wales

Against the odds

Debbie was a victim of violence. Her story tells us how she escaped the fear.

"Do you pretend to be asleep when he comes home from the pub? Are you timing yourself when you're shopping for food? Have you hidden money behind the wallpaper, just to survive? On times, does your blood boil, almost to breaking point? Do you feel ashamed and a total wreck? Haven't you prayed - God, there has to be more to life than this?

This is my story.

For nine years, I hit my head so many times on the cupboard door, I got rid of the cupboard. In its place, I discovered a window of opportunity and friends.Some that I thought I had lost. All were more than willing to help me.

In 1996, through a quirk of fate, I became a student again, at art college. I was 35. My self-esteem and confidence were almost non-existent. But I stayed focused on all my artwork and I was determined - nothing was going to stop me.

I always had a talent for sketching, but with encouragement, I discovered I have a knack for producing surface pattern. These patterns were developed from studies of fruit, flowers, chickens, and even diseases, seen under ultraviolet.

I work as a school technician now, helping pupils with art, textile and cookery, and because of previous experience, electronics. One particular pupil made me smile one day when he said, "If you wasn't a woman, Miss, you'd be Forest Gump."
I asked him why he thought this and he replied, "Cos you can do anything, Miss."

End slide - ' Special thanks to Grace and Carl and to Mum & Dad who never judged'


Could you tell us a bit about yourself Debbie?
I am a young 43 year old and I'm happily married. My husband and I both have a daughter each from our previous marriages. In September 2002 we had another daughter between us.
Now that we have another child - which came as a great shock as we had not planned on having any more - I don't get a lot of time for hobbies and such like.

I currently work as a Design and Technology technician at a local Comprehensive school. I have worked at the school for four and a half years.
Previous to this I was a student at Coleg Gwent, Crosskeys where I received a Diploma in Art and Design and a Diploma in TV, Theatre and Media makeup. From there I went to Glamorgan University where I graduated in Textile Design and Garment manufacture. I specialised in Surface Pattern.

And before that?
Why am I telling you all this? Because previous to all this, I was a victim of violence. I have a permanent facial scar and a disfigured finger from having it broken. Worst of all I have memories.
In 1996, I became a single mother statistic. I was seven and a half stone in weight, aged 35, but in the five years that followed, I turned my life around. I had to for my little daughter's sake.
When you find yourself on the bottom rung of life's ladder there is surely only one direction to take and that's up!

How did you hear about digital storytelling?
It was pure chance, coincidence or fate even that I made my film. I went along to a meeting with my mum just to accompany her, mum was invited to make a film of her own. She was one of nine people but only eight arrived at the meeting. I was asked if I would like to take the place of the person that didn't show up and if I had a story to tell of something that has affected my life.
Yes, I had a story to tell and in a strange way telling this story would be putting the past to sleep, a moving on process. When people have an opportunity to embark on new ventures, most say "I wanted to do this because it was a challenge" or "I really want to do that because it's a challenge" I hate that expression!

What was the experience like?
For me, making this film was fun despite the serious content. I knew what I wanted to say and I knew what I wanted to do. It wasn't a challenge, it was an enjoyable opportunity. It grabbed my full attention and held it. It was discovery, adventure and expression rolled into one for me. I saw a few things that are done behind the scenes of real TV and did a few myself with the help and generosity of the people from BBC Wales.
I feel that if my story gives just one victim, man or woman, the courage and incentive to get out of a similar situation and turn their lives around too, then my story will not have been made in vain.
Doing this project has left me with a good feeling. Since making the film, I have received many positive comments about the film from many people and that includes people from as far as Australia and Los Angeles.

Your comments

"I liked this story - it is one of my beliefs that, if one really wants to do something, it is always possible if you try hard enough. I take my hat off to to the author and she will be an inspiration to others." Neil Edmondson, Crickhowell, Wales.

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