Brave group share domestic abuse and addiction survival stories to mark International Women's Day in Portsmouth

Charlene Maines, centre, with (from left), Chris Bristol, Tara Walton, Tori Tisson and Raushia Coles at her International WOmen's Day event. Picture: Habibur RahmanCharlene Maines, centre, with (from left), Chris Bristol, Tara Walton, Tori Tisson and Raushia Coles at her International WOmen's Day event. Picture: Habibur Rahman
Charlene Maines, centre, with (from left), Chris Bristol, Tara Walton, Tori Tisson and Raushia Coles at her International WOmen's Day event. Picture: Habibur Rahman | JPIMedia
TRIUMPHANT testimonies of recovery rang through a Portsmouth church hall as a champion of local International Women's Day events hosted a panel of inspirational people.

The event at St John’s Cathedral was spearheaded by public speaker and mum-of-two Charlene Maines in a bid to give people with stories of encouragement a platform to tell them.

As a domestic abuse survivor and young carer, the 36-year-old launched the event in Leigh Park two years ago before bringing it to Portsmouth to aplomb last night.

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Charlene began by introducing herself before opening the floor to a trio of panelists who bravely spoke of successfully loosening addiction's grip on their life after seeking help.

Tara Walton, 48, moved to Portsmouth from Oxfordshire three years ago to strike a definitive line under 30 years of alcohol and substance misuse.

She said: ‘When I came to Portsmouth I was here for residential rehab treatment – I was very, very unhappy.

‘Three years on, I’m volunteering, I’m studying and I’m a big part of the recovery community here in Portsmouth.’

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The Narcotics Anonymous volunteer added: ‘Events like this personify what we hope to achieve and it’s lovely to see everyone here.

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‘What we do is all about unity and breaking stereotypes.’

Next up was Chris Bristol, a support worker for the Caritas Project at the Diocese of Portsmouth.

After leaving home at 15, the now-50-year-old fought a losing fight with addiction and feared he wouldn’t live to 40.

But he has not touched drugs since moving to Portsmouth for help 12 years ago, and now waxes lyrical of the city’s ‘beautiful community’.

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Mr Bristol said: ‘I’m lucky I’m here because there’s a lot of opportunities in this city to change your life.

‘It’s beautiful to see everyone here tonight and the more we seize these opportunities to be on the same page with other people the better.’

Raushia Coles rounded off the speeches by chronicling her remarkable survival at the hands of domestic abuse and addiction.

Fellow survivor Tori Tisson, 22, also commanded a huge applause for bravely reading a poem about the physical abuse she once suffered.

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It concluded: ‘To unlock someone else’s prison, I hope my story will serve as a key.

‘To help someone else spread their wings, find happiness and set them free.’

The keynote talks were followed by a disco and a buffet, made possible by food donations from Asda and a DJ who offered his services for free.

Charlene, 36, who celebrates her birthday on International Women’s Day on Sunday, said: ‘The speakers today completely overwhelmed me with emotion.

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‘By sharing our stories and our personal barriers, we have more chance of succeeding in life and getting the help we so desperately need.’

It is hoped Charlene’s events can grow to cover Leigh Park, Portsmouth, Hayling Island, Waterlooville, Fareham and Gosport.

Another will take place at Tanya's Kitchen, 42 Greywell Road, Leigh Park, from 4pm on Tuesday.

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