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Anonymous - My story
Jessica is in her forties, has three children and has been an Avon Sales Leader for over 15 years. She left an abusive relationship more than 10 years ago and during this time has recovered from cancer. It was after leaving that relationship and recovering her health that she began to build her business into the success it is today, with over 400 Representatives in her team.
We talk to her about the challenges she has faced and overcome, and her greatest learnings.
I signed up as an Avon Representative when my first child was very young. At the time I wanted something that was fun and flexible, and enabled me to earn a bit of my own money. I was living in a new area and wanted to get out and meet new people. I would get excited about the new launches and really enjoyed helping people to choose products that were right for them.
At the time I was in a controlling and physically abusive relationship – which was not something I recognised at the time, but I remember feeling isolated and alone; I was lacking in confidence and self-esteem. I didn’t realise that his behaviour wasn’t ok – I thought that being controlled and constantly put down was normal.
Then five years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I was severely ill and in hospital for months. I had gruelling chemotherapy for 7 hours a day every single day of the working week. I lost my hair and was on steroids so was very swollen. But after six months I was given the all-clear. It was a miracle.
When you go through life-changing experiences, it can have an enormous effect on your perspective. I felt a renewed sense of purpose, wanting to achieve more and provide a different kind of life for me and my children.
The AVON opportunity started as a hobby, but after my illness I saw a gap in the market with the business and decided to start building a team of my own as a Sales Leader. I was doing a 9-5 job at the time so would leave work and run my business in my own time. I did that solidly for two years and managed to double my income. It wasn’t always easy. I had to work hard to build my confidence back up – but seeing the results – the orders come in and the positive reactions of my customers, kept me going. Not only did I really enjoy it, but I realised that it was a very viable source of income that would help me to move to a nicer area and create a better life for my children. Three years later, we did just that.
I knew I was taking a risk, but I could see the potential – I could see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. My mum said to me the other day, “I’m really proud of what you’ve achieved”. My mum is quite traditional, she doesn’t give praise much. So, coming from her, that has meant the world to me. I know that I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am today.
I’m now at the stage where, yes, I earn good money, but I still see lots of women and men in my team who are in or have been in controlling relationships. I want to be there for them, to help them build their confidence and understand their self-worth – like I’ve done for myself. I’ve been through so much and learnt a lot along the way and want to use my experience to reassure them that they are not alone, that they have options and a way out if they need it.
When I decided to leave my partner, I was driven by the fact that I wanted so much more out of my life. I wanted to be happy. My daughter remembers me being hit. I didn’t want my sons to grow up thinking that was ok. The best thing I ever did was to leave. I felt empowered. Now my daughter is strong and independent, and she recognises what a healthy relationship is.
Having my own income and job was an important part of my decision to be able to leave the relationship I was in. It gave me independence, confidence, and it gave me the means to support myself, without having to rely on anyone else.
I’ve been through so much, this is what I’ve learned:
1. Recognise the signs of an abusive relationship– know what is controlling – and that this is not ok. Know what a healthy relationship looks like.
2. The importance of friends and family, and in seeking help. Now there is a lot more about what constitutes an abusive relationship, about control – what is healthy, what isn’t healthy in a relationship. That helps – talking about it, talking to friends, being open, getting help.
3. Health is the most important thing, and being happy. Helping others, showing kindness, being there for others. Life is too short – grab every opportunity that comes your way. Be a ‘yes’ person.
4. Be a goal digger. Set out what you want to achieve and go for it. I use a vision board. It helps me to focus on what I want – little, short term things as well as longer term goals. Ticking them off when you’ve achieved them is the most satisfying feeling.
5. Work hard, be motivated and determined. Be consistent.
6. Share your story – it inspires others. If my story can help one woman then I’ve achieved something huge in my life that means more to me than anything.
7. Learn how to be a leader. To me a leader is not a boss. It’s someone who supports and encourages someone to meet their goals. A leader is a role model.
8. Look at every situation as a learning curve.
9. Play to people’s strengths, lean towards good, hard-working people.
Avon is unique. It is a business built on social connections, and there is a real power to that. But it’s also moving with the times and developing new ways to connect and to deliver. People, women especially, are using the platform to build their business because they can see the opportunity. It’s brilliant.
Avon put a roof over my kids’ heads and food on the table. But more than that, it empowered me. For free information and support, 24 hours a day, call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247
Gemma Muncaster is in her thirties, has two children and has worked on and off for Avon for five years. She endured terrible physical and psychological abuse at the hands of a boyfriend who went on to kill himself. Four years on, Gemma has rebuilt her life and has a new career as a National Field Trainer for Avon where she is using her voice to help other women recognise and escape from abuse.
We talk to her about the challenges she has faced and overcome, and her greatest learnings. When I was 29 I separated from my husband of eight years. 9 months later, I met someone else and began a new relationship. He was independent, showed me so much attention and idolised my two boys, but when I look back I realise that he belittled me from our very first date.
Small things like laughing at me and checking what I was wearing should have told me something was not right. Just six months later he had forced me to come off Facebook (which I used to run my business), give up my car and my house, and I declared myself bankrupt. I knew deep down things weren’t right but he loved me, he had taken in my boys, allowed me to live in his house, drive his car, spend his money. He told me I should be grateful and that no one else would do the same.
The first time he was violent, I left him and moved out with my sons. That was when I started working for Avon, and despite having no confidence they took me on, giving me a company car and a good salary. When my ex found out, he slit his wrists and sent me a video telling me it was my fault. When he got out of hospital, I agreed to give him a second chance – the biggest mistake of my life. Despite a fresh start in a new town, he was violent again. On Boxing Day 2013 he tried to strangle me. I called the police and he was arrested. I tried to drop the charges but the police officer was clear that they wouldn’t, and they feared for my safety. On New Year’s Eve he drove his car off the road and tried to kill himself again. All I could think was that I hadn’t been able to save my dad who had taken his life when I was younger, but maybe I could save him. I was so scared of what he would do to himself that I was blinded to the harm he was causing me.
A few months later he tried to cut my throat. I used every ounce of fight in me to kick him off and press the panic alarm the police had fitted. The next morning I was informed that he had killed himself. The first few days after, I was angry and blamed myself, but later I hated him. On the third day I promised myself that if I was going to let it rule my life then I might as well have died with him. From then, every day got easier and I am now a different person. I have forgiven him and created a different life for me and my boys, and I have the most wonderful partner. I have my own house again, my own car and I’m back with Avon as a National Field Trainer, proud to be working for a company that recognises and supports victims of gender-based violence.
If I can raise awareness by telling my story then I will. This is what I’ve learned:
1. Listen to your gut. When your gut tells you something isn’t right, it is not right.
2. It is never just a hit, punch or slap, gender-based violence is wrong and all children should be taught that.
3. Sometimes it takes someone else to show you how things really are. If I hadn’t had the support of the police, and my friends and family, I might still be with him.
4. Abuse is not just physical. When he used to laugh at me, when he didn’t like me going out on my own, when he made me cry – that isn’t normal in a relationship, that’s cruel.
5. Make the most of opportunities – Avon offered me a way out, to earn my own money and become independent when I had no confidence. I’m so glad I took that opportunity.
For more on the signs of abuse and where to find help, visit www.avon.uk.com/causes or for free information and support, 24 hours a day, call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247