My name is Charley-Anne Gordon, I am 23 years old, from Hertfordshire. I gained my LLB at the University of Buckingham, studying on their two year intensive course. I am currently a PhD candidate at De Montfort University.
I had an ambition to study law, as I wanted to become a Barrister. However, I live with a genetic condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. As my health deteriorated, I eventually ended up needing a wheelchair. I was bed bound most of the time, and was only able to attend school part time. Studying law no longer seemed like an option.
At the same time, myself and my family suffered through domestic abuse, which just fuelled my passion to study law, and help other victims. I wasn’t ready to give up on my dream.
I worked hard to get my health stable enough to attend university, but I struggled to find an institution that would agree to support me with my needs as someone with a disability.
Eventually I met the law faculty at the University of Buckingham. It was the best decision I ever made. It wasn’t an easy journey, and at some points it seemed like I would never graduate. My health deteriorated further, and I spent more time in the back of an ambulance, in A+E and on hospital wards than in class. I even took exams whilst in hospital.
My hard word and determination to not give up paid off. I finished my degree in December 2019 with a first, and actually graduated first in my class gaining numerous academic prizes. I was also named future legal mind 2019 by National Accident Helpline.
As much as I would have loved to have had a normal university experience, I honestly believe that everything I went through had made me determined, hard working and resilient. I now no longer see challenges as barriers, and am particularly good at finding solutions to the most impossible seeming situations.
I realised quite soon into my degree that legal practice was not for me, for two reasons. When I was looking for placements and potential training contracts/pupilages I found the legal sector to be very inaccessible to individuals with physical disabilities. But I also realised that I loved research, and the academic side of the law. I made the decision to pursue an academic career.
I wanted to research domestic abuse, specially coercive control, in the hope that I could help trigger effective domestic abuse policy changes to help families like mine.
I found the interest and focus on coercive control in the research institute of Law Justice and Society at De Montfort University perfectly aligned with the kind of research I wanted to carry out. Despite not having an LLM, I bit the bullet and submitted my PhD research proposal. I was admitted to the doctoral college and began my PhD in January 2021.
I am looking at the intersection between coercive control, cultural identity and gender, to examine how women’s experiences of coercive control are affected by her cultural identity. Aside from my thesis I also hope to carry out research looking at the experiences of disabled victims of domestic abuse.
I have also recently been given an amazing opportunity to teach undergraduate family law, so I am ecstatic to be gaining valuable teaching experience so early in my career.
To anyone thinking of studying law, or attending university, never give up on that dream. And never let anyone tell you it’s not possible.
If anyone would like to follow my journey, I run an Instagram page dedicated to disability awareness and use LinkedIn. I am always happy to answer any questions anyone has about law, or university in general!
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