Domestic abuse effects us all. Here are people from all walks of life sharing their experiences...

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"Alcohol can fuel domestic abuse but also the sadistic characteristic of pinpointing the vulnerable"

WENDY, Artist and ACTIVIST

I would just like to state that my childhood was spent with violence through the backdrop of World War 2 and then the inflicted damage by my father towards my mother! On reflection alcohol can fuel domestic abuse but also the sadistic characteristic of pinpointing the vulnerable.

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"I was lucky enough to have family strong enough to .... teach me how to forgive"

AIGANA, MODEL, ARTIST AND FASHION DESIGNER

My father beat me unconscious but I have never hated him for that. I have never seen him again after what happened. I was lucky to have family strong enough to take me from him, protect me and teach me how to forgive. I pray for him every single day, so he can get strength to understand what he has done and repent. Now I am a mother myself, and my daughters have never met their grandfather.

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"I never thought I could be a victim of anything like this as I ignorantly pictured women in abusive relationships to be quiet and timid"

SOPHIE, mother and crystal healer

My name is Sophie Niechcial, and as a survivor of Domestic abuse I feel compelled to share my story, in the hope that by me speaking out I may perhaps help even just one other woman out there struggling with a similar situation. I remember how isolated I felt whilst I was trapped in my abusive situation, as if I was the only one and nobody understood, I definitely think hearing from someone who had been there themselves would have helped me knowing I wasn't alone. Especially as the type of abuse I was mainly suffering (sexual), I had not really heard of women going through this with an intimate partner, I didn't think something like this could occur with a boyfriend/ ex partner, which kept me silent for longer as I felt like it would be brushed off since he was someone I had been intimate with before. Let me start from the beginning.
Firstly, I would like to say that I went through sexual abuse and rape as a child/ teenager, which I am not entirely comfortable at this stage in my healing going into all the ins and outs of, however I feel this is important to mention as perhaps this added to my vulnerability. Julian was aware of my past history, he was also the one who comforted me when I cried, held me and told me it would be alright. Yet, knowing what I'd already been through, he was about to put me through the nightmare all over again.
I had first met Julian as a 17 year old, we had a casual fling (probably lasting a few weeks or month or so), though lost contact when I moved out the area for a while. Fast forward to the age of 21, I was a newly single Mum to my beautiful 4 4month old baby girl. Relationships were the last thing on my mind, as I was still hurt after my Daughter's dad left me when I announced my pregnancy. Anyway, by chance one day I bumped into Julian around my local area. We got chatting, he seemed to have matured since I knew him previously, and he was extremely charming and sweet. 
From there, we kept in contact and started seeing each other. I didn't expect it to become anything serious, I thought it was just going to be casual between us again. Though Julian seemed to be taking an interest and genuinely seemed to care about me, or so I thought. I let my guard down with him over time, and soon we became an item. Julian was everything I wanted in a boyfriend, he was funny, sweet, always there for me and wanted to spend all his time with me- I saw this as a positive at first, now I know this is a red flag in a relationship. He always wanted to know what I was doing and who I was with. Sometimes, it got a bit too intense and a bit much, especially when he started checking up on me; Going through my phone, turning up unannounced when I was out with my friends, bombarding me with calls whenever I met up with anyone apart from me. I thought it was just because he cares about me. He was good with my Daughter and helped out with shopping, we would go for walks in the park with my dogs. People used to comment on what a lovely couple we were and I felt like we were a family. He became my best friend. I soon discovered Julian had a temper, as I saw him lose it with other people- never did I think that would happen with me though. 
Eventually, Julian's jealousy started getting too much and I discovered he had actually been being unfaithful to me. As well as the cheating, I soon realised he had a gambling habit which was spiralling out of control. So, I decided to call things off with him. He came over to my flat and I tried to end things with him, I still wanted to remain friends but I told him I couldn't be with him any more. Julian cried, which shocked me, but his tears soon turned to anger and he told me I couldn't leave him. I stuck to my word though and told him I meant it. And that was the first time Julian attacked me. I fought him as much as I could but he ended up raping me. The first thing he said when he got off me was "Look what you made me do, it's not nice knowing someone doesn't want you anymore." I was so scared and in so much shock. After that, I was too scared to end things with him. I tried to save our relationship and he agreed he would give me time after what had happened. I thought may be we could work things out. Julian promised me nothing like that would ever happen again. Though that turned out to be a lie. Julian began hitting me and the rapes became a regular occurrence. I was confused. I'd heard of women being beaten by their partners, but not raped. In my mind, I knew I couldn't tell anyone. I felt embarrassed of another failed relationship, embarrassed about what he was doing to me, scared that nobody would believe me- scared of what he would do if I told anyone. He made so many threats, that he would get me gang raped, harm my family, harm my pets etc. I thought I could just ignore the problem and it would go away... I was in denial about what was happening. However, things didn't get better, the violence worsened over time. Julian would also slap me, grab me by the throat, hit me, he kicked me in the face one time, and even spat in my face. One occasion he pushed me through a glass door. When he started hitting me in front of my Daughter, I knew I had to get out the relationship. He was physically, sexually, financially and spiritually abusing me. I couldn't take it anymore. He had bullied his way into moving in with me, though I managed to trick him into moving his stuff out one day and called things off with him once and for all. I thought things would end there, but they didn't. Julian began to stalk me, following me everywhere, and sitting in his car parked outside my house. He broke into my house on occasions, getting in through the window and forcing his way in through the front door. I tried to hide what was going on as I didn't want to face it, but soon my friends, family and even neighbours were growing suspicious. Eventually, after admitting to a couple of friends what was going on, they told my parents behind my back, who then went to the police to report it all. At first, I refused to cooperate with the investigation, though I realised I couldn't carry on the way I was. Julian was arrested and remanded in custody until the case went to trial. The court case was horrendous, it was one of the most humiliating and traumatic experiences of my life. The defence barrister was so brutal when he cross examined me. At the end of the week long trial, I felt suicidal. Thankfully though, due to so much evidence (texts sent from him to me, threatening to rape me, then texts apologising after and so on), he was found guilty of 6 rapes and 1 count of sexual assault all against me. In July 2014, He was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Getting justice was an incredible feeling of relief and victory, although this was just the beginning of my road to recovery. Over time, Julian had chipped away at me and broke any confidence I had- he would call me ugly and tell me I was only good for emptying his sack in, and say the most horrible stuff to me. I began comfort eating and piled on lots of weight in a short space of time and drinking more alcohol than I should, as ways of coping. I had also self harmed in the past and was left with awful scars all over my arms. Gradually, with the help of counselling and therapy, having a good support network of friends and connecting with other domestic violence survivors, seeking help from charities such as Solace and Rape Crisis, I began to regain back control over my life. I lost 6 stones of the weight I'd gained in under a year, spending time in the gym working out and getting myself back to good health. I covered my arms with tattoos to help disguise my scars, although they will always be there underneath the ink. I also went from being totally silent and in denial about the abuse, to speaking out about what Julian had done to me at charity events, workshops and to the media; him being named and shamed in the press gave me a sense of satisfaction, and it felt empowering being able to tell my story, as abuse thrives in darkness and isolation. Bringing it all out into the light and in the open was a weight off my shoulders.
Everybody has their own, unique road to healing and recovery, and some of whats worked for me may not be for others and vice versa. Also, everybody has their own time frame for recovery, so I would say for anybody who has been or is still going through Domestic abuse to please be patient with yourselves. For me, I am coming to accept that I will never fully be healed, however I have worked and am continuing to work towards healing as much as I possibly can, so I can have a good quality of life and happiness. I never thought I could be a victim of anything like this, as I ignorantly pictured women in abusive relationships to be quiet and timid, whereas I can be quite loud and out there at times. If this can affect me, it can happen to anyone of any background at any point in their life. 

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"I'm not a victim, nor will I be defined by how others want me to be"

Helen, Chair of Solace Women’s Aid

I was emotionally and physically abused by my father throughout my childhood. He was a controlling, charming and aggressive man and I suffered more than other family members because I was bright, determined, sociable and motivated. I was told I was ugly and stupid and I believed it. I’m not a victim nor will I be defined by how others want me to be. I’m a successful professional, feminist, hugely in love with my husband and the proud and adoring mother of two sons, a step-daughter and a step-son. I’ve been on a long journey from being a self harming, under-confident and scared youngster who believed that the abuse was her fault. I’m proud of the progress that I’ve made with the love and support of friends and family. And I’m proud of being able to support others through my role as Chair of Solace Woman’s Aid and, with the other Trustees and the Executive team, supporting our staff and volunteers in the incredible service they provide

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"Never would I believe I could end up with an abuser. But it happened"

LILLY, ACTOR AND WRITER

Being a child of domestic violence, living through the police knocking at the door every week, almost ending up in care and witnessing my mum being beaten by men she loved, who she thought loved her; never would I believe I could end up with an abuser. But it happened. I was your typical "I'm too strong for that" but I ended up with a man who mentally tortured me. A man I don't want to say much about because he would just love the fact I'm still talking about him. Instead I want to say, it gets better. It's difficult to forgive and heal and move on, but you will.