North East domestic abuse survivor bravely speaks out to help others

“The impact it had on my children, I didn’t really see it either because they were very quiet and so well behaved- I realise now that it was out of fear.”

Jessica* wasn’t sure if her relationship was abusive.

Spanning well over a decade, the control, abuse and manipulation she experienced was subtle.

Her now ex-partner would control her eating. Berating her if she gained as little as a few pounds and showering her in praise for starving herself.

He also controlled her relationship with her family and friends.

“I didn’t see my relationship as domestic abuse,” she said.

“I put up with it and would try to convince myself that we had this perfect little family life at home but I’d go days without eating so I could look how he wanted me to look.”

At one point, Jessica was forced to seek medical treatment because of her restrictive eating.

The coercion affected her children too:

“The impact it had on my children, I didn’t really see it either because they were very quiet and so well behaved- I realise now that was out of fear.”

Jessica and her partner eventually broke up, but three years after she had tried to end it.

With time and distance from the relationship, Jessica realised just how emotionally abusive it had been- so she contacted the police.

She chose not to press charges but Northumbria Police supported her by putting her in contact with counselling service Impact Family Services.

She said: “The main thing that the police did for me was to explain to me that I had been a victim of coercive control and that it was domestic abuse.

“They supported me around the legalities of getting custody of my children.”

Jessica went on to spend 18 months at court attempting to gain sole custody of her children and she succeeded.

To help her PTSD, she’s taken part in The Freedom Programme- a support group designed to empower women who are or have been experiencing domestic abuse.

Jessica said: “At first, I really struggled to understand why I was there. I didn’t see myself as a victim.

“The word ‘only’ was used a lot- I’d say he only bit me or he only called me vile names in messages. But Impact have taught me that there’s no such thing as ‘only’ and abusive behaviour is abusive behaviour full stop.

“Admitted I’m a victim and seeking help is the hardest thing I’ve ever done but also the most worthwhile. My children are happy and I’ve started volunteering and helping at local domestic abuse charitie and offering support to other people who are living through the hell I did,” Jessica concludes.

Does Jessica’s story resonate with you? Northumbria Police are here for you. If you’re suffering from domestic abuse, the Force want to help. Specialist officers can remove abusers from households or help to rehome those suffering from abuse.

Please, don’t suffer in silence and contact police today on their 101 number or online. In an emergency, always dial 999.

*Name has been changed.