Bold is Beautiful supports two incredible charities to help support an empower women. One being Refuge, a charity who provide a range of services to save and change lives for the better and help to rebuild their lives without fear and violence! Isobel*, who was supported by a Refuge outreach worker, shares her story.
When I met my ex-husband, I had my own business, my own flat, supportive friends and family. I was confident and self-assured and independent. Domestic violence was not something I ever thought would happen to me.
But then I met Ben*. He pursued me relentlessly, lavishing me with gifts, flowers and surprise trips abroad. I was totally charmed. I thought I had met the love of my life.
Looking back, the economic abuse and controlling behaviour began soon after we got together. He began pressuring me to sell my home and move in with him – how could I love him as much as I said I did, if I didn’t want to live with him? At this point, Ben was never ‘obviously’ abusive – he made me feel like our rows were my fault. I now know this is how domestic violence works: it is a subtle, systematic, purposeful build-up of control.
We got married and merged all of our assets. I could not stand his constant jealousy over work colleagues, so I gave it up. Instead, I was paid ‘housekeeping’ – he had forced me to become reliant on him, isolating me from outsiders. My sense of self was being eroded, bit by bit.
The physical violence started when I fell pregnant. We were arguing after we had missed a restaurant booking. Suddenly he hit me and threw me across the room. Throughout the pregnancy, I had to explain away the bruises from his punches and kicks. Ben kneed me in the stomach, and pushed me down the stairs; I had to tell the midwife that I had fallen.
I was constantly walking on eggshells. I was undermined and humiliated in a million different ways. But whenever I tried to leave, he would reel me back in, telling me that he would change and that he wanted us to be a family.
One day a normal conversation suddenly turned into a frenzied attack. He punched me to the ground, kicked me in the back, and then threw me across the room – all in front of our two children. I called the police, and eventually they put me in touch with Refuge.
One of Refuge’s outreach workers, Anna*, began supporting me. We talked about everything I had been through and she helped me to understand that Ben’s behaviour was a deliberate pattern of control. It was not my fault.
I can honestly say that nobody in my life has done more for me than Anna. Together, we made a plan to keep me and the children safe. She held my hand, sometimes literally, through divorce proceedings and child contact battles. She gave me the language I needed to describe what I had been through. It’s like she gave me a secure base, from which I could begin to rebuild my life.
Now things are so much better. It isn’t easy to break away from a violent partner; I don’t think I could have done it without Refuge’s support. Refuge saved my life. I would urge anyone who is living with fear and intimidation at home to visit Refuge’s website – you are not alone and there is life on the other side of domestic violence.
To anybody thinking about taking part in Bold is Beautiful for Refuge, please do. Refuge’s services really do save and change lives – I am testament to that – and they need all our support in order to keep the doors to their services open. Women like me need escape routes and expert emotional and practical support; you can help Refuge provide that. Thank you.
*Names have been changed
If you think you may be experiencing domestic violence, you are not alone. Visit www.refuge.org.uk for support and information.