We are so proud to support Refuge as part of the Bold is Beautiful project. Refuge is an incredible charity that strives to create a world without domestic violence, where women and children can live in safety. Beth, aged 20, has shared her story and why Refuge is so important to help change lives.
I started a relationship with my ex-boyfriend when I was 16. Initially, it was a happy relationship. He made me feel amazing: we were constantly going on dates and he showered me with gifts.
But as our relationship developed, he became more and more controlling. Slowly but surely, he made sure that he was my only network of support. He would wait for me to have an argument with a friend or a family member and then convince me that I didn’t need them in my life. He did everything he could to make sure I prioritised him over them.
The relationship worsened when I started applying for university and going to open days. He was unemployed and wasn’t studying. I was pretty much the only thing in his life and when he realised I might move away, he became even more controlling. He tried to sabotage my efforts to apply for university by threatening suicide if I ever left. He would constantly start arguments about me abandoning him. University was really important to me; it should have been an exciting time, but he made applying so difficult.
He was extremely jealous and possessive. I couldn’t have male friends, which was difficult because the majority of my friends were boys – he insisted I was cheating on him. Eventually I gave up most relationships with anyone else because they were seen as a threat. He convinced me that he was the only one I needed. I understand now that most abusers isolate their partners. He purposefully cut me off from people so that I’d become more reliant on him and less able to access support.
I got to a point where I no longer felt like myself. I had to cut out everything and everyone in my life, and everything I did revolved around him and whatever he wanted. I would never act the way I did with him if I was on my own.
I tried to break up with him numerous times. He would threaten suicide almost weekly. He once called me repeatedly before leaving me a suicide note. I ran down to his house to make sure he was okay, only to find him playing on his Xbox and smiling at me as if nothing had even happened.
I was coerced into getting back together with him. I felt responsible for his life and stayed with him out of fear he would kill himself. It was terrifying. People often question why I ever went back, but when you’ve been completely isolated and manipulated by someone, you do everything you can for them because they have made it seem like they are all you have left. That is how a controlling partner operates.
When the abuse became physical I managed to break up with my ex for good. My confidence was broken. The pain, physically and mentally, has been excruciating. My mental health has suffered, as well as my physical health at times, but now I’m on my way to being my old self. Thanks to support from Refuge, I now recognise the control he had over me from the very first day we met.
If you ever find yourself in this kind of situation, remember you are not alone. Refuge can help women spot the signs of controlling behaviour and emotional abuse, and begin to rebuild their lives. Talking about my experience and working alongside Refuge has been really empowering for me, and I know it will be for others too. I’m now in a good place, studying at university, and I’m in a new (very happy) relationship.
If you think you may be experiencing domestic violence, you are not alone. Visit www.refuge.org.uk for support and information. For more on spotting the signs of abuse, click here. If you want to let more you women know they are not alone, watch and share Refuge and Frances’ new music video.