18th November 2022
It was when I tried calling a helpline to talk through my experience with emotional abuse and to understand what I had been going through, that I realised there was a bigger problem than just my own toxic relationship.
I tried calling at least five times over two days and all I got each time was an answer-phone message saying I could leave my number and someone could try to call me back at an appropriate time.
I didn’t leave a message but I did wonder how many other people struggled to get through to get the support they needed. I wondered how big the problem really was.
Instead of talking over a phone, I turned to the internet, trying to make sense of the confusing world of emotional abuse that I had experienced for eight years.
It turned out to be vast. I didn’t have a physical bruise but the subtle, covert and controlling behaviour of emotional abuse had left a scar on my soul. All I could sufficiently do was sum it up as a feeling: I felt like I was drowning. I didn’t know who I was anymore.
And clearly, I wasn’t alone. There seemed to be many women and men – millions in fact – who had been on the receiving end of emotional abuse.
This was a problem bigger than just my own toxic relationship.
I realised that getting through on a telephone helpline might have helped me in that moment I needed it but it wasn’t going to help all those others who were too scared to call or those who couldn’t even get access to a phone because of the controlling behaviours of their partner.
It wasn’t going to help those who didn’t realise the type of relationship they were in.
And it certainly wasn’t going to prevent or stop abuse from happening in the first place.
I was lucky enough to get out of that toxic relationship and I was lucky enough to then fall in love with Mark, a truly amazing man who supports me and loves me the way a woman should be loved.
But not everyone is that lucky.
The thought that there were other people experiencing emotional abuse who were currently feeling what I had felt – ashamed for finding myself in this sort of relationship, trapped with seemingly no options for getting out, looking in the mirror and wondering who that person was staring back at me, feeling unloved and worthless – that tore at my heart.
No one deserves to feel that way.
As part of my healing process, I realised I could turn my abusive experience into something good, which could help others. I came across SafeLives and the charity’s focus on ending domestic abuse, by raising awareness and providing educational resources and advocating at a policy level, resonated with me.
It was a no brainer then to fundraise for SafeLives when Mark and I spent almost four months sailing around the coast of Great Britain in a 28-foot boat during the summer of 2022. It was part of my healing process but there was something apt about raising money for an anti-domestic abuse charity while being stuck on a boat in a confined space with a partner.
That is the freedom I wish for everyone.
Turning my bad experience into something good meant Mark and I raised more than £2,000 (with Gift Aid) for SafeLives and also increased awareness of domestic abuse and the amazing work this charity does.
Our fundraising will go towards domestic abuse data gathering, training people on the frontline and working with partners. This is significant because this is what real change looks like: identifying and understanding the problem on the ground and responding systematically.
I am proud that my small action will have contributed towards this change and the creation of a better world.
I know from my experience that in times of darkness there is always hope. That is why I want to imagine a world where domestic abuse doesn’t exist. That is why I want to believe this world can become reality.
If you are currently experiencing abuse, help is available.
If you are interested in fundraising for SafeLives you can find out more here.