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I met my boyfriend at university and at first things were great, but then after we’d been together for 18 months, he started to control me.

Over time, he managed to completely isolate me from my friends and family. This was sometimes through directly messaging them pretending to be me or by making a scene when we were socialising.  We stopped being invited out.

He tracked my whereabouts by installing an app on my phone. If I ever turned it off, he’d contact me and make threats of what he’d do to me.

He used to play tricks on me, I didn’t know it at the time but it’s called ‘gaslighting’. He used to tell me that I hadn’t told him things, when I knew I had, or implied that I had remembered things wrongly. I gradually began to believe him. He told me I was depressed, going mad, that I was broken. He told me I needed medical help and forced me to appointments with my GP and psychiatrists.. He took me to all the appointments and always spoke for me, while I looked at the floor not able to speak. At all times, he appeared to be caring for my welfare and looking out for me. No-one questioned this and as a result I was prescribed medication which just numbed and sedated me.

He would ignore me for days on end but when I was sleeping he would sexually abuse me. I felt completely trapped, who would believe that I was being raped as I was in a relationship and had no evidence?

I finally got help following a consultation about housing and finance with Citizens’ Advice. The answers I gave caused staff to voice concerns and I was asked for the first time if I was being abused and if I needed help. This was the first time I had spoken about what I was experiencing and the feeling I had through being listened to and believed helped me to find the strength to seek help and to leave.

However, the controlling behaviour continued after I moved out - he withheld documents, my passport, birth certificate and personal items, even the microchip information for my cat. Getting some of these back was the beginning of moving forward with my life.

I’m now committed to educating and helping others who may be experiencing these issues. I strongly believe that there is a need to raise awareness of different types of abuse, including coercive control and that rape is rape even within a relationship. There were many missed opportunities for others to help when I was experiencing the abuse. I think there need to be safe mechanisms in place to help as well as wider knowledge of the signs to look for – asking if someone is ok and maybe being wrong is better than not asking and risking a life.

Is something like this happening to you?

Any type of abuse is wrong and never OK. If you or someone close to you is in a controlling relationship help is available. You can contact the Live Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800 or web live chat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Anyone who needs help can contact the helpline or online chat at any time for advice and support.

However, if you or someone close to you is in immediate danger, call the Police on 999.

*Names and potentially identifying details have been changed to protect the identity of the person who is sharing their story.

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