A young woman, held prisoner by her husband for four years, will be exploring a whole new world in South Holland this Christmas.
You may have passed her in the street smiling and laughing with family and friends because – after ten years of enduring mental, physical and sexual abuse – for the first time she feels completely free.
The woman, whose identity is being withheld for her own protection, met the Spalding Guardian at a safe location – along with PCSO Bev Robinson who is raising awareness this week of the support available to victims of domestic abuse.
But there were no second thoughts about reliving the years that robbed her of her childhood.
She said: “I am so happy I’ve been given this opportunity to speak because I might be able to stop someone else going through what I did.”
Her harrowing tale begins when she was 15 and fell in love with a boy aged 19.
She said: “He pressured me to get engaged and within nine months we were married.
“I was so young I was swept off my feet, but he was always controlling.
“On occasions I was allowed to walk up and down the street, but I had to stay on the phone to him.
“Things started to get really bad when my husband became agoraphobic.
“I wasn’t allowed out and barely saw my family and friends because they were made to feel so uncomfortable.
“I wasn’t allowed to go to the shops – my clothes just stretched with me – and if I was ill I just had to get over it.
“When someone is constantly saying you are no good, ugly, fat and couldn’t get a job you believe it.
“He left me an empty shell with zero confidence and said if I tried to leave him he would kill himself and it would be my fault.”
It was secret messaging to her mother on Facebook that led to her rescue.
She said: “I told Mum I couldn’t go on and she said to help me she would have to call the police.
“The day I knew they were coming I started to get emotional and covered it up by saying I was upset about the shouting the night before.
“When they arrived I remember wondering when police officers had grown so tall.
“There was this enormous man with a booming voice pretending to ask about the cars on the front while my husband’s mother was called in case he tried to do anything.
“Then I told him I was leaving and got in the police car. From that moment I started looking forward – I could be young again.
“The next day I went shopping with my mum and remember being fascinated that you could buy Marmite in a squeezy bottle.
“There were shops and roads I’d never seen.
“The world had changed and I had no clue.
“I can’t thank the police and the Public Protection Unit officers enough for their help. They have an immense support network and have been fantastic.
“The experience has left me scarred.
“I still get voices in my head telling me ‘you’re ugly, fat and useless’ but now I know it’s not true.
“I’m a uni student, I have a part-time job and a boyfriend and for the first time since I can remember I’m looking forward to opening my presents at Christmas.”