I met my ex-husband in 1997

I met my ex-husband in 1997.

We got married within ten months.
He was absolutely charming and lovely.

I met this man through a friend

and he was very charming,
everyone seemed to know him, like him,

he was very sociable with everyone.

I had no reason
to suspect him of anything.

The statistics for domestic violence
are very worrying indeed.

It affects one in four women.

30 per cent of cases start,
in fact, in pregnancy.

6 per cent of cases are, in fact, men.

And, shockingly, two women die
every week in the UK

as a result of domestic violence.

After a couple of months I got pregnant
and it was from that point...

It was unexpected, I have to say, and
it was after that point things changed.

His behaviour changed. The controlling
behaviour came into place then.

On the honeymoon it changed.

He became very abusive.

Looking back now I realise
that there were problems back then

that just escalated
when I had my children.

When I tried to get out
of the relationship

he held a knife to my stomach
on one occasion

and another occasion
he smashed my head into the wall,

made out it was an accident.

My self-esteem was at rock bottom.

He was very derogatory
about me as a person,

about my looks, my clothes, everything.

He was just very unpleasant
most of the time.

I always ended up saying sorry

even though I hadn't done anything,
just to keep the peace.

Women are affected most,

particularly women
in the 16-to-24-year age range.

Domestic violence is no respecter
of wealth or culture.

It can again occur across
the whole socio-economic spectrum.

He isolated me from people
that would say,

"Hang on a minute, Zoe.
What are you doing that for?"

Because he knew, looking back now,
that anybody close to me would say,

"You shouldn't let him
treat you like that."

I was about four months pregnant when
I suspected that he was drugging me.

I would wake up with hazy flashes,
bits of memories,

and I just didn't feel well at all.

That's when I really did think,
"I'm losing my mind here."

I was questioning my own sanity.

Part of me knew something was very wrong

but I was being told by him I was mad,

my family weren't believing me,

so I really did question myself.

I called a drugs helpline

and explained to them that I was
terrified that I was being drugged.

They advised me to go A&E

so I went to the hospital, I got
the test and it came back positive.

It was a cocktail of amphetamines,
cocaine and ecstasy.

Obviously I was pregnant as well,
so you can imagine the fears.

The doctors couldn't tell me whether
the baby would have been OK or not.

Given the situation, along with that,
I decided to have a termination.

We now know that children are
seriously affected by domestic violence.

It can affect their emotional
development, their social development,

it can make them very frightened

and have a long-lasting impact
for the whole of their lives.

One of my worries was for the children

and obviously I couldn't leave him

because I didn't want to render
my children and I homeless.

He had told me...

I have two children. He would have them
picked up from school by somebody else.

I would never see them again.

So I was going through
all kinds of threats.

At the end my son
became very abusive to me

because he'd seen his father
treat me that way.

It's very important that women feel safe

to share the information that
they're experiencing domestic violence,

so it's important
that if it's happening to you,

you do seek help
and talk to someone that you trust.

It was actually a colleague
who put me in touch

with a local domestic violence unit

because I had a breakdown in her office
and she felt I needed help and support.

Luckily I had heard of
the Worth Project,

so I made contact with them

and it was just such a relief
for someone to listen to me, believe me,

not judge me at all,
in any way, shape or form,

and to be there
with total support for me.

It was an absolute relief.
It was a lifeline.

Women can go to the police
for help with domestic violence,

but they can also go
to other people that they trust.

They can approach health service staff.

They could talk to someone
in the A&E department.

They could talk to a GP, a midwife.

Everyone these days is much more aware
of what needs to be done

and can advise on where to go for help.

As a woman on your own,
going to the police, going to court,

it can be very traumatic,

but with the Worth Project
I wasn't alone, I was able to do it.

There is a lot more support available
these days.

Independent domestic violence advisors
are based locally

and you can be put in contact with these
by the NHS or by the police.

Within two or three weeks
after seeing a solicitor, that was it.

I'd shut the door and
I had to call the police, but he'd gone.

When I was told that
he'd been given life, I was so relieved.

I was exhilarated, I felt as if I was
set free from a complete nightmare.

I realise now that just because
he wasn't physically violent,

the emotional and mental abuse that
I was suffering was equally damaging

and I knew for myself and my children
I had to get us out of it.

Go and seek help immediately,
not to leave it,

because things can escalate,
they can get far worse.

There is help out there. You will
be believed, you will be supported.

I would just say to anybody
that there is help out there.

There are people that can support you
and help you make that move

and you really have to do it
for yourself as much as anybody else.