I was 13 years old when I got in to my first 'serious' relationship. At this point in my life, some may say I had gone 'off the rails' because of what I was going through at home... But this shouldn't have resulted in me getting a partner who was 18 years of age.
I was in Year 9 at secondary school and I was keeping a huge secret from everybody around me. My friends and family never knew about this secret - I felt like an adult and very grown up. How wrong was I. I was just a child, but at the time I couldn't see that... I didn't want to see that.
The first two weeks of the relationship were what I perceived as 'normal' - hanging out together and talking about random things. But shortly after this 'normal' phase had ended, I knew I was in danger. Yet I was still facing all of this on my own because I didn't tell a soul about the relationship that I was in. How could I? He was an adult and well I, was a child.
It soon became common knowledge at school that we were together. He was in his second year of Sixth From at the same school and I was preparing for my GCSE's. I was in a little bubble and I completely ignored every little warning sign that was given to me. He would tell me that I didn't need my friends - only him. He would tell me that I had to choose between wearing makeup and him. He would tell me that I only needed to wear hoodies and jeans, because showing off too much skin was unattractive… I was 13 years of age.
Then here is the phase that I call 'black'.
A month into the relationship, with absolutely no friends and wearing the same outfit of a hoody and jeans, the physical abuse started. The first blow came when we were walking by a river at home and I began to feel uncomfortable with the whole relationship. I got up to leave - to go home to my family - and he began to chase me. I was scared so I started to run, but how stupid was I thinking I could out-run him. The next thing I remember is being on the floor, in a curled up ball and taking the kicks and punches. This abuse lasted - without any exaggeration - for 9 whole months. In-between these months was a series of rape, physical abuse and mental abuse.
When I began losing so much weight, I eventually told my mum and dad about the relationship, but not about the abuse. They didn't agree with the relationship, but I didn’t listen. I had boundaries in place that I broke, I ignored all advice and I continued to see my partner because I thought I was in 'love'. I had no friends - only him. I couldn't leave, I was trapped. People always ask the question "why didn't you just leave?", but the truth is, how can you? Nobody understands until you are in the situation yourself. I was just a child.
I was 14 years old when the relationship finished - and not by me leaving it. I had just entered year 10 at school, and I was in the yard on my lunch break talking with a girl in my year and a boy from the year above. My partner had left the school, so I felt that I had a little bit of security here… And a break. How wrong was I. I watched him walk out of the doors opposite me with his old form teacher, and I immediately knew I was in trouble. I can vividly remember saying to the girl, "please come to the toilets with me" to which she replied, "no, go on your own". So I began running… And so did he.
He beat me to a pulp that day in front of the other kids at school and some teachers… And no-one helped me. The yard went silent when I finally got up. I was covered in bruises, blood, spit and gravel. I was sent back to a science lesson and that was it. They didn’t clean me up, people could see the bruises and blood all over my face and body. I was embarrassed. They didn't call my mum, they didn’t call the police. It was my cousin in the year above me who phoned my mum and told her what had happened. Eventually I was allowed to go home. When we got home the police were already there, yet I STILL didn’t tell them this had been going on for 9 months. I couldn’t do it, I was weak. It took months for me to go back to school and to stop getting stared at. Even then, he caught me out walking one day and beat me for the final time.
10 years later and I still never got justice or closure for what he did to me… But I found it myself through endless therapy and treatment, my amazing family and the friendships I recovered. Not everyone believed me though… And that's okay, because I knew what had happened was real.
When I was 18 I fled my home town in the Lake District and came to university in Manchester, and this was the best decision of my life. I was away from the memories, the small town, the people in it and away from any risk of seeing him across the street.
Now nearly 24 years old I am a finalist for Miss Manchester 2020, and working very closely with Elle for Elle and One Woman At A Time. I feel absolutely honoured to be able to support such amazing charities, but I also feel absolutely honoured to be able to share my story and to spread awareness of Domestic Abuse, through this platform. This is the first time that I am publicly sharing my story… And it definitely will NOT be my last.
Even if I can help one other person who is experiencing what I experienced, then I will have found further peace. But, I am not stopping there.
I know how hard it is to believe that everything is going to be okay. I know how hard it is to see a light at the end of the tunnel and believe that you are worthy and have a future for yourself. Please trust me when I say that YOU ARE WORTHY. This is not your fault and this does not define who you are.
I believe everything happens for a reason… And my reason for my experience of abuse is to become the strongest woman that I know I am, and to help and support people that have been in the same situation as me.
You are a warrior, now is the time to release it.