There’s a growing awareness around the signs of coercive control. Just last week, Fearne Cotton penned a powerful open letter about an emotionally abusive ex-partner – and recalled an incident where he demanded that she never get tattoos without his permission.
“He wasn’t happy, and I couldn’t understand it because it was my body. Women have come way too far in the world for that sort of submission,” she wrote, before going on to reveal that she immediately rushed out to get a “massive [tattoo] inked on my back” as a form of rebellion.
Now, speaking on ITV’s Loose Women, Stacey Solomon has opened up about her own experiences with an abusive partner, admitting that the toxic relationship ate away at her self-esteem until her personality was permanently altered.
The panel were discussing why it is so hard to leave an abusive partner, after a woman in Birmingham asked police to release footage of a sustained attack on her by her partner to raise awareness.
Solomon revealed: “I was in an abusive relationship and it makes you forget who you are. I’ll always be this weird version of myself.”
She continued: “I used to be less worried about everything. Less worried about what people thought about me... I was OK, quite confident.”
When asked how her ex-boyfriend behaved in the relationship, the former X Factor contestant explained: “These people manipulate you. When people are happy to wish you dead or tell you your career is nothing or you are nothing.
“It might be lots of small things. you don’t even realise it’s happening to yourself until you realise.”
Fellow panellist Katie Price, who has previously spoken about living through an abusive relationship herself, praised Solomon for “having the balls to leave” her ex – but the singer was quick to highlight the troubling implications of that statement.
“I don't think it's about having the balls,” she said. “I think these people manipulate you in a way that makes that seem normal.”
Solomon – who has sons, eight-year-old Zachary and four-year-old Leighton, from two previous relationships – went on to reveal that she had been “violated” by another partner, who did not tell her that they were carrying the Human papillomavirus infection (HPV), which can lead to cervical cancer, before they had sex.
“A period of time ago I was with somebody who I really liked, we ended up obviously doing the deed… I was actually really upset to find out that after that [sex] had happened that person told me they had HPV and it was a serious strain of HPV.
"So I then went and had a smear test [a method of detecting abnormal cells on the cervix] and found out that I contracted it. And I always practiced safe sex so I used condoms and I did all the things that I thought were the right things.”
There is no treatment for the virus, although, in most cases, the body naturally clears it over time. However, despite admitting she felt “violated” by the experience, Solomon went on to admit that the incident has simply served to make her more vigilant when it comes to practising safe sex and gynaecological health,
“I have the infection and hopefully my body will get rid of it eventually. but I have to go six-monthly for smears,” the 27-year-oldsaid.
It can be difficult for many people trapped in toxic and abusive relationships to spot the warning signs.
These can include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Your partner constantly criticises, humiliates or belittles you
- Your partner checks up on you or follows you
- Your partner tries to keep you from seeing your friends or family
- Your partner has prevented you or made it hard for you to continue studying or going to work
- Your partner unjustly accuses you of flirting or having affairs with others
- Your partner has forced you to do something that you really did not want to do
- Your partner has deliberately destroyed any of your possessions
- You have changed your behaviour because you are afraid of what your partner might do or say to you
- Your partner controls your finances
- Your partner talks down to you
- Your partner has strong opinions on what you should wear and your appearance
- Your partner has tried to prevent you from leaving your house
- Your partner has forced you or harassed you into performing a sexual act
- Your partner has threatened to reveal or publish private information
- Your partner threatens to hurt him or herself if you leave them
- Your partner witholds medication from you
- Your partner makes you feel guilty all the time
- Your partner blames you for their bad moods and outbursts
- You are afraid of your partner
Visit womensaid.org.uk or call 0808-2000 247 for more information about coercive control, domestic abuse, and the help available for those affected.
Images: Rex Features