Maddie Sylvester, 39 from Lincolnshire, has, for the first time, told her story of a life of domestic abuse in a bid to empower others.
She tells of a childhood where she saw her mum being physically and sexually abused by her dad, and of her adult life where she was controlled, threatened and hit by multiple partners.
“I think that I didn’t really know what was normal because of the experiences I had growing up.
“I’ve been locked in the house and had my head smashed into a door by one boyfriend, whilst another boyfriend became very jealous and physically abusive. Both were emotionally abusive.
“Although the next relationship started well it soon went downhill. On one occasion he came to my work and head-butted me because I wouldn’t speak to him. I told him to never contact me again. It took a while for him to the get message but I stayed strong. I was so sick of being scared.
“After a third abusive relationship I knew things had to change. I doubted myself, questioning whether it was my fault and asking what I was doing wrong. I decided to concentrate on myself, my daughter and my career and chose not to have a relationship for ten years.
“There wasn’t the information and support available back then that there is now. I didn’t know that being treated that way wasn’t normal and that it wasn’t my fault and that’s why I want to share my story.
“Domestic abuse can happen to anyone. I know it’s hard when you’re in that situation, but try to be strong and make some positive changes. There are people out there to help. They won’t judge. They’ll listen and help. Take the first step - you will be stronger for it.”
Maddie is now happily married and in a healthy relationship.
Karen Shooter, domestic abuse manager at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “Sadly, we hear stories like Maddie’s time and time again. We need people to know that domestic abuse is not part of a healthy, loving relationship. Help is available – we will listen, believe and not judge. We need to do all we can to try to empower victims to come forward to stop the abuse.
“We’ve gathered over 150 front line staff from local agencies and charitable organisations today to learn more about domestic abuse, and to discuss how to make improvements and provide the best, most appropriate service.
“We will discuss how we can help not only the victim of the abuse, but also the other family members who may be suffering, including children and elderly relatives, and how we can work together to challenge those who are being abusive.
“We need to be observant, have empathy and have a consistent and collaborative approach from all services.”
Police and crime commissioner, Alan Hardwick said: “I am incredibly pleased that we, along with partners, have been able to help fund and organise this event.
“The more awareness we can raise and the more tools we can give practitioners means we can more effectively respond to reports of domestic abuse in a joined-up way.”
For more information about domestic abuse including your nearest support services please visit: www.domesticabuselincolnshire.com
Remember in an emergency – please dial 999.