Nicole from Blackburn was 19 when a friend introduced her to a 25 year old man who would soon start to control her life, separate her from her family and subject her to psychological abuse, physical violence and rape.
She is now waiving her right to anonymity to encourage other victims to access help and support to get out of abusive relationships and to be able to recover from the abuse they experienced. Nicole is backing the Police and Crime Commissioner’s campaign to urge anyone affected by sexual violence to contact Lancashire Victim Services.
The campaign also highlights the fact that 31% of rapes reported in Lancashire happen within relationships and aims to spread the message that this is neither normal nor acceptable.
Nicole suffered severe abuse over a 10 week period. The only contact she was allowed with her family was to send text messages her abuser had prepared to keep them away. He controlled her phone, her money, what she did and who she spoke to. He was violent and made threats to kill her family if she didn’t do what he demanded.
He also forced Nicole to have sex when she didn’t want to, something she didn’t realise constitutes rape.
Nicole said: “What happened to me can happen to anyone and it’s so important that people know that support is out there. When I first reported what had happened to the police I didn’t think to mention the sexual violence. I thought that it wouldn’t be seen as serious as it happened within a relationship, even though it was a relationship I didn’t want to be in.
“My mum convinced me to go back to the police to report it and I am glad I did as it added an extra two years to the prison sentence. It was difficult but I feel much stronger now and I want something positive to come from it all.
“I recently met with one of Lancashire Victim Services’ advisers and they are specially trained to provide emotional support to help you cope with what has happened and they can support you through the process if your case goes to court.
“What I didn’t know was that they can help you even if you haven’t reported what has happened to the police.”
Dee Conlon, Operations Manager at Lancashire Victim Services added: “My advice to anyone who is experiencing sexual violence or has done in the past would be to pick up the phone to Lancashire Victim Services. We will work with you at your pace and find the best way forward together. You don’t have to go through it on your own.”
“It is not normal for a partner to demand or force you to be intimate with them and if that is happening to you we are here to help.”
Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner added: “I am really grateful to Nicole for sharing her story and encouraging others to seek support. I want to make sure that anyone affected in Lancashire knows that support is out there for them.
“At the same time we can spread the message that any form of sexual violence is unacceptable whether it happens in a relationship or not.
“From speaking to people who have received support through Lancashire Victim Services I know the huge difference it can make to people’s lives and I would encourage anyone who needs help to contact them.”
Anyone affected can contact Lancashire Victim Services on 0300 323 0085 or find further information at www.lancashirevictimservices.org