Scotland

'I didn't know emotional abuse was a thing'

Jennifer
Image caption Jennifer says it is now clear she suffered psychological abuse

Looking back Jennifer says it is "as clear as day" that she suffered emotional abuse in her relationship with her ex-boyfriend.

However, at the time, she did not realise how bad it was because it was "death by a thousand cuts".

"It was not until afterwards, until I'd actually managed to get out of the relationship, that I recognised some of the behaviour," she says.

"Looking back it was pretty damaging. You are left with a residue of particular behaviours that are not ok."

Jennifer said it had taken a long time since she split with her boyfriend to realise that she was not responsible for his behaviour during their relationship.

She says she was constantly changing her own behaviour in response to his unreasonable expectations.

"It is little things like you would be out for a night out with friends and after he would say how you had embarrassed him and you'd be rattling through your mind thinking 'what did I do?'," she says.

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Image caption A police officer uses the controlling language often heard by victims in an online campaign

"It sounds ridiculous now when I say it out loud but a lot of that happened.

"It is that idea of getting systematically chipped away at until you just submit."

Jennifer says it made her start believing there was a problem with her behaviour.

"You start thinking maybe I'm too much," she says.

"Maybe there is something wrong with me."

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Image caption Identifying victims of physical abuse is easier for police than psychological or controlling behaviour

That led to "coping" methods, she says, changing her behaviour so that she did not annoy her boyfriend.

"You think 'he doesn't like that so I'd better change that bit about me'," she says.

"You start to clock up these ideas of 'I'd better not wear this' or 'if I say this or I'm too loud then maybe it's my fault'."

Jennifer says she created her own "prison" in her head.

"We are taught as women to absorb this stuff and adapt to it rather than to ask questions about that behaviour in the first place," she says.

"Friends were saying to me 'this isn't right',"

"I didn't know that emotional abuse was a thing really," she says.

"I look back now and it is as clear as day but at the time I didn't realise it because it was all little things."

Jennifer now wants other women to recognise the signs of psychological abuse.

She says: "It has often not been taken seriously until there are bruises, until there are cuts, until people are in situations where they are almost getting killed.

"I think it can be stopped way before then if you recognise the signs and the signs are taken seriously."

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