Every one has their own story… and this is mine.
It's been one that I've wanted to share in order to help others for a long time; I've been waiting for the right moment and opportunity to do it properly. I feel very lucky to have had the support from Sealskinz to make this the story it deserves to be.
Domestic abuse is depressingly common. Most people are forced to suffer in silence only making the perpetrator more powerful. Hopefully by sharing my story, I can help some people see the light, get stronger and escape.
Growing up I had an idyllic childhood and was always happy, caring and sensitive. At the age of 17, I started my first long-term relationship. I loved the idea of having a boyfriend and at first everything seemed fairly normal.
Before I realised it, I had become a victim of domestic abuse and was slowly whittling down emotionally. I had daily remarks putting me down, being called fat, ugly, told I was lucky to have him and no one could love me like he did. Never cushioned with a compliment it's not surprising that the bubbly girl I was began to fade away.
He controlled everything I did, he took my money so he could go to the pub (but still look like he'd paid) and tried to stop me seeing my family and friends. When that didn't work he would cause friction between them by telling lies and trying to turn them against me. His attitude was aggressive and my family never liked him.
After 3 years we moved in together. I know you're thinking, 'that was a silly move', but by this point I felt trapped, alone and worthless. As soon as we lived together the abuse became physical.
There was no pattern to what triggered him or when he would snap. I was constantly on edge waiting for him to attack me. After nearly two years of being pulled down the stairs or across the hall by my hair, kicked in the stomach and even having my jaw dislocated once, I didn't care what he did to me anymore; I'd become numb.
He then started threatening to kill my family, going into detail of how he'd do it. I was terrified, genuinely believing him and felt I was protecting my family by staying in the relationship and not telling a soul about the abuse.
While I was at the lowest of the lows, my younger brother, aged eighteen, was kick-starting his life in Canada. He'd gone to Whistler to work as a ski-instructor over winter and ride his bike during summer. I suddenly thought, if he died tomorrow, he'd be happy with the fulfilling life he'd chosen; if I died tomorrow, I'd regret everything and have nothing to show. I was nobody. I felt I'd let my family down by being in this abusive relationship and I'd let myself down. Things had to change.
I've always been close with my brother, and although he's younger than me I admire and look up to him. Even though I tried hard to hide it, he knew I was unhappy - everyone did - so he suggested I grab Dad’s hard-tail bike and go out with his friends. So that's what I did.
I sucked at first. My butt was sore, my shins were battered and I wasn't very fit, but I loved it. For the first time in what felt a lifetime, I was free. I was happy, it made me laugh and slowly started bringing joy and control back into my life. I'd found something special, and my love for mountain biking and the great outdoors grew rapidly.
When I was outside, whether on my own or in a group, on Dad’s bike or running, I felt content. Something inside me lit up, and that flame is still burning strong.
I was persistent with biking and quickly improved in every aspect, I could feel myself getting mentally stronger and my self-worth was coming back. For me, being outdoors soothes the soul more than anything else out there. It's so powerful and healing. I know this probably sounds very ‘airy fairy’, but it's the truth. There's something about being a part of nature: it's raw, you can't hide, it knows your feelings and problems, and accepts you, encourages you, challenges you and rewards you. I get a really warm and comforting feeling even just thinking about being outdoors. Whether it's blustery conditions or a glorious summer’s day, I feel safe. I respect the mountains and hillsides, lakes and forests, and together they push me to be a better version of myself.
After a few months of running and cycling I gained so much strength that I finally felt I could break away from the relationship. My brother was home for just a few more weeks before heading to uni; I felt stronger when he was around and knew now was the time to leave. It was hard and, as predicted, things turned ugly. With each attack I feared for my life, but this one felt different, somehow worse. It seemed for the first time like he'd lost control. With the other attacks, even if I thought a switch had gone inside him, he always knew what he was doing. But this time he was seeing red. Holding a kitchen-knife, his eyes wild, he backed me in to the corner. My friend didn't realise what she was about to do that day, but she saved my life. As he stepped closer she knocked on the door. It startled him and snapped him out of it. If it wasn't for her I truly believe he would've killed me.
I finally left, it was still a long progress afterwards, but I remained strong. Six months after I'd left him it was still a secret as to how violent the relationship was. He was still very much in my life, stalking me, harassing me, hanging out with my friends and family. I felt ashamed, embarrassed and weak that I'd let this man disrespect me and treat me the way he did. I felt I'd let my family down by not being stronger.
Then, one day, my mum found out by mistake and it was the best thing that could've happened. I wish I'd told people sooner, the support out there was overwhelming. When he discovered people knew, he ran a mile and I have not seen him since.
I now realise that I was not weak and pathetic. Instead, I was strong because I endured that terrible relationship and still gained the strength to get away.
It was a horrible time of my life, which I often block from my memory. However, I don't regret it. It's made me who I am today. I am more determined, motivated, happy and confident than I could've ever imagined. I know exactly what I want from life. I appreciate my friends and family more than ever and each day brings a new opportunity.
I now travel the world doing what I love, exploring and competing internationally in mountain bike and running events. I've seen more than I believed possible and I'm thankful for each moment.
I like to think I went through this for a reason, so I can help others. If there's a lesson to be learned here, it is to not suffer alone. Tell someone, even if they can't immediately help you. Them just being there to help build you back up, letting you know you're not alone and that you are worth something is a huge step to breaking free and being happy and loved the way you deserve.
To read Traharn's full story, head over to Freedom Shropshire