“HE made me question my own sanity” — domestic violence has long been invisible in many cases, with victims suffering in silence in fear of their lives.

Abuse survivors in Bolton who have been given a new start in life by a domestic abuse charity are sharing their stories to bring to light the numerous insidious ways that abuse can manifest, from emotional abuse to physical abuse, psychological to financial.

The Bolton News published a special report in June about the work of Chorley New Road based charity Endeavour, formerly Paws for Kids. Endeavour been working since 1997 to supply those suffering abuse with vital services — helping 465 people in the area just last year.

Finding her voice after connecting with Endeavour, a Farnworth woman who suffered years of violence at the hands of a partner is speaking out about her experiences of coercive control, in the hope it may help others to recognise the signs.

The 36-year-old survivor spoke in harrowing detail about the hell she escaped: “In my last relationship of eight years, I wasn’t just subjected to coercion and control, I was subjected to financial abuse, I was subjected to some sexual abuse.

“But the coercion and control was behind it all. It was very extreme, but you don’t realise how bad it is when you’re living in it.”

She described how she suffered a number of various abuses, leaving her a shadow of her former self: “You’re slowly cut off from your network of family and friends. You’re not socialising, you don’t go out.

“It was never a case of being told “you can’t go there”, it was done very underhandedly, like saying “I don’t like that friend”. At family parties, I was virtually followed around by him and continually quizzed on who I spoke to, smiled at.

“It was suffocating. It was easier not to go out because of the continued barrage of questions when I came home.”

Among the list of controlling behaviours, she says she was forced to take drugs by her partner.

The woman said: “He told me that he wanted me to take drugs, so I was forced to take amphetamines.

“He threatened to put them in my drinks so I wouldn’t know. It was better to give into his demands and have a bit of control over when I took them, than not have any control over anything.

“It made me have a really low opinion of my abilities to be a good partner and be in a loving and caring relationship.”

For the 36-year-old, the abuse she suffered cast doubt over her own mental state.

She said: “My last relationship was extremely controlling and abusive to the extent that he made me question my own sanity.

“He would wake me up when I was asleep and tell me that I had said men’s names in my sleep, so my sleep pattern was completely destroyed. I would be adamant that I had not said someone’s name, but then I would think “what if I did?”, then I had a fear of going to sleep.

“He even took me to the doctor’s to get me assessed for mental health issues because he told me so much that I was mentally unstable.

“My assessment came back that I was ok, but when you spend a long time with someone and you are being manipulated into very distorted ways of thinking it impacts on every aspect of your life.”

The mental abuse eventually took its toll on her career, said the woman: “Every aspect of my life was controlled. He would tell me I wasn’t well enough to go to work or to go back to university. I was just existing.”

The abuse culminated in a physical altercation when the police were finally called, says the woman. In response to the police report, Endeavour became involved and assigned the woman a counsellor.

She said: “When I was interviewed by the police, it all came out in a flood. I didn’t have a clue what to do, who to turn to. I was in the clothes I left my house in, I had nothing.”

“Endeavour were a lifeline. The contact was within 24 hours of the police report, they put a safety plan in place, when I moved back home they changed my locks and put a light outside. I cannot stress how much they kept me afloat going through court to get a restraining order.

“They saved my life. Had I not had that support, I would have gone back.

“They are still there now it’s all done. I can start healing and dealing with my past traumas.”

But the effects of years of abuse have been long-lasting. The woman says she now has anxiety attacks and night terrors, being diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

Survivors who spoke to The Bolton News all said they were worried about facing questions about why they did not leave the relationship sooner.

The Farnworth woman said: “It’s difficult to leave when you don’t believe you’re of sound mind because you’re told you’re irrational and when the abuse is so extreme. He would convince me that he had not done anything wrong.

“You minimise the abuse because you feel like a failure, you don’t want someone you love to be treating you that way. I was embarrassed and ashamed. There are also times when they’re not that evil person, they the are loving, caring person you fell in love with. It’s survival, you live in a constant state of adrenaline and trying to figure out what the next move will be. It took me a long time to feel confident and strong enough to walk away. Your risk goes up to the highest it has ever been when you leave that relationship.”

Looking forward, the woman says she has found close friends through her group work at the Endeavour centre and is moving on with her life, restarting her education.

She said: “The trauma is massive, I can’t erase everything I’ve been through. Every day is a challenge, but I’m determined that I will live and not exist. I’m a warrior, I’m not a victim — I’m a survivor.”