A domestic abuse survivor - who endured seven years of threats, intimidation, humiliation and isolation at the hands of her former husband and the father of her children - has spoken of the "jail sentence" she faced at the hands of her abuser.
Helen, not her real name, spoke to UTV about the abuse she suffered and how she was helped out of her nightmare. She recalls some harrowing details of the abusive relationship.
"It was hell. It was absolute hell, looking back, it was like a jail sentence. Every single day was miserable," she said.
This pattern of psychological and physical abuse escalated in the final years of their marriage. And even to this day she lives in fear of what he was capable of.
In the latest episode the UTV Podcast, Helen recalls when her ex-partner punched her in the leg while she was six months pregnant with their first child.
They were on holiday at the time when they got lost.
"I couldn't read the map," she said.
"I was so tired from the long flight and felt sick. He started yelling at me saying it was my fault we were lost. He punched me on the leg and called me a stupid bitch. Then hit me again, ripping the map in the process.
"I was frozen in fear. I spent the rest of the holiday on eggshells. He refused to use a sat-nav and every journey was the same, with me trying to read a map, years of it. I hated holidays."
The control was just limited to physical or psychological. It was also financial.
"If we went clothes shopping he decided on what we bought. I was wearing clothes that I hated. The same with food shopping. Our furniture for the house. My hair style. What we ate, what we watched on telly," said Helen.
"My choices became more and more limited until I didn’t recognise myself. I was a confident, independent person with a full time job and my own house. I ended up homeless, jobless and no longer had a mind of my own. I stopped communicating with family and friends."
Helen's relationship with her former partner ended.
"My children and I do have a much better life now," she explained.
"Thanks to the support of Women's Aid and my family and friends. It will take years for me to recover but I am getting there one day at a time.
"My advice to anyone who feels like they are walking on eggshells or another person is taking your choices away. Get out of the relationship and seek help as quickly as you can."
Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline – 0808 802 1414 – www.dsahelpline.org (run by Nexus on behalf of the Departments of Communities, Health and Justice).
National Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0808 2000 247- www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/ (run by Refuge)
The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors – 0808 801 0327 (run by Respect)
The Mix, free information and support for under 25s in the UK – 0808 808 4994
National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428 (run by Galop)
Samaritans (24/7 service) – 116 123
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