This Morning has kickstarted a conversation about abusive relationships.
Gemma Doherty, 30, took a guest spot on the ITV morning show to speak out about her experience with a former boyfriend. She described how he controlled her, having his say over what she ate and who she spent time with, before things escalated into violence.
The mum said that she didn’t really think about how abnormal the behaviour was until she was outside of the situation.
Worryingly, it seemed to be his obsession with a fitness model and female celebrities that spurred on his controlling ways, pushing Gemma to exercise and lose weight.
She recalled, ‘He would sit and get celebrity exercise regimes up on his phone and show to me what they did and wanted me to do the same.’
Speaking to This Morning’s Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield, she described how her former boyfriend ‘took everything’ from her, and that she both feared and loved him.
She finally found the courage to report him to the police. Gemma explained, ‘I knew the physical side was wrong but not the little things like the controlling behaviour, not being allowed to use the phone, not being allowed to go to shop without permission, not being allowed to eat without permission.
‘The police were mortified for me but I had adapted to that behaviour, it had become normal. It was only when I spoke to normal people that I realised what he had been doing was wrong.’
This sends an important message. Viewers took to social media to praise her, with comments including: ‘Watching this morning and it’s actually sad how many people are stuck in controlling emotional abusive relationships’ and ‘How brave is this women on ‘this morning’ speaking out about her abusive ex! #coerciveabuse’ [sic].
He was jailed for 28 months at Sheffield Crown Court last week. The 27-year-old pleaded guilty to nine counts of assault and criminal damage, and he also admitted to the crime of controlling or coercive behaviour, which was brought in at the end of 2015.
Describing how the relationship first started, Gemma said that he was the ‘nicest person and the perfect gent’.
She went on, ‘Little things like saying he didn’t want me to do go out alone I was flattered by at first, I thought it showed how much he cared about me.
‘Then after we had been together for six months he started checking my phone and turning up at work to check who I was talking to. Then I was physically attacked one time and it went from there.’
Gemma explained, ‘The first time it happened it was so out of character because he was such a nice guy, he talked me round. He said how sorry he was and I believed him.’
Domestic abuse can take on many different forms, and if you’re worried about yourself or a friend, you can seek advice through Refuge.