A SURVIVOR of harrowing domestic violence and rape is sharing her story in the hope that it may save lives - she spoke exclusively to our reporter Helena Vesty.

“He told me that if I talked to my family he would slit my throat” — a brave woman is now sharing her terrifying story of domestic abuse and rape in a bid to save others from the same fate.

Nicole, from Blackburn, was only 19 when she was introduced to a 25-year-old man through a friend. Two weeks after she they met, Nicole says he began an insidious campaign to take her family, money and life away from her.

Three years on, she waived her right to anonymity to spread the message that abuse can happen to anyone and support is out there for those in crisis.

Nicole, now 22, spoke to The Lancashire Telegraph about how she found her life hanging in the balance.

She said: “I was groomed into the relationship. He started buying me things, he took me to the Trafford Centre and bought me a bag.

“Then I stayed over one night and he thought ‘she’s mine now’. That morning he just told me that I couldn’t go home. He took my phone, he threatened my family. It was so fast.”

Over the following 10 weeks, Nicole suffered threats, violence and was raped by her former partner.

She said: “I didn’t have control over my own life. “He put a knife to my throat and told me that if I talked to my family he would slit my throat. He threatened to bite my nose off. I thought he was going to kill me.”

Nicole says her money was also taken from her, leaving her with nothing: “I had always saved my money. I had bought my own little car and he made me sell it, then he made me put a Range Rover in my name.”

Fearing for her life, Nicole felt trapped. She said: “It’s harder than it looks to just run away. I was a 19-year-old girl, on my own. I had never left home in my life. I always had my mum, my dad, my brother by my side.

“He made out he was this big gangster, that he had guns. I’m not going to run, am I?”

Nicole became a shadow of her former self, who felt ‘powerless’ to get away from her abuser.

She said: “People would never expect it to happen to me because I’m such a loud, bubbly person. I was so independent, I had so many friends and then this happened. I was so drained, I was so quiet, I lost so much weight, I even tried committing suicide. It can happen to anybody.”

Nicole finally found a way of escape, running to a friend’s house and calling the police. The 19-year-old reported her abuse and after a court case, the man was sent to prison.

She said: “He got 16 years for what he did, not just to me, there were other people in the past. I was the one that came forward and said he can’t do this anymore.

“Because I’ve got that justice now, it’s helped me so much. I have got a job, got all my family and friends, I am graduating, I have got another partner. I have just been able to gather all of that past and put it to the back of my head and move forward.

“My life has completely turned around. I feel stronger, more independent and it’s a lesson learned.”

Nicole says she is telling her story to encourage people facing abuse to contact  Lancashire Victim Services — a new support system which has specially trained advisors to support people suffering from abuse or those who have suffered it in years gone by.

She said: “I made the decision to run and save myself. Now I want to save someone else.

“Nobody deserves to go through what I went through. You’re not on your own. If I was going through this now, I would have used this service. It’s like a friend, you can go to the advisors anonymously and you don’t have to report it to the police.”

But Nicole says there is still work to be done to help people recognise sexual violence and rape in relationships, especially as 31 per cent of rapes reported in Lancashire happen within relationships.

She said “When I first reported what had happened to the police. I didn’t think to mention the sexual violence. I thought that it wouldn’t be seen as serious as it happened within a relationship, even though it was a relationship I didn’t want to be in.

“You should not be forced to do something you do not want to do. I was forced to because I was scared. Try to find the courage to say it and you might help someone else.”

Nicole is now also involved in training the police in how to help those fleeing domestic abuse. Dee Conlon, operations manager at Lancashire

Victim Services added: “My advice to anyone who is experiencing sexual violence or has done in the past would be to pick up the phone to Lancashire Victim Services. We will work with you at your pace and find the best way forward together. You don’t have to go through it on your own.”

“It is not normal for a partner to demand or force you to be intimate with them and if that is happening to you we are here to help.”

Lancashire Victim Services asked the Lancashire Telegraph not name Nicole’s attacker