To the outside world Rachel was just clumsy.
A large black eye was caused by walking into the corner of a shelf and the bruises down her legs and arms were from bashing herself on the car door or coffee table.
Being a stay at home mum of one with no family living nearby and just a handful of friends, it was easy for her to lie about the real cause of her injuries – her husband.
Surprisingly, they’d been together as a couple for several years before he carried out the first act of violence.
“One day he just threw a glass milk bottle at my ankle,” she said. “I was shocked. He’d said a couple of things in the past but never been violent.”
The physical abuse only went on for five or six months but it came to a head when he pushed her down a flight of stairs, causing multiple breaks and putting her in a coma for nine weeks.
When she came round in hospital she was told the devastating news she’d lost her unborn baby and her other child, who had been seriously ill, had died.
Realising her life was in danger if she stayed with him, she sought shelter at a refuge for victims of domestic violence as soon as she was discharged.
The 40-year-old, who lives in the Swale area, said: “Everyone says if it happened to them even once they’d leave but you always think it’s a one off, they’ll change or you’re just going through a bad patch, after all it’s your husband/partner.
“I’d like to think I wouldn’t have stayed even if he hadn’t put me in the coma. I was already getting to a point where I was thinking ‘how can I leave?’”
Her nightmare ended more than a decade ago.
Now Rachel (not her real name) is looking to help other victims escape their abusive partners by providing a refuge centre – something she is fundraising for under the name Angels’ Embrace.
Paperwork has already been submitted for it to become a registered charity.
She said: “It will be a home for them for however long they need it.
“It’s about giving them security and somewhere to go so they can get away from their situation.
“Many stay because they feel they can’t leave as they have no money and nowhere to go.
“My message to victims of domestic violence is, it’s frightening to step forward and go out on your own but you can do it.
“Remember you only have one life.”
Rachel’s vision is to buy a building and convert it into a refuge centre for domestic violence victims.
But it could cost in the region of £450,000 to get the project off the ground.
To help kick start the fundraising, a ball will be held at the UKP Leisure Club, Avenue of Remembrance, Sittingbourne, on February 14 from 7.30pm to midnight.
The cost is £25 per person which includes entertainment, disco and a buffet. There will also be a raffle and an auction.
Attire is black tie for men and ball gown or evening dress for women.
- Tickets are available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org