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    Liz Raffles

    Liz Raffles

    We love a #WinchesterWomanWednesday and this week we are incredibly proud to introduce to Liz, owner of The Mantique, a Menswear Boutique in Parchment Street, Winchester.

    I don’t know about you, but I will never forget the pictures published of American Superstar, Rhianna: – eyes blackened, face swollen and bruised just after her then boyfriend, Chris Brown assaulted her in his car and then left her on the side of the street in 2009. We were confronted with the truth: that nobody, however beautiful, successful, or ‘normal’ is immune to domestic abuse.

    Liz Raffles

    The first time I met Liz was outside The Mantique, – I introduced myself, she enveloped me in a massive hug and invited me to join her in deliberatating her window graphics! After two minutes of this, we were sat inside the boutique on her sofa, exchanging life stories like old friends. (We’re huge fans of over sharing round here, incase you haven’t guessed already!) During the two hours that followed, I discovered there was a whole lot more to this incredibly bright, successful woman than her mesmerisingly warm smile and super sharp business accumen.

    After taking some time out of to recover from a marriage breakdown, Liz had mapped a new life for herself and her children – and finally felt ready to get back on the dating scene. She joined a dating website, and was knocked off her feet when she met Steve*. He was enigmatic, charismatic and handsome, – the total romantic Liz had been waiting her whole life to meet. The connection was instant, and what is more, he was a great hit with the children. He presented as honest, loving and compassionate. That was until, very slowly, things started to change.

    This week, Liz shares her journey of recovery from an abusive relationship, the support that helped her gain control, and how with that support, life is flourishing for her and her family.

    Liz Raffles

    At what point did you recognise your relationship wasn’t ‘right’?

    My relationship became serious very quickly. In the beginning I thought he was the perfect man, he was thoughtful and caring, he said all the right things and made me feel special. Within 6 months he had practically moved in with me and my children and he was talking about what engagement ring he was going to buy me. Looking back, the abuse started so gradually it was barely perceptible. It began with lies that were so convincing that I chose to believe him over my own instincts. The first occasion that stuck in my head was when he took me away to Edinburgh for the weekend, about three months after getting together. There was an issue with his credit card and he asked to use mine as security for the hotel bill, promising that no money would be taken. Well, there was and according to him it was a mistake by the hotel. It wasn’t.

    How did the behaviour in your relationship affect other aspects of your life?

    It affected every single part of my life. He tried to isolate me from my friends, telling me they were no good for me and they were a bad influence. He stole thousands of pounds from me to the extent that I almost lost my home and my business. I was blamed for everything, including his house being repossessed. But the worst part was how it affected my children after the relationship ended. It got to the point where they would regularly have nightmares because they were so scared of what he might do. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat and became a shell of myself, feeling frightened about walking down the street.

    What has been the darkest moment to overcome?

    It was the constant feeling of anxiety and being terrified. I didn’t feel safe in my own home as he’d broken in and stolen my dog and my car. He’d also tried to strangle me on one occasion so I no longer knew what he was capable of. The unpredictability was the most terrifying.

    Liz Raffles

    What were the first steps you took to seeking support ? 

    Calling the police and telling them everything. They put me in touch with a wonderful organisation, The You Trust, who helped me with safety measures, emotional support and financial support. I then felt strong enough to get help through counselling.

    What would your first piece of advice be for a woman who has experienced psychological abuse? 

    Believe your instincts. You know deep down what’s right and what isn’t. And keep your friends close to you.

    What can you do today that you weren’t capable of then?

    I can now walk down the street without feeling frightened. I feel so much more positive and confident, which has given me the courage and self belief to grow my business and I’m enjoying life again. 

    If we are sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great year it’s been for you, what would you have achieved? 

    This year is going to be huge for me. I’m expanding my business to include a women’s boutique which I’m so excited about! I turned 40 recently so I’d like to celebrate it properly by spending a lovely weekend sailing with good friends, something I love but rarely get chance to do since opening my shop.

    We all have a super power. What’s yours?

    Resilience and determination. Sorry, that’s two!

    Liz Raffles

    If you’d like to follow Liz on her business journey you can on Facebook: The Mantique Instagram: @themantique and at themantique.com

    If you have been affected by the issues in this article you can seek support at:

    The You Trust – theyoutrust.org.uk

    Women Aid – womensaid.org.uk

    *Name has been changed.