Domestic abuse survivor opens up on ordeal to encourage others to seek support

A survivor of domestic abuse has opened up on her shocking ordeal to let other victims know they will be heard and listened to.

Saturday, 17th April 2021, 5:01 am

Sophie Eyers suffered a reign of terror at the hands of Samuel James (30) before he was jailed in July 2019.

He subjected her to physical, emotional and financial abuse throughout the course of their relationship and left her believing she would be killed.

On World Voice Day, Sophie has released a film about her experience to emphasise survivors of domestic abuse will be heard and listened to in Cambridgeshire.

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Sophie Eyers

Not only does the film highlight Sophie’s heart-breaking personal experience but also the support available to those who speak out.

Last year, there were 14,670 reported incidents of domestic abuse in Cambridgeshire, a four per cent increase on the year before.

Speaking in the film, Sophie recalled the horrific physical and emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of James during their six month relationship which began at a time when her life was “really chaotic and I had no sense of stability. I’d lost everything that made my life, my life. So he seemed like my stability”.

Sophie said: “While I was with Sam he slapped me, he punched me, he stamped on me repeatedly. He spat on me, he spat in my face. He put my arms under my body and sat on top of me so I couldn’t defend myself and punched me, all in my rib cage and in my belly and in my ears. That really hurt.

“He strangled me once to the point that I passed out.

“He threatened me with a knife, threatened me with scissors, threatened me with a meat cleaver.

“He threatened to shoot me in the Fens. He threatened to break my nan’s legs. He reigned terror on me for months.

“I felt like no one could defeat him. I felt like he was bigger than everybody else and he would outsmart everyone else because he would tell me all the time I was stupid and I was dumb and I was thick.

“So I started to believe that I was really stupid and thick and I just felt like nobody could take him down.”

Sophie did not think anyone would believe her, and at the time she had just come out of refuge and was living many miles away from her friends and family.

She went on to explain how James tried to control her.

“Even if my mum texted me and said ‘how are you?’ he would say ‘why is she asking how you are? What have you told her?’ And things like that.

“And he used to do that with all of my friends, so slowly I just cut them all off.”

On one occasion Sophie’s injuries were so bad she snuck out to see her GP, who told her to go to hospitals for X-rays.

It was there where a “suspicious” member of staff enquired about the injuries which led to James being arrested.

However, a terrified Sophie lied to police and said she had fallen down the stairs, meaning police released the perpetrator.

Sophie said she “felt guilty” and that “I felt like I wouldn’t cope on my own.”

He was also worried he would kill her if released, adding: “I was absolutely terrified of him.”

Sophie’s ordeal finally ended after an independent person contacted the police.

DC Kellymarie Harman, the officer in charge of the case, told the film: “She met a detective the next day who said to her that he felt if she didn’t engage, the next time we would be called to the address we’d be going there for a body, not a person.”

James, of Brownlow Road, St Ives, later pleaded guilty to one charge of coercive and controlling behaviour, three charges of assault by beating and one charge of common assault.

He was sentenced on the same day to 34 months in prison, with a further two months added on for breaching a suspended sentence.

He was also handed a restraining order for 10 years.

DC Harman said Sophie now has a “new lease of life”.

She added: “Whether you’re a next door neighbour, someone walking past and walking the dog or someone just in the vicinity and you hear or see or know of someone who is in a domestic abuse situation, a domestic violence situation, it’s best to call the police because then we can start our safeguarding approach.”

Sophie’s message to other survivors is: “Wait till they’ve gone out or you’re in a safe space, even if it’s a locked toilet.

“If you’re in Sainsbury’s, you’re out food shopping. Say you need the toilet so you can get into the women’s toilets and just ring for help or stay in that toilet, like if you’re frightened to go home with them.

“Stay in a public space and prolong your stay.”

Detective Superintendent John Massey said: “World Voice Day provides an ideal opportunity to let Sophie’s voice be heard and highlight how far she has come since seeking help.

“I would like to commend Sophie for the courage she has shown while filming this video and I hope her bravery will encourage others to speak out.

“Tackling domestic abusers and supporting victims continues to be one of our main priorities and our work has never been more important following a year of restrictions due to the pandemic.

“I want to reassure anyone who is suffering and considering reaching out for support that we have a team of dedicated officers ready to help you and do everything possible to bring offenders to justice.”

He added: “After we arrested her partner Sophie told us we had saved her life.

“No one should have to suffer from any kind of abuse and I would also like to thank Sophie and applaud her bravery in coming forward.

“It gives me immense pride to share this video and I hope it gives members of the public an insight into how domestic abuse is dealt with here in Cambridgeshire. More importantly, I also hope it gives Sophie some closure and highlights the support we provide to victims.”

More information and advice can be found at: https://www.cambs.police.uk/information-and-services/Domestic-abuse/Domestic-violence-and-abuse.

Contact details for support services are available at: https://www.cambsdasv.org.uk/website/home.