A domestic abuse survivor has told the story of how her dream of marriage became a nightmare - and how she broke free.

Miss X, from Watford, said marriage was a key part of her life until she realised the man she married was becoming abusive after their wedding.

After enduring eights years of abuse she finally found a way to leave him and start her life again, and now she is encouraging other victims.

Miss X married her ex-husband in 1998 when she was 19 and finishing her A-levels. When looking back on that time she said she felt she had "no choice" but to get married.

She added: "That's what I lived for in my life - to get married. Back then your husband became your world. That is what I believed in at the time."

She said there were problems with the relationship before the marriage and that they experienced a lot of differences when it came to the planning of the wedding.

She added: "They say when you organise a wedding it's quite stressful and I had my A-levels to deal with at the same time.

"I never felt happy on our wedding day despite having the most beautiful dress. We invited 750 people, accommodated for 950 but 1,350 people actually attended."

But she said the first moment of abuse started two weeks after their wedding and she said she had her wedding gifts thrown at her while she was ironing.

Miss X said her husband was angry because he thought she was being rude to his cousin who came to visit despite her saying she offered him a drink.

She added: "He thought I was rude because I went upstairs, but I had welcomed him and went upstairs to change.

"He called me names and his cousin had to remove me from him. I knew he had a temper but I didn't know it was that bad.

"From there it got worse. He would be nice to me and within a split second he would change.

"Even up till today I'm baffled about the reasons why. It could be about leaving stuff in the sink.

She said her abuse went on for eight years and she said within her marriage she was living "every day on the edge".

She added: "I wondered what mood he will be in the morning. When you live with someone like that - even though you love them - the love starts to become numb.

"At the time I didn't want to get a divorce because no-one was in my family."

Miss X said in the middle of the abuse she was working towards her degree and had started work. She said her colleagues there became her "new family".

She added: "Going to work was a sanctuary. I relate to a lot of women who say that now.

"I think every workplace should have a domestic abuse officer. Victims should be given time off to sort themselves out and it not be taken out of annual leave or sick pay.

"The workplace is your second home. It's the place that can make or break your situation."

Miss X then reflected on the day which changed her life after almost a decade of abuse.

She said she was about to leave her home to start a long work shift when she said her partner decided to start a fight.

She added: "I had hardly slept because of an argument we had the night before. He decided he wanted to carry it on and started hitting me.

"I had to call the police. He said I was not going to but this was now my third attempt. I had called the police a couple times before but I didn't pursue charges.

"When the officer came he told me 'I am here to protect you and I will not let you down' and I had every confidence in him.".

Miss X said after her ex-husband was taken away she was left "heartbroken", and it took her a while to find the help she needed.

She added: "I was so low in confidence I forgot how to smile and how to live.

"Even sometimes to a certain extent now I have to push myself to feel happy. I am always scared about relationships and I'm currently single now.

"It took a long time to rebuild myself. But his hitting and how he hurt me only made me a stronger person.

"But there are places for you to go, even if it is a bit of a struggle getting there, you can step out of it somehow."

Miss X is now encouraging women who are suffering from domestic abuse to speak out amid fears that a second lockdown might once again trap victims with their partners.

She added: "There is talk of a second wave, if you are a victim who is suffering right now, it’s about time you speak up.

"A lockdown would make it difficult for you to be pulled away. It's a decision you have to make.

"You need to step outside and start getting yourself known."