Leah* spent ten years hiding away from the reality of being raped by a boyfriend she thought she loved and trusted.

Believing the tag ‘rape victim’ did not apply to her, she assumed putting herself in the same camp as victims of violent attacks would only trivialise their experiences.

So Leah carried on with life having a tortured relationship with sex, panicking everytime she got involved with someone new.

Constantly making excuses to boyfriends and never staying in a relationship for too long suited her 'just fine’ until one day, it all came to a head.

Now Leah, 28, is telling her story to raise awareness that rape can happen in domestic circumstances.

“I was 18 and away at university when I started dating Daniel*,” she says.

“The first night we made our relationship official, we had what started out as consensual sex.

“But halfway through, I felt uncomfortable and asked him to stop.

“He looked at me – he heard what I said – but his stare was both determined and vacant.

“In that moment, I felt I was just a body to him, not a person.

“I asked him again, calmly, to stop because he was hurting me, but he didn’t.

“Once it was over, he rolled over, got out of my bed and left.”

The experience destroyed the young student, who tried to shrug it off by convincing herself there had been ‘nothing violent’ about it and she had even been unreasonable expecting her boyfriend to stop ‘mid-sex’.

However, the events of the following six months have haunted her for the past decade.

Feeling guilty and terrified that nobody else would want her, Leah remained with Daniel, as he continued to rape her.

She added: “It became a horrible, vicious cycle. He would only come over around once a week.

"He made it clear that I didn't have a choice when it came to sex. So I would let him have sex with me because I thought it was the only way to please him.

"I’d still ask him if we could stop and he wouldn’t. 

"And then he would leave. He never wanted to spend a full night with me.

“I used to see sex as a test. I used to think - maybe this time, I’ll ask him to stop and he’ll comply?

“But he never listened to my protestations and I believed that because I’d invited him into my home - into my bed - I had consented.

"At the time, the idea of it being okay to withdraw consent halfway through was an alien concept to me.”

Daniel insisted on calling Leah his girlfriend, but that’s where his affections ended.

He would wear her down with tiny, jarring comments and constantly manipulated her to think she was “lucky” to be with someone like him.

“One day, he told me to stop wearing trainers and start wearing heels because he wanted his girlfriend to be classy,” she recalls.

When they eventually broke up, Leah became desperate for validation.

“I’m not proud, but I ended up sleeping with him a few times after we broke up.

"He used sex to break me, so I thought he could use sex to repair me, too,” she adds.

They lost touch when Daniel got a new girlfriend and Leah pushed what happened to the back of her mind.

Her next serious relationship was four years later, and despite now having a “tortured” relationship with sex, she never found the courage to admit the truth.

Her partner struggled to deal with Leah’s emotions, so eventually, after nearly three years, the relationship ended.

“He figured out that I’d been sexually assaulted and said he couldn’t handle the pressure it put on our sex life,” explains Leah.

“But I laughed at the idea I had been sexually assaulted.”

Over the next five years, Leah flitted from partner to partner, but constantly made excuses when it came to having sex.

It was not until she was 28 and began dating Michael* that she finally plucked up the courage to tell someone what had happened all those years ago.

She said: “I trusted him and his reaction was overwhelmingly supportive at first. I began to realise just how awful and wrong what Daniel had put me through was.”

Eventually, she realised that it had in fact, been rape - a word she had never been willing to use before.

The realisation hit Leah hard, leaving her feeling insecure and vulnerable.

“The word made me feel sick. I felt violated all over again,” she admits.

“The term ‘rape victim’ sounded so clinical in my head, like someone who would need to be handled with surgical tools and latex gloves.

"I felt dirty, but I refused to admit he’d raped me and I was full of all this wrongness.

"All I wanted to do was rebuild myself into something stronger, and better,” she adds.

However, the revelation put too much of a strain on the relationship and it ended.

But Michael’s reaction nearly tipped Leah over the edge.

“He told me he knew it sounded callous, but that he didn’t have room for this kind of stress in his life.

"I nearly had a breakdown over it - I felt so damaged. It was so harsh, but it was the motivation I needed to face up to it.”

Fortunately, instead of knocking her back, Michael’s lack of sympathy instilled a new power in Leah and she is now desperate to tell her story in the hope of raising awareness and helping others who have been through the same experience.

She adds: “Facing up to it has really helped. 

“Rape can come in many shapes or forms.

“It doesn’t have to be violent and it doesn’t have to be at the hands of a stranger.

“It doesn’t matter if you consented at first and it doesn’t matter if you were madly in love with the person who raped you.

“I don’t think I’ll be pursuing legal advice now or going to the police.

“It’s because nobody ever speaks about rape as a domestic issue and I think it’s really important for people to know that someone you trust can put you through something like this.

“All that matters is that someone made you do something you didn’t want to do.

“My advice is to get help, speak to people and don’t be afraid to say the word rape out loud.”

*Names have been changed 

  • Call Rape Crisis (for women only) on 0808 802 9999 12pm to 2.30pm and 7pm 9.30pm daily.