PAIGE Middlehurst was left bloodied and unconscious following a violent attack by her controlling and abusive ex-boyfriend.

She is one of thousands of people in Cumbria whose lives have been changed forever by domestic abuse.

Today, the 26-year-old is sharing her story in a bid to highlight the impact the crime can have – and to urge those suffering at the hands of abusers not to suffer in silence.

It was a work Christmas party that sparked the horrific attack that led to Declan Clough being handed a suspended prison sentence in 2018.

He accused his then girlfriend of cheating on him and launched an assault so severe that Paige was rendered unconscious, her bloodstained clothes later used to bring her attacker to justice.

Her description of Clough is one of the hallmark abuser – a man who on the surface of it seemed charismatic, attentive, romantic but who later showed his true colours as controlling, jealous and ultimately, dangerous.

She says during their relationship Clough cut her off from her friends and became increasingly violent, with his physical abuse culminating in that Christmas assault.

News and Star: Paige MiddlehurstPaige Middlehurst

With the support of friends and family, Paige has moved past those dark days but carries with her the kind of mental scars that will be familiar to many survivors.

“The impact of domestic abuse was massive”, she told the News & Star. “I couldn’t leave the house on my own.

“I was always checking who was walking behind me in the street – you just don’t feel safe.

“I can now live my life but abuse does have a long-lasting effect, it’s a massive situation to happen in your life and comes back with things like new relationships.”

Paige is desperate for the police and the wider criminal justice system to adequately tackle the issue and feels let down by the punishment meted out to Clough, who walked free from court despite the horrific campaign of abuse.

“It’s shocking to see over 80 crimes a week relate to domestic abuse in Cumbria and absolutely disgusting that these numbers are increasing.

“Who would be satisfied with their abuser getting a six-month suspended sentence and still being allowed to walk the streets?”

She wants police to be more proactive in updating abuse survivors about investigations and says the response of the justice system to this kind of crime can put people off reporting their experiences.

To other survivors, she says: “Speaking to someone close to you really does help.

“Even though you don’t want to tell anyone, it will make you feel so much better.

“You will look back and be glad you managed to speak up – just please, do not suffer in silence.”

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