The strong woman’s one-step guide to exiting a toxic relationship

Actress Julie Graham offers a single key piece of advice for exiting a toxic partnership

There’s one important step to getting yourself out of an unhealthy relationship: tell someone about it.

That’s the advice of domestic abuse survivor and campaigner Julie Graham, star of Bletchley Circle San Francisco.

“If you are a strong woman – or you come across as that to the outside world – it’s difficult,” she tells Kate Thornton in the latest episode of the podcast, White Wine Question Time. “Friends will not recognise that sometimes, and you isolate yourself because you are ashamed of telling people... because you are ashamed of what they may think about you.

“It can be a very isolated experience.”

It’s the same advice offered by Women’s Aid, the UK charity working to end domestic abuse. A key tactic of abusers, they say, is to isolate the victim. “Perpetrators will often try and reduce a woman’s contact with the outside world to prevent her from recognising that his behaviour is abusive and wrong.”

It’s a complicated issue

Julie also cautions against paying too much attention to those who tell you to just screw up the courage and leave.

“The minute a woman or a man decides to leave an abusive relationship, that's the most dangerous time. That's the time where people will be killed, that's the time where it will escalate, because that person is not in control of you anymore. So it's a very very very tricky thing to advise people ‘just leave’.

“It's a very, very complicated issue. And I think that, you know, if you could just share it with even one person then it can start a whole ball rolling of finding a way out of it.”

Become like a spy

Part of finding your way out, Julie says, is becoming a really good liar.

“Not in the usual way of, ‘Oh, I walked into a window.’ But when you’re planning your way to get out, you have to become almost like a spy, and you’re undercover: like it’s espionage.”

Her parting advice on this topic: “Don't ever sell yourself a narrative that this is happening because you are in a passionate, tempestuous thing.”

If you’re ready to tell someone what’s happening, but don’t have anyone trustworthy to start the conversation with, you can call Women’s Aid in the UK on 0808 2000 247 – a 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline.