Labour MP Rosie Duffield got a standing ovation in the Commons after revealing the “constant hurt” she experienced in an abusive relationship.
The Canterbury MP told how she put on a “brave face” but endured “permanent trepidation” because of the “emotionally exhausting” coercive control of ex-partner.
The 48-year-old former teaching assistant told MPs her partner was initially charming as she stressed those who subject someone to coercive control are likely to mask their character at first.
She said: “It’s not how they win your heart. It’s not how they persuade you to meet them for a coffee, then go to a gig, then spend an evening snuggled up in front of a movie at their place.
“When they ask you out they don’t present their rage and they don’t tell you that they like the idea of strong, independent, successful women, but not the reality.
“They don’t threaten, criticise, control, yell or exert their physical strength in increasingly frightening ways. Not yet. Not at the start.”
Her partner’s behaviour got gradually worse and oscillated between being loving and threatening.
She added: “Every day is emotionally exhausting, working in a job that you love but putting on a brave face and pretending all is good, fine, wonderful in fact.
“Then the pretence and the public face start to drop completely. Being yelled at in the car with the windows down, no attempt to hide behaviour during constituency engagements. Humiliation and embarrassment now added to permanent trepidation and constant hurt.”
It came as MPs debated the Domestic Abuse Bill. The new legislation will tackle coercive control of a victim’s freedom or finances, like that experienced by Duffield, and write into law a modern definition of domestic abuse.
Duffield went on to underline that domestic abuse has “many faces” and that coercive control would not be immediately obvious in a victim.
“So what is domestic violence or abuse and where do we get our ideas about it from?,” she asked. “Often we see the same images and stereotypes on TV. Housing estates, working-class families, drunk men coming home from the pub, women surrounded by children and sequence of shouting followed by immediate physical violence or assault.
“But the soap opera scenes only tend to focus on one or two aspects of a much bigger and more complex picture.
“Domestic violence has many faces and the faces of those who survive are varied too.”
She added: “Abuse isn’t just about those noticeable physical signs, sometimes there are no bruises. Abuse is very often all about control and power, it’s about making themselves feel big or biggest but that’s not how abusers present themselves.”
During the debate, former Prime Minister Theresa May gave her first speech since becoming a backbencher, telling MPs the Bill was a “landmark piece of legislation” but only “the first step”.