Sam Scarborough Biography

A FRESH START We bounced back stronger than before

From losing a job to dealing with an abusive relationship, these three women have turned their setbacks into success…

‘I re-read my diary and realised I’m not the same person I was then’

Author Sam Scarborough, 46, lives in Cape Town. Last year, she released Trapped (Human & Rousseau), a book that recounts her escape from an abusive relationship. She also freelances as a creative director and runs her own children’s decor business, Kids Decor. I moved to the UK in 2009, to pursue a relationship with a British man I’d met in Cape Town. There was an instant, powerful attraction when we met, and I was convinced we were meant to be together.

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I’d worked overseas before and I looked forward to doing it again but, soon after my daughter and I arrived in London, I discovered that my ‘Prince Charming’ wasn’t who I thought he was. My partner never physically abused me, but he was an angry binge drinker, who would tear me down, both verbally and emotionally, which can be just as destructive. He would get drunk on a regular basis, and he’d shout and swear at me; he was also extremely possessive and controlling. I learnt that one of the only ways to keep the peace – and to feel connected to him – was through sex. I started a diary, where I’d write about my partner’s behaviour and the abuse that I was going through.

It was a way for me to keep my sanity, as I felt like I was going mad. He was manipulative and I was no longer sure what was real, and what this man was making me believe. My words helped me come to grips with what was going on in my life. As I looked over the pages that I’d written, I was devastated to realise that I was no longer the strong and independent person I was when I had arrived in the UK – I had turned into a victim. I know many people would wonder why I didn’t just leave him, but I was in love with him – or, I was in love with the story that he sold me.

I’d even moved to the other side of the world for him – and I tried to convince myself that things weren’t really that bad; I told myself that I was simply overreacting. When I opened up to my friends in South Africa about my situation, they offered me a place to stay, and access to professional help, but I just couldn’t end the cycle of abuse. I didn’t want to uproot my daughter and I felt that I couldn’t run back home to South Africa, as I would be admitting defeat. I honestly thought that I could make the relationship work. The turning point After six months of living in London, my daughter pointed out that I never laughed or smiled anymore and that my partner was the wrong man for me. In that moment, my mind was made up. I knew that I had to leave him.

Back in South Africa, I realised my diary had the power to help others stuck in abusive relationships, so I turned it into a book. I wrote it as a raw, honest account of what I had been through. One of my favourite sayings is: ‘If you keep on doing what you did, you’ll keep on getting what you got.’ I think that the significant part of my story is not that I was abused, but rather that I managed to leave the relationship. I’ve been told I’m brave for sharing my story, but I’m not the same person I was in the book. Then, I was an angry, emotional wreck, but now I feel far more grounded and like myself. Years prior to my experience, I gave a book to a friend who was in a bad relationship, and she’d told me that it had helped her; I can only hope that my story can give courage to women trapped in a similar situation.

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