Paige Middlehurst had been working hard all year and was looking forward to her work Christmas party.
She had bought a glitzy new £90 dress and was excited to let her hair down with her colleagues.
But her night ended in terrifying violence when her boyfriend brutally assaulted her, leaving her with harrowing injuries and struggling to come to terms with her ordeal.
Brave Paige was determined her partner, Declan Clough, would be prevented from hurting anyone else and reported his violent assault to police.
Clough has now been given a suspended sentence.
Customer service advisor Paige, from Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, had thought Clough was the perfect gent when they first met.
The 25-year-old said: “Declan seemed lovely at first; he was funny and very attentive. He was romantic too, taking me out for dinner and we went away for weekends.”
However, there were soon warning signs as his behaviour became “extremely controlling”
.Paige explained: “He didn’t let me see or speak to any other male friends, even though it was just platonic. He even made me delete a picture of Anthony Joshua off my Facebook, because he was jealous of him too.”
This escalated – but Paige felt she had nowhere to turn.
She said: “As our relationship went on, he became violent, but I couldn’t bring myself to speak to the police. The attack at Christmas was the final straw, and I knew I had to get help.
“I spent that Christmas in bed, anxious and depressed. This year, I plan to party all the way through. I’ve moved on and I won’t let him ruin my life.
“I hope other women will learn from my story. It’s important to walk away – whilst you still can.”
Paige and Declan met in June 2018 and by August that year their relationship was serious.
She said: “Some of my friends didn’t like Declan. My brother warned me against him. But I was head over heels in love and I didn’t listen because I felt they didn’t know him like I did.
“He whisked me away to Edinburgh for my birthday, he took me out and he could be very affectionate and thoughtful.”
But Clough could also be controlling and aggressive.
Paige said: “He didn’t like me going anywhere without him. I wasn’t allowed to see my friends. He wanted to keep me inside, all for him.
“I wasn’t allowed any male friends on social media and when I once posted a photo of Anthony Joshua, he flipped and made me delete it.
“In arguments when he was drunk he became violent. He would accuse me of cheating on him even though there was absolutely no basis at all to his claims.
“I was so ashamed of what he was doing that I kept it to myself. He was very apologetic afterwards and would guilt-trip me, saying he would end up in prison if I ever told anyone.
“I just couldn’t see a way out. I thought I was protecting him but actually he was controlling me and abusing me.”
In December 2018, Paige went on a Christmas works night out with colleagues.
She said: “I was really looking forward to it and I’d spent £90 on a new dress which I loved. Declan made me promise to keep in touch with him all night and to answer his messages.
“But my phone died part-way through the evening. When I eventually got hold of him he was furious with me.
“He told me to meet him on the bridge, near my home. When I got there, he accused me of cheating on him at the Christmas do and he ran at me and punched me, right in the middle of the road.
“I managed to get up but he hit me again and this time I was unconscious. When I came round, he was dragging me to the side of the road.
“I was covered in blood. He cleaned me up and took my dress and hid it in the boot of the car, where nobody would see it.
“I was devastated. I felt like I couldn’t keep on lying to my family, hiding my bruises, and smiling all through Christmas, when inside my heart was breaking.”
Paige bravely went to the police a week before Christmas 2018, and Declan was arrested.
The 23-year-old appeared before Preston Crown Court earlier this month and admitted causing actual bodily harm.
Clough was also charged with coercive and controlling behaviour. But prosecutors took the decision to allow the charge to lie on file after he admitted a more serious offence.
He was handed a six month suspended sentence.
Paige said: “I am still coping with the physical effects of the abuse. I have nerve damage to my face and my back is painful.
“But I feel proud that I have walked away from him and I want other girls in my situation to do the same. I know now that the shame is his – not mine. I did absolutely nothing wrong.
“I spent that Christmas after his arrest hidden away in bed. I couldn’t face the world. This year, I plan to celebrate in style. I have moved on and I won’t ever let a man treat me like that again.”