REAL LIFE: I'm helping women break free from abuse

Emma KnightsFor years Joanne Robinson found herself in a cycle of unhealthy and sometimes abusive relationships.Now an author and counsellor, she tells reporter Emma Knights how she now uses the painful experiences of her past to help other women.Emma Knights

For years Joanne Robinson found herself in a cycle of unhealthy and sometimes abusive relationships.

Now an author and counsellor, she tells reporter Emma Knights how she now uses the painful experiences of her past to help other women.

After spending more than 15 years in a series of destructive relationships Joanne Robinson had a spiritual awakening which gave her the strength to transform her life for the better.

She realised that the arguments she was continually having with her then partner - about lying, having affairs, and feeling like a bit of a slave in the relationship - were practically the same as the ones she had been having with her first boyfriend as a teenager and that in order to stop this unhappy cycle continuing she needed to take responsibility.

Most Read

'I started to realise I had been waiting for the guys to change. I was always focused on if he changed we would be ok, but I started to realise I could not change anyone else but myself, and if I wanted something different I had to take responsibility,' said 41-year-old Joanne, who is now single and who moved to Dereham from London two years ago.

As a child Joanne had witnessed domestic abuse between her parents, and she said by the time she became a teenager the effect of this had really taken its toll on her.

'I had a really poor self image and I did not feel very secure and loved, so like many people I went looking for love in all the wrong places.

'I thought if I could find somebody to love, and be loved by that person, then everything would be ok,' she said.

But between the age of 15 and 32 Joanne went from one destructive relationship to another.

She was subject to betrayal, violence and emotional abuse, and she said each break-up left her further in debt, less trusting of men and even more broken-hearted.

However, in October 2000 everything changed when she started praying and she had a spiritual awakening.

'I was not religious before that - but after I decided to pray I really felt the presence of God come into my life and give me a sense of his peace and love, and I felt that was the missing part in my life.

'That's when my journey started. I started to see that patterns had evolved in my relationships, and how I perceived relationships and love to be.

'Before I had felt like everything was my fault, but now I realised I was not this terrible, awful and horrible person, and I realised that the best place to look for love is when you are in a good place within.'

Joanne's confidence grew as she carried on her spiritual journey and she decided to use her experiences to help other women too - although she is keen to stress that she does not force religion on anyone and is there to help women of all faiths or no faith at all.

'I started to be a counsellor and a life skills coach and I felt a real pull to help other women who had been through abusive relationships or many broken relationships,' said Joanne, who founded her coaching, counselling and personal development service Donna Intera - which means whole woman in Italian - in 2005.

Among the services she offers is a 12-session course called The Right Step Relationship Course which takes people through the journey of making


It also helps people understand the tell-tale signs of abusive relationships, and stresses that domestic abuse is not always physical abuse - it can also take the form of financial and emotional abuse, isolation, threats and intimidation.

'The emotional scars can last for years, and I want to help women find themselves and get a true sense of who they really are, and understand how to form a normal relationship,' she said.

Joanne, who has a grown-up son and daughter, has recently had her first book He Loves Me Not? How To Break The Cycle of Painful Relationships published by Lastword Publications, after she originally published the

book herself under a different title.

He Loves Me Not? is a series of snap-shots of Joanne's own experiences of trying to find love in all the wrong places.

'It features short stories of my relationships and the effect of brokenness and hopelessness. It has helped me understand what real love was about and the lies and excuses I believed and put up with,' she said.

Throughout the book Joanne writes about how she has dealt with these experiences, looking at everything from a Christian faith perspective, and she hopes these stories will convey a message of inspirational hope to people despairing over failed relationships.

People can read the book from cover to cover or just dip into the subjects that are relevant to them.

The first two sections - Blames, lies and excuses, and Broken - are based on her experiences between the ages of 15 and 32 of dating and long-term relationships including a failed marriage.

The third section -- A new

start - discusses the wisdom Joanne gained while learning how to have healthy relationships.

'With a developing new mindset I have learnt lessons to put more tools in my box to help other women do life successfully whether they are 18 or 70, single or married,' she said.

'If women are in an abusive relationship they need to understand that abuse is not their fault, and not be afraid to step out and ask for help.

'Sometimes you can feel quite isolated and ashamed of what is happening to you - but you are not on your own, many women have been through the same thing.'

He Loves Me Not? costs �7.99. It can be bought from and

For more information on Donna Intera visit