LONDON (WOMENSENEWS)–For Natalia, the abuse started when she was 23 years old in 1986 and lasted until 1997.

"It started off quite bad and the reason I didn’t leave in the first place was I was quite young. I went to my mum for help and she said, ‘you should have just kept your mouth shut,’" says Natalia over the phone, who in addition to not wanting to provide her real name, didn’t want to reveal where she lives. "I was married and I had a child with him."

She expresses a certain bitterness about her family’s attitude looking back. "When I was lying there in a pool of blood and covered in scratches. I do feel a bit like they let me down," she says.

"I did try to walk away from it. I came back and it just got worse and worse. I was quite badly injured. I had been to the police and they just weren’t interested. A lot of people knew it was going on," she adds.

If her ex had attacked a stranger in this way, "it would have been GBH," she says, referring to grievous bodily harm, a serious criminal offense under English law.

She eventually left, after a particularly violent attack that left her "semi-conscious" and hospitalized. "The nurse knew what was going on. She just said, ‘You need to get help and I’ll help you.’ He lived in a hotel for three months because he was so sure he’d be able to come back."

Now, Natalie has a doctorate in psychology, enjoys some prominence in her career field and has a new partner.

Although domestic violence victims are often seen by the outside world as weak, she disputes this idea. With a note of almost surprise in her voice, she says: "I must have been quite strong, because I kept going."

This story was reported and produced by for the seriesWhy Didn’t She Just Leave?This special project was crowd funded on the Catapult funding platform. Join the conversation on domestic violence on Twitter via .