Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist Becky O’Brien has spoken out about her experience with domestic violence.
The 35 year old, who featured in the reality TV competition last year, appeared on This Morning to share her emotional story, telling hosts Ruth Langsford and Rylan Clark-Neal that she was attacked in a hospital bed by her then-husband Stephen, just hours after giving birth to the couple’s twin children.
Becky explained that it was the first time he had ever been violent in the relationship, but many of his previous behaviours had been ‘red flags’, which she now wants to help other women recognise.
‘Hindsight is a wonderful thing,’ she said. ‘Obviously violence is a huge part but there is a lot that goes on alongside that, such as coercive control.
‘When I look back now, I see things that I didn’t recognise as being abusive or controlling. Decisions I thought were being made because someone was being caring, was actually being controlling.’
The couple met in Northampton, where Becky runs a dance school, after she employed Stephen, a former dancer himself.
‘I thought he was well presented and handsome,’ she said. ‘We got on well and we started seeing each other. He proposed that summer and we married in September. It was all very fast but he’d swept me off my feet.’
However, warning signs were present before the ceremony, with Stephen booking a venue and date without consulting Becky – a move which at the time she perceived as ‘romantic’, but now recognises as controlling. The pair also argued frequently; Stephen would lose his temper and punch objects.
‘My mum called him the “boomerang man” because he would constantly pack his bags and leave after an argument, only to come back,’ Becky admits.
At this point, Becky was already mum to two boys from a previous relationship, Jack, now 12, and Charlie, nine – and days after the wedding, she found out she was expecting again.
‘We were overjoyed,’ she admitted. ‘I didn’t think anyone would want me, a single mum of two boys. He was like my knight in shining armour.’
After a difficult pregnancy, Becky delivered twins Chloe and Toby early at just 27 weeks, but said Stephen showed no interest in the children, and didn’t even want to hold his son.
‘He started saying it was my fault they’d come early. At that point I was so stressed and exhausted, I just asked him to leave,’ Becky said.
‘I stood up to walk across the room, but he threw me on to my bed and started beating me into the bed. I remember thinking, “if I don’t get out of this he’ll kill me”.’
The new mum said she was screaming, but because she was on the maternity ward, it took minutes for help to come because nurses assumed it was the noise of someone in labour. She was left with a fractured jaw, split lip and punctured cheek.
Despite calling the police himself after the incident, telling the operator ‘I’ve just attacked my wife’, and pleading guilty to grevious bodily harm in court, Stephen was not sentenced, as he had no prior record and had not been violent before. ‘Everyone thought he’d had a breakdown,’ Becky said. ‘He appeared genuinely remorseful. He even took himself to anger management.’
Feeling vulnerable and with four children to take care of, she allowed him to return to the family home, but his controlling behaviour continued.
‘I felt like a prisoner in my own home,’ she said. ‘Stephen was like an army sergeant. He didn’t like me going out on my own, didn’t want me to have a life.’
It was only when Becky’s daughter Chloe fell ill and Stephen suggested to nurses that it had been Becky’s fault that she realised what was happening, and found the courage to file for divorce.
Now touring with a successful musical and happy with a new partner, Becky’s moved on, and is now working with Women’s Aid to help other women in similar situations, and campaign for better laws surrounding domestic abuse.
‘I’ve thrown myself into working and I try and do as much as I can. It’s easy to think, why doesn’t someone just leave? But it’s more than that,’ she said. ‘I want women who may be stuck in an abusive relationship to know that help is out there.’ If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic violence, call Women’s Aid’s 24 hour helpline on 0808 2000 247.