For more than two years, BBC Radio 4's The Archers ran a disturbing storyline centred on Helen Tichener's abuse at the hands of her husband Rob. Not the kind of abuse that leaves a bruise, but the sort of coercive control that breaks your spirit and makes it almost impossible to walk away. As she listened to the unfolding story, Helen Walmsley-Johnson was forced to confront her own agonizing past.Helen's first husband controlled her life, from the people she saw to what was in her bank account. He alienated her from friends and family and even from their three daughters. Eventually, he threw her out and she painfully began to rebuild her life.Then, divorced and in her early forties, she met Franc. Kind, charming, considerate Franc. For ten years she would be in his thrall, even when he too was telling her what to wear, what to eat, even what to think. Look What You Made Me Do is her candid and utterly gripping memoir of how she was trapped by a smiling abuser, not once but twice. It is a vital guide to recognizing, understanding and surviving this sinister form of abuse and its often terrible legacy. It is also an inspirational account of how one woman found the courage to walk away.
Helen Walmsley-Johnson is the author of the Guardian's 'The Vintage Years' column, which has 65,000 regular readers. She worked for the Daily Telegraph, before joining the Guardian as Alan Rusbridger's PA for seven years, then began her column. Her book about middle-age, The Invisible Woman, was published to great acclaim in 2015. She lives in Rutland.