Samantha Billingham, founder of SODA

A 40-year-old survivor of domestic abuse from the West Midlands has set up a support group to help other victims.

Samantha Billingham is a survivor. She left an abusive relationship in November 2006 after her ex-partner split her lip open whilst she was holding her ten-month-old daughter in her arms. She had been with her perpetrator for three years and had been through physical and emotional abuse.

“I just wanted to be the support I never had”
Samantha Billingham

She reported what was happening and was sent on an eight-week awareness course to try to help her process it and receive support in order to move on – but it was not enough.

In May 2009, Samantha set up SODA (Survivors Of Domestic Abuse), a group that “supports survivors from being controlled, to being in control by offering long-term survival support”.

Samantha Billingham speaking on BBC Breakfast about domestic abuse

Through her voluntary work, she has supported other survivors whilst also being supported herself to remind herself to continue staying strong and to recognise the signs of abuse.

She dedicates her life to ensuring those who need support feel they can find it.

She felt very alone in the start of her process coming out of abuse and says: “I just want to be the support I never had.”

“i felt quite isolated really”

SAMANTHA billingham

SODA raises awareness, reduces isolation and supports other people who have been in abusive relationships.

In December 2020, Samantha set up MTAB which means more than a bruise. She did this to tell survivors and other people that “you don’t have to be hit to be a victim of domestic abuse”.

She highlighted controlling behaviour and after the campaign finished she noticed a large number of survivors identifying abuse in their relationship that they would not have realised without Samantha’s support.

Samantha continues her work to ensure survivors see life after abuse. She motivates and educates them and shows them a route forward.

Audio – Samantha Billingham speaks about what she wants survivors to know

Samantha wants survivors to know it is not and never will be, their fault. She does not want anyone to feel alone and that they have no one to turn to as Samantha has said herself that she “felt quite isolated”.

Isolation is one of the biggest warning signs of domestic abuse. Samantha says that “not being allowed to see your friends or family or just making you feel like you have to make a choice between the partner and your family – that is a big, big warning sign.

“Controlling your phone, who you speak to, where you go, how you dress” are all signs Samantha warns people to look out for. “It doesn’t always start with physical violence.”

According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) for the year ending March 2020, an estimated 5.5% of adults aged 16 to 74 years (2.3 million people) experienced domestic abuse in the previous year.

Living Without Abuse (LWA) states that domestic abuse will affect one in four women and one in six men in their lifetime. This leads to on average two women being murdered each week and 30 men per year.