TV star speaks out in support of domestic abuse charity

Sitting next to her partner in a crowded bar, Katherine Kennard focused her attention on the TV screen.

It was always the safest option.

Except on this night, when another man innocently stood between her and the TV - and her partner saw him.

"That was a bad night," the former Nothing Trivial actress said as she spoke publicly for the first time about the four years she was trapped in an abusive relationship.

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Kennard is a familiar face on TV screens after playing the scheming ex-wife of Nothing Trivial lead character Mac and for her roles on Underbelly, Spartacus and Street Legal.

Now she has starred in a short film for national domestic abuse charity Shine. The film was shown at the organisation's 25th birthday celebration last night, at which June Steenkamp, the mother of Reeva Steenkamp - killed by partner Oscar Pistorius - spoke.

Kennard's story of abuse began three months into her first serious relationship. Her former partner was - is - a "beautiful man" with a big heart and a sharp intellect, she said.

But he also had an anger problem triggered by jealousy. "At first I thought, 'That's sweet, it shows he cares'. I'd never witnessed any kind of abuse in my childhood. It was so unfamiliar to me that it didn't make any sense.

"The jealousies turned into anger, and the anger got put on to me, saying things like slut, whore and finding my weak spots, commenting about my weight."

Trying to talk about it didn't work. "You can't speak logically when they've flipped into anger."

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On the rare occasions the pair had rational conversations he would apologise and accept he had a problem. Then something would trigger his jealousy again.

The bar incident occurred three years into the relationship, by which time Kennard had learned "not to communicate with any men and to pull in any form of open energy to anybody. At the beginning you're confused. Three years in you're like a dog backed against the wall". Her partner's reaction in the bar was standard by then - leaning into her ear so no one else could hear, and her not wanting to make a scene, but wishing someone noticed. "But nobody hears it. It's just for you."

Other times he followed her home, and she was afraid to turn him away. "Then you end up having to sleep in the same bed. He'd be wanting to cuddle. And you're thinking, 'After everything you've just put me through, now you expect me to love you'? But out of fear you just want everything to be all right, so you cuddle."

A girlfriend was the catalyst for the relationship's end when she stood up to the man.

It's more than 20 years since the relationship ended and British-born Kennard said some hurtful words still triggered old feelings. She also felt guilty when talking to men "in case it's taken the wrong way".

But life had also given her experiences that created the "bag of tools" that allowed her to be "independent, free and who I am".

She wanted others to know they, too, had choices. "If anybody relates to something in my story ... if I knew that somebody picked up the phone to the [Shine] helpline, even just one person, then all of this is worth it."

Tell-tale signs of abuse

• Smashing or breaking things around the house.

• Monitoring or limiting phone calls, conversations, email, and/or keeping a partner from seeing family and friends.

• Taking money away, or controlling money.

• Making a partner do something humiliating or degrading and/or making him or her have sex after emotional or physical abuse, or when the partner is sick.

• Threatening to hurt him or herself if the partner leaves and/or threatening to hurt the partner, children, pets or others.

• Making the partner beg for sexual affection or attention.

• Pushing, shoving, pulling, slapping, kicking or punching the partner, or throwing things at him or her.

How to get help

For those experiencing, inflicting or witnessing abuse call the Shine helpline, 0508 744 633.