‘You’ve got to get out straight away’ - Lowestoft acid attack victim Adele Bellis’ message to Norwich and Lowestoft children as she takes domestic abuse awareness campaign into schools
PUBLISHED: 06:30 22 November 2016 | UPDATED: 11:57 22 November 2016
(C) Archant Norfolk 2016
She was left scarred for life by a vicious revenge acid attack after getting into an abusive relationship that spiralled out of control.
But now, brave Adele Bellis is taking her inspirational message of hope to pupils in Waveney schools – in a bid to prevent other young people become victims of domestic abuse as she was.
The 24-year-old has already visited Norwich’s Notre Dame High School after being contacted by teachers when she told the EDP she would like to give talks on a subject close to her heart.
She has now agreed to speak at both Pakefield High School and Ormiston Denes Academy in her home town – and hopes the story of a victim so close to home will reinforce to young people how serious the issue is.
“I just want to raise awareness,” said Miss Bellis, who earlier this year released her autobiography – called Brave and published by HarperCollins – about the controlling relationship that led up to the acid attack.
“I’m not saying everyone is going to be attacked by acid but I want to use my story of how this progresses to raise awareness.
“People need to be more aware of the warning signs. When I was younger, I didn’t have the control – it was my first relationship and I didn’t know if he was treating me in the right way.”
The six-year relationship started with her manipulative ex-boyfriend Anthony Riley stopping her from seeing certain friends and wearing certain clothes.
“I told the kids that if this happens in the first few months of the relationship, it will only get worse,” she said.
Miss Bellis said she continued the relationship because his threatening behaviour made it seem easier to stay with him than incur his wrath by leaving him.
She also hoped Riley, of Raglan Street, Lowestoft – who is currently serving a minimum of 13 years of a life time for offences including conspiracy to apply a corrosive liquid – would change his ways.
However it only got worse and developed into beating her up, having her stabbed and posting revenge porn – before the dreadful attack at a Pakefield bus stop in August 2014.
It was an attack that left her disfigured for life, partially bald, with burns down the side of her body and caused her to lose an ear.
She has also had to undergo years of surgery and treatment, which is still ongoing.
“If it’s a new relationship you’re excited and you want it to work out,” she said.
“However if you let it go on, then it gets too much. You’ve got to get out straight away.”
Judging by the perceptive questions from young people listening to her presentation at Notre Dame High, Miss Bellis believes her message is already hitting home.
“It makes it seem more realistic as well as I’m from Lowestoft and it happened so close to home,” she added.
However she is not stopping there – Miss Bellis is running a campaign to get education about domestic abuse put on the National Curriculum, so it is taught in all schools.
“I strongly believe if girls can be taught about controlling relationships it’ll help prevent them from getting into unhealthy relationships in the first place,” she said.
“Prevention is so much easier than cure.
“When you’re in your first relationship you don’t really know what’s normal and what isn’t so young people need guidance as to what is and isn’t acceptable. It’s not just about educating girls, it’s about educating boys.
“It needs to be understood by men that this controlling behaviour is wrong and I believe by telling boys it’s actually weak behaviour it’ll help make it more socially unacceptable.
“I can’t wait to go into schools and talk to pupils because I think I’m young enough still for them to relate to me.”
Jason Harrison, formerly of Princes Road, Lowestoft – who carried out the acid attack – is serving a four-year-and-four-month prison sentence.
Leon Thompson, of Alma Road, Lowestoft – who carried out a knife attack against Miss Bellis – was sentenced to an extended term of 15 years in jail.
Daniel Marshall, of Rose Court, Lowestoft – who acted as his “enforcer” – was sentenced to seven years.