In this empowering TED talk by Mada Tsagia-Papadakou, she describes her battle to escape an abusive relationship and the power struggle involved in an unhealthy relationship…

For Mada, everything started out like a fairy tale.

“It started with romance and love. He hit hard and he hit fast,” says Mada describing her relationship with ‘Romeo’.

“He seemed to really take an interest in me and ‘care’ what I was doing every single moment of the day.”

But after the ‘honeymoon phase, he started criticising her friends. Sowing doubt into her mind about their loyalty. He discouraged her from working in her job as a model. Over time, she was completely dependent on him socially and economically.

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When she decided to try to take back some of her independence by starting up her modelling career again, he physically and verbally abused her.

READ MORE: Why do women stay in psychologically abusive relationships?

“He was so remorseful”

Every time Romeo had a violent outburst, he would come back to Mada, begging for forgiveness. “That’s when I thought I had my power back. When I thought he was ‘mine’ again.”

In the talk, Mada describes some of the times she tried to leave, including the incident that led to her finally being able to make a clean break.

“If I can’t have you, no one will”

These are the words “Romeo” screamed as he dragged Mada into his car. She had left him and tried to start her own life again. He found her at her apartment, and abducted her. He drove towards the mountains, telling her “I’m going to kill you tonight.”

Listen to the talk to find out how her life was saved that night.

How did she escape the ‘addiction’ of the abusive relationship?

“Addicts protect their first love. I was addicted to Romeo. I was addicted to that type of love and pattern of behaviour. But I was sick and tired. I had to do something,” she recalls. “I told EVERYBODY. I had my best friend move in with me. She asked me, if you stay with him, how do see your relationship in 10 years?”

That was the question that made Mada take control of her future.

“All I saw was darkness and no hope. No dreams. I knew I couldn’t live like this. He had taken everything from me. The thought was enough to make me walk away and never look back.”

READ MORE: Abusive relationships: How to spot the warning signs

Healing and helping

It took many years for Mada to heal from the brokenness of the relationship, but through it all she formed an organisation to help other women who were stuck in the cycle of abuse.

“I started W.I.N. HELLAS,” says Mada.

The organisation has collaborated with major international corporations, and government institutions such as Proctor & Gamble, Lipton Ice Tea, the National Network to end domestic violence and equip women with the tools and information they need to empower themselves.

“I’m not raising my daughters to believe that they need a prince charming to save them. Men need to be part of this movement. No man has the right to make you feel ‘less than’. Abuse does not, and should not define you.”