Trapped: an unflinchingly honest new memoir from Sam Scarborough

trapped’s ESTELLE SINKINS talks to Sam Scarborough about her extraordinary new memoir, Trapped.
AUTHOR, Sam Scarborough, considers herself a strong woman and admits she never believed she would find herself embroiled in an abusive relationship.

She details that relationship in her unflinchingly honest, memoir, Trapped, published by Human and Rousseau.

“I made so many excuses for myself,” Scarborough, who lives in Cape Town, says. “I was angry. I know what was happening was wrong; but the good days overshadowed all of that – and I thought I had achieved my dream of finding a soul-mate.”

She met her less than charming prince in Cape Town and within months had packed up her life and moved, with her young daughter, to be with him in London. Once the honeymoon stage passed, however, her partner began to show his true colours.

“Everyone is fallible. When he told me that he had made mistakes in the past, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I was in love with him and I can confirm that being ‘love sick’ is a real condition. He was a really charming man with a commanding presence when he entered a room. He was a powerful man and I loved that power. I was living the high life,” she said.

Scarborough endured months of verbal and emotional abuse. Fortunately he never actually hit her. “I was probably luckier than some, because emotional abuse can lead to more violent actions,” she says. “But I saw him with his kids and there was never any sign of any physical abuse so I was never scared of that.

“What I went through wasn’t as bad as what happens to other people. It was verbal abuse. And my behaviour wasn’t great. I was also nasty to him. I was an emotional wreck; exhausted and at rock bottom. But I didn’t want to come back to South Africa with failure written all over my face. I found my incredible man, but it didn’t work out.”

To cope with the situation Scarborough found herself drinking heavily and admits she used sex as a way to try and control her partner. But even this proved a hollow victory as he believed she was seeing other people.

“There are things I did, things you read about in the book, that were insane,” Scarborough said. “I would never have done those things if I hadn’t been so angry. But I have owned up to the bad things that I said and did. I have been able to learn from that.”

Asked what inspired her to write Trapped, she said it was in part because she helped a friend to escape from an abusive relationship by offering her a book to read.

“I hope that by reading about my experience, other woman may find the courage to get out of whatever situation they are in,” she says.

“Writing the book also helped me understand what was going on in the relationship I was in. It was a diary of events and conversations that I felt I had to record so that I would not have to constantly question my sanity.

“I was being accused of things that I knew were not my doing, nor my fault, so I thought I was going mad. Adding to that, I could not believe that I had got myself into an abusive relationship, me, the strong one, the Leo, the independent woman. So I started writing a diary, to keep track of events and to make sure I was not imagining things.”

Now back home and in a loving relationship, Scarborough says many of her closest friends urged her not to write the book, telling her that she couldn’t possibly want the world to know what had happened to her. But she has no regrets.

“The response has been incredible and so many women – and some men – have thanked me for telling my story,” she says. “I really hope that it will help people.  An abused person can get very isolated and that is where their partner gets the power. It’s dangerous and utterly wrong. We need to be able to recognise these kinds of patterns so can help people to break out of the cycle of abuse.”


  • Sam Scarborough is a creative director, author, stylist and children’s decor consultant.
  • Her previous publications include Children’s Rooms, Cool Spaces for Kids, and Baby Rooms & Nurseries, which she published herself, and Kids’ Market Day.
  • She runs her own interior decor company, Kids Decor, specialising in spaces for kids.


  • The aim of emotional abuse is to chip away at a person’s feelings of self-worth and independence.
  • It can be as destructive and damaging as physical abuse and can do a terrible amount of damage to a person’s mental health.
  • It’s common for physically abusive relationships to also include aspects of emotional abuse as this is how power and control is maintained within the relationship.
  • Types of emotional abuse include: yelling, insulting or swearing at someone, name calling, public embarrassment, blaming them for everything, causing someone to feel afraid, intimidated or threatened, and limiting their freedom of movement.

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