A THOUGHT-PROVOKING television campaign designed to help teenagers challenge abusive relationships is being fronted by Bury actress Nikki Sanderson.

The 29-year-old Hollyoaks star is currently being seen in adverts which highlight how domestic abuse does not always involve physical violence.

The Channel 4 soap currently features a storyline in which Nikki is involved in an abusive relationship and the 30-second adverts see her in character as Maxine Minniver.

The commercials, commissioned by government initiative ‘This is Abuse’, show an intimidated Nikki discovering co-star Jeremy Sheffield, her on-screen boyfriend Patrick Blake, scrolling through her text messages.

He then calls her “cheap” because of a necklace she is wearing, with the advert ending with the slogan ‘Abuse in relationships isn’t always physical’.

Nikki said: “People just assume that domestic violence is when you are being physically hit. They don’t realise that domestic violence can be anything from telling someone what they can or can’t wear.

“That is control, that’s manipulation and that is what we are trying to show, that it is not just about being physically hurt, it is about being emotionally and mentally abused as well.

“We want to and are trying to make it as realistic as possible just to save anybody that is watching by showing them the signs they can recognise to stop them getting to the point where they are under such control that they can’t leave.”

Nikki said the public response to the on-screen domestic abuse storyline and related adverts had been “phenomenal”.

She added: “There have been people who have actually been through similar situations, or those who are going through similar situations now, who have been tweeting Hollyoaks saying how true to life it is.”

The This is Abuse campaign has been running since 2010 and the Nikki Sanderson adverts will continue to run until March.

Crime prevention minister Norman Baker said: “The new ‘This is Abuse’ campaign adverts highlight to teenagers that abuse isn’t just limited to violence, but can include controlling and coercive behaviour.

"Too many young people have experienced some form of emotional violence from a partner. We need to stop this. Not only can emotional abuse wreck lives but it can be a precursor to physical violence.”

The commercials have been supported by charities End Violence Against Women, Respect and Against Violence and Abuse (AVA).

To view the adverts or find out more about the campaign, go to thisisabuse.co.uk