A FORMER Love Island contestant has revealed how her life spiralled out of control after she was portrayed as an "aggressive monster" on the show, aged only 19.
Bethany Rogers, now 26, who took part in the first ever season of the ITV reality show, told how she lost her "self worth" after being relentlessly trolled by fans – ending up in a violent relationship and becoming addicted to ketamine as she struggled to cope.
The mum-of-one was accused then acquitted of money laundering in a court case that spanned four years, which finally concluded last week at Bradford Magistrates Court, where she was given an absolute discharge on one remaining count of possessing 134mg of ketamine.
It was a charge that should have been dealt with a caution years ago, her lawyer said in court.
Now breaking her silence in an exclusive interview with The Sun, Bethany has told how she felt she "lost everything"after going on Love Island.
"I'm not ashamed of the truth anymore I have been through hell and managed to survive,” she said.
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Bethany was a dancer, performer and fire breather in and around Leeds when she got contacted out of the blue by producers on Facebook and asked to audition for a new reality show called Love Island.
Naive and convinced it would excel her career, she agreed.
Bethany didn't make it to the starting line up as expected, but was asked to be a "late arrival" on the show – and says she was ordered to "stir up trouble".
"I remember being about to board the plane at Leeds Bradford airport when one of the producers rang me and said: 'Beth, you know what you’ve got to do – there’s no point you coming if you’re not going cause a stir in the villa,” she said.
"I was so naive. I didn't know what I walked into.
"Then they put me on set late at night when everybody was really intoxicated. I was on standby for more than 12 hours – I didn’t know what was going on.
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"One girl was so drunk she'd thrown up all over herself and they weren't able to show her on camera. It was just chaos throughout the villa.
"I'd not been in there long when one girl came and had a go at me for a comment I'd made to another contestant. It went from zero to a hundred in the space of 15 minutes.
"The way she came at me, it really got my defenses up.
"I quickly realised this show is nothing to do with finding love. They were just pitting the Islanders against each other.
I quickly realised this show is nothing to do with finding love."
"Producers would come in everyday and direct us to talk to a certain person – to stir the pot. They were manipulating us to fit their narrative.
"But what wasn't shown on TV is that despite all of that, we all actually got on really well. We had an absolute ball and it was an experience of a lifetime – but none of that was shown.
"I left there on good terms with everybody. I have a lot of respect for my fellow islanders.
"But everything shown of me was negative and aggressive.”
Bethany was kicked off the show after 10 days – and recalls how she was stunned to open her phone and find hundreds of vile and abusive messages from trolls.
She said: "There was so much trolling and malicious remarks, even death threats. I was literally shocked when I watched the show and saw how I'd been portrayed. They'd made me out to be so aggressive.
"There was no aftercare that I was aware of at that time – no one called to see if I was ok.
I’m not this monster that they made me out to be."
"Even old school friends who I hadn't spoke to in years, or people I didn't even know, were writing detrimental things about me that affected my mental health.
"I know I have a big heart. I'm not evil. I'm not nasty. I’ve got a lot of love to give. I’m not this monster that they made me out to be. I'm certainly not a bully. I just felt so betrayed by the whole scenario. I was still only a teenager."
Love Island statement
A spokesperson for Love Island said: "This is not a version of events we recognise.
"As with all Islanders, Bethany was offered aftercare, both at the time and in the years since her appearance.
"Because of medical confidentiality, we do not comment on individuals' duty of care, but our welfare protocols are widely publicised and we have a robust set of measures in place to ensure support before, during and after filming is prioritised."
They also pointed to statements from previous contestants who said how the show's aftercare was hugely helpful – including 2019 contestant Amy Hart who told The Sun how the show's therapists helped her face her demons.
Not long afterwards, while Bethany was still feeling low, she began a relationship with Laurence Edwards, a man who she alleges soon became violent and abusive towards her.
It was Edwards that she ended up on money laundering charges with in 2019, after she was accused of jointly buying an Audi A3 using criminal money.
"At the time I was very vulnerable after coming off the show and Laurence knew that," Bethany said.
'VIOLENCE AND ABUSE'
"He beat me regularly for over a year. He domestically abused me to the point that I felt I had to run for my life.
"The last time he abused me, he told me that the only way I was leaving his house was in a body bag and I ran through neighbour's gardens and called the police, my clothes were ripped.
"I have pictures of black eyes, bit marks, bruises, bust lips.
As much as I was the victim, I was ashamed and embarrassed that I'd let myself get into this rut."
"Police wanted me to press charges against him for domestic violence but at the time I just wanted to get away from him. I was scared of him.
"I didn't want it to get out because I'd been in Love Island and didn't want to be known for getting beaten up.
"As much as I was the victim, I was ashamed and embarrassed that I'd let myself get into this rut, where he'd beat me up and then I'd take him back."
Court reports show Edwards has a long rap sheet, with Bradford Crown Court hearing during a 2016 trial for racially abusing a garage worker, that Edwards had 15 convictions for 24 offences, including robbery, burglary and violence against against women.
Other sources who saw Bethany's injuries at the time and were in contact with police, confirmed her story. The Sun has also seen several messages from time time confirming the violence took place.
Edwards declined to comment despite being contacted by The Sun multiple times.
In 2018, even though she had split up with Edwards, she was arrested and accused of money laundering offences alongside him.
Bethany felt so stressed about the looming court case – as well as isolated after escaping her relationship, she fell into addiction.
"It's difficult to talk about but after everything that happened I became addicted to ketamine," she said.
"I didn't realize what I was doing to myself, but I just felt like I couldn't lose anything else because I already lost my reputation from being on the show, I had the trauma of this abusive relationship.
I lost all my self worth over 10 days in a TV show and an abusive partner."
"I felt like I was a massive disappointment. I felt embarrassed of myself and I shouldn't have felt like that. I lost all my self worth over 10 days in a TV show and an abusive partner.
"I had everything taken away from me over the space of three years. It was hell."
HITTING ROCK BOTTOM
Bethany became pregnant and gave birth to a little girl – and realised she needed to get help to overcome her addiction.
"I was depressed, I was suicidal. I knew that if I didn't get help I'd be dead," Bethany recalls.
"I felt so selfish having to leave my nine-month-old baby but the harsh truth was that if I didn't go to rehab she wouldn't have a mother for the rest of her life.
"I was depressed, I was suicidal. I knew that if I didn't get help I'd be dead."
"It broke my heart having to leave my baby girl, it was mental torture. But I didn't want to lose her. I checked myself into rehab and that's when I realised this is not rock bottom – I can still pull it back."
The charges against Bethany were dropped in 2020 and her case finally concluded last week. Edwards changed his plea to guilty on the charges of perverting the course of justice and acquiring or using criminal property in November 2020 and is yet to be sentenced, Bradford Crown Court confirmed.
Bethany is now studying psychology at Bradford University – and wants to help other people who have experienced trauma like she has.
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
"I left school with no GCSEs but I got into university because of what I've experienced and that's something to be proud of," she said.
"I think there’s such a stigma around addiction that people don’t want to admit to it but it could be somebody homeless on the street, or the multi billionaires I was in rehab with, people who had everything and more.
"It’s not a choice, when I was a child and somebody asked me what I wanted to be when I was older, I never replied with ‘an addict’, I wanted to be a barrister.
"It’s a disease, which ultimately results in jails, institutions or death, the sooner you ask for help, admit that you have a problem, the greater chance you have of being able to process your trauma and move on with your life.
"Now I'm focusing on making a future for me and my little girl."
If you think that you have a drug addiction then please contact your GP.
You can also visit FRANK for honest information about drugs and to find local treatment services.
If you are having trouble finding the right help, call the FRANK drugs helpline on 03001236600
Or click here to visit the NHS website for more advice and support
How you can get help
Women’s Aid has this advice for victims and their families:
- Always keep your phone nearby.
- Get in touch with charities for help, including the Women’s Aid live chat helpline and services such as SupportLine.
- If you are in danger, call 999.
- Familiarise yourself with the Silent Solution, reporting abuse without speaking down the phone, instead dialing “55”.
- Always keep some money on you, including change for a pay phone or bus fare.
- If you suspect your partner is about to attack you, try to go to a lower-risk area of the house – for example, where there is a way out and access to a telephone.
- Avoid the kitchen and garage, where there are likely to be knives or other weapons. Avoid rooms where you might become trapped, such as the bathroom, or where you might be shut into a cupboard or other small space.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, SupportLine is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6pm to 8pm on 01708 765200. The charity’s email support service is open weekdays and weekends during the crisis – [email protected].
Women’s Aid provides a live chat service – available weekdays from 8am-6pm and weekends 10am-6pm.
You can also call the freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.
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