Please call 000 if you, or someone you know, is in danger
I have been trying to write this blog for over a year, and every time I tried, I would close the laptop, walk away and not return. I’ve never been shy in admitting that this blog started as a bit of therapy for me -a way for me to talk about the things I have experienced and see if that could help someone else. So why publish now? I was scrolling through Instagram yesterday and I saw a young woman (quite influential in the social media world) stating that she “doesn’t feel sorry” for women who don’t leave an abusive relationship. She claimed that she doesn’t “feel sorry for these types of girls” and that they should “make something of their lives”. At first I was angry – and then I became saddened. Saddened because she was a woman not supporting other women, and saddened that someone who was being followed by so many young women – was expressing such harmful and ill educated words. So NOW I will share MY story. It is not easy to read, it is quite confronting in parts, however I feel it shows WHY women don’t leave, even when they have the opportunity. It’s not always fear or finances that stop a woman leaving- it’s often the beleif that SHE is the problem, it is often because SHE has no self esteem left it is often because SHE doesn’t know how to live a life not being manipulated and controlled by this person and because SHE doesn’t even realise that she IS being manipulated, in the first place. So here it is and I hope beyond hope that if anyone else has the opinion of the above, unnamed, “influencer” that this provides a little bit of clarity.
As a little girl I would spend many hours a day dreaming about what my life would be like as an adult. In my fantasy world I was a famous stage and screen actress spending every day doing what I loved – performing. I was also married with two children and had a beautiful home that I had decorated myself with yellow and blue paint and lots and lots of dolphin pictures (I never said I was going to be an interior designer!) I was going to live happily ever after with a man who loved me and wanted me endlessly. I didn’t realise it then ,but I had 100% based the success of my dreams on whether I found a man to love me!
In high school I had ‘boyfriends’ but nothing serious and no one I even really liked! At 14, in Year 9, I was asked out by a boy, who REALLY liked me and all though I didn’t REALLY like him – I liked that he liked ME. I thought it would be cute – someone to call of a night time, someone who wanted to hang around me and tell me I was pretty, and I think I liked the idea of a boyfriend, much more than I actually liked having one! I liked the idea of being loved, clearly something I hadn’t dealt with from childhood, and the way he REALLY liked me- well it made me feel good. He would write me love letters and leave them in my locker, bring me single stem roses, walk me to my train every day after school and often caught the train all the way home with me, to keep me company, and then catch it all the way home. Every recess and lunch he was there, every day after school he waited for me, every night he would call and ask what I was doing and could he come along (even if it was shopping with my girlfriends!) and as much as I loved, feeling loved, I began to feel smothered. I asked him to tone it down a little and give me some space to spend some more time with my friends. I think I actually wrote it in a letter and the next time I saw him- he completely ignored me. As I walked past him in the school grounds , I would say hello, only to receive a death stare in response, he stopped calling, the little notes stopped and he had gone from obsessive, to completely indifferent! I was confused, but mostly I didn’t like how being treated as if I didn’t exist, made me feel. He soon let me know that he would not come second to my friends – I missed the way he made me feel when he wasn’t ignoring me, and I confused that with liking him. So, I let him back in and said sorry, and that was my first big mistake. He had waved a red flag, and I missed it or chose to ignore it and blame myself for making him upset.
The first time he “physically” hurt me was at school down the back of the school oval. I can’t even remember how it started or what we had argued about, but he pushed me – he pushed me so hard that I fell and rolled backwards into the fence. My peers were standing there when it happened, yet no one offered to help me up, no one told him not to do that, so I got myself up, dusted the grass off my school uniform and walked away, tears stinging my eyes and arms crossed protectively across my flat chest. I felt humiliated and worthless – no one cared so it must have been my fault…. right? I’m the piece of crap with no value that people were happy to look at in a heap, on the grass, down the back of the oval. He was older, much bigger and a bully…. but I blamed myself – I’d blamed myself for many things in my life that had happened prior to meeting this “man”, so I was going to be an easy target for this abusive person. This was the beginning of years of physical, sexual, emotional, mental and verbal abuse.
As time went by – I felt myself becoming increasingly dependant on him. If he ignored me at school, I would spend all day in a panic wondering what I may have done wrong and trying to do everything in my power to please him. Had I spoken to another boy? Had a looked at another boy? Did I forget to find him at lunchtime? Was there a question in his note I’d forgotten to answer??He knew my insecurities and would use them against me by pointing out other girls with his mates, whilst holding my hand, teasing my body whilst his mates laughed and teased it too. Slowly, little by little, my self esteem reduced to only valuing myself on his opinion of me and trying so hard to please him. Not just trying but actually needing him to want me and dreading the next time he didn’t.
If I ever defended myself or talked back – it would only end badly for me. Not just physically but emotionally too. If he didn’t hit me, he would ignore me, give me the silent treatment, look at me as though I disgusted him – and he’s all I had by now. I was treating my entire family terribly, sneaking out to see him, running away to stay with him and no longer had any friends. Sometimes he would hit me just because I’d talk about going back home. Sometimes he would hit me because I said I didn’t want to have sex. He would hit me until I “changed my mind” (yes…… your boyfriend CAN rape you)
The physical abuse was tough – I was tiny and 15, he was 16/17 and he would punch my arms, legs, hands and feet so no one would see my bruises (hands and feet don’t bruise easily but hurt A LOT) One time I remember we had gotten off the bus and he was so ANGRY at me ( I think I may have smiled at someone to be polite – a male) that his chest was heaving, his eyes were huge and wild and with all muscles flexed and his fists clenched – I was terrified! We made it to the beginning of his driveway, and I whimpered “I’m not going in there” – he stormed towards me, grabbed me by my hair and dragged me up the driveway spitting angrily as he yelled at me “you stupid whore!”. Once inside I was kicked down the stairs into his room, punched, strangled and stood on – all whilst his Dad sat on the lounge yelling “oi! Pack it in you two! Be quiet!”
That night I lay broken and bruised as he used me however he saw fit – as I was lying next to him in bed I was planning on climbing out his window whilst he slept and making my way back to mum and dads. Those thoughts were cut short as a knife was driven into the wall just above my head “don’t leave” – were the only words he said. I was still just a 15-year-old girl who was no longer day dreaming of a life on stage with the perfect house, children and marriage but daydreaming of a life where she celebrated her 16th birthday ( I honestly didn’t think I was going to live to that age)
So, at this point you are thinking – ‘you left then right?’ Sadly – No. The next morning, he showered me in love and affection and made me feel so special. He assured me that he only did these things because he loved me and if he didn’t love me so much, he wouldn’t hurt me. He explained that if I was different then he wouldn’t do it. If I could just change then he wouldn’t have to hurt me. So, I worked on being “better” so that he wouldn’t be driven to hurt me. It was a vicious cycle of abuse followed by his adoring love for the days that followed. I began to dread the abuse but long for the aftermath.
You must also be thinking “Surely people knew?!’ Some year 12 students commented on my upper arms bruises once, when I had to change into a dress for photography, but my excuse of being clumsy seem to hold them. His dad very clearly knew – but didn’t care, so added to my feelings of deserving it. He was sporty and popular, charismatic and funny – no one would EVER have suspected this of him. I dropped hints to my parents but what parent would ever think that their 15-year-old daughter was being abused by her 16-year-old boyfriend! I hoped that if my parents knew maybe THEY would believe me so, one cold winters night, I purposely wore summer pyjamas that showed my arms legs and chest (yes, I was bruised there too) and went into the kitchen where my dad was. He asked the question …. I told him the answer and, together with my mum, they took me to the hospital and called the police. The ER doctor had a diagram of the female form and had drawn circles where I had new and old bruising, bumps lumps and scratches. They asked how I got the bruise on my chest and I explained I had been kicked. They showed me where the sternum was in relation to where I’d been kicked and said I was lucky to be alive. They asked about the light yellow, barely visible , bruises on my neck and I explained I had been strangled, naked on the floor, until I passed out. They said I was lucky to be alive. They asked about the bumps on my head and I explained that he would hit me on my head because he didn’t want bruises on my face to be seen. They said I was lucky to be alive. I then explained how I had pushed his buttons, that I started it – that it was my fault. He loved me, if I wasn’t so emotional and mouthy he wouldn’t have done it. I was there being questioned, photographed and poked and prodded until daylight but I didn’t feel relief at finally revealing what I had been going through for the past year. I felt guilty! I felt like I had betrayed him and was so worried that he was going to get into trouble. I felt responsible and angry at myself for ever putting on those stupid pyjamas!
A restraining order was taken out against him and we had to attend school at different times. By now many people at school had heard the news and BLAMED ME! They were angry at ME! They thought I had made it all up as there was no way such an amazing guy could have done these things. My parents seemed mad at me – I now realise they were going through their own grief – everyone at school was mad at me and the one person who I felt loved me , wasn’t allowed within 100 metres of me and I’d been the one to do it!
He found me one afternoon at the train station after school. He was there waiting and I was so happy to see him and see that he wasn’t angry at me for ruining everything and getting him into trouble! he was crying and threatening suicide. He said he couldn’t live without me, that he was sorry, that we had both changed and it would never happen again. He told me would run away and live together, get married and have the babies I wanted – he even had a ring . I was so relieved that he wasn’t angry at me, I was so relieved to lose the feeling of guilt ,that I just walked right back into his arms. I left school and secretly lived in his bedroom, sneaking out to go to the bathroom only when his dad was asleep or at work. I ate dry bread and raw noodles because I was too scared to venture out of the room , in case I was seen. If I ever tried to break up with him or leave, he would threaten suicide or murder suicide, and in one instance even drew blood on his neck with a knife to prove his point.
I’d go for a walks, as I enjoyed the time to think, keep fit and daydream, but he would follow me to make sure I wasn’t secretly meeting other men and I was too scared to go for a walk when he was at work, in case he found out, so I hid in the room. The abuse continued but started to become less and less often as I he now had full control of me under his roof. I had nowhere to go so he didn’t need to threaten me to not to leave -Every now and again I would be vocal in a disagreement and he would throw me around but he had started to become indifferent and I found myself WANTING him to hit me – I mean he said he only did it because he loved me and now, he wasn’t. Why? Didn’t he love me anymore? THIS is how much the abuse affects you mentally – your judgement – YOUR ABILITY TO JUST WALK AWAY
I was just 17 when I found out I was pregnant, and I was overjoyed. He was basically ignoring me now and I didn’t care because I was going to have my own little person to love and treasure and I was going to do a damn good job at raising her! In my head everything was going to be fine now, and we were going to be a happy family with 2 kids, a house and maybe a dog! I moved us out of his Dads house and into a family home and became quite the “Susie homemaker”, decorating the house (yep…lots of dolphins and yellow and blue!), cooking, cleaning, laundry – I loved it. He was barely home anymore – I suspected he was out cheating/having affairs but whenever I questioned him, he would yell at me for being so annoying and paranoid. He would tell me that I was crazy and then go back out again.
By the time my baby was 2 I had returned to part time modelling and acting, and this meek little mouse was making friends. He was happily off having affairs and leaving me alone, assuming I was trapped and not fearing I would leave. I had a very low opinion of myself and my worth, so still had doubt in my mind that he was cheating even though the evidence was overwhelming. When he finally admitted to sleeping with a stranger next door, I told him to leave and told him we would talk about it another day, just to calmly get him out of the house. He came over one night to “talk” and when he realised, I was standing my ground and wanted this relationship over, he hit me so hard I temporarily lost my hearing and couldn’t see straight. I wasn’t expecting it as he hadn’t hit me for so long and very rarely in the face – but I felt different inside. Having a baby girl to look out for I was angry and was not going to let this happen again! He tied me up like a dog and slept on and off – letting me go to the bathroom but not letting me close the door – which humiliated me but I kept quiet as I needed him to leave. My daughter was coming home from a sleep over at her grandparents and I didn’t want her, or my parents to see me like this. I was embarrassed and ashamed and yet I felt STRONGER than I had in the past. I kept the peace temporarily the next day so he wouldn’t hurt me , BUT I was fighting back! I had the fire in my belly because now I was a MOTHER, now I had WORTH, now I had PURPOSE, now I had so much MORE to fight for, other than myself (although myself was ALWAYS enough) I had to teach my daughter about love, respect and what strong independent women looked like and I couldn’t do that unless I WOKE UP!
It wasn’t easy breaking the chains from this relationship. I had those days where I felt guilty again, where I temporarily believed his words that things would be different if he came back, where I longed for the love and the fantasy family in my head. I struggled with my own identity and I struggled with his harassment, verbal and mental abuse that continued post break up. But I finally let my family back into my life and with their support I stayed strong. I continued to work part time and saw a doctor for my mental recovery (which is still a work in progress) and I just enjoyed my little girl and the new friends I had made.
At 23 years old, 9 years after it all began, I was finally free! He eventually left us alone completely immersing himself in one-night stands and football and stopped turning up to his supervised visits (I never stopped him from seeing his daughter and he even had legal scheduled supervised visits) – He never answered another text message, never returned another phone call and I never saw or heard from him again. I know he received a suspended sentence a few years later for holding his girlfriend hostage in her house and physically and sexually assaulting her and I could only shed a quiet tear for that poor girl and her shattered soul. I had been that girl…. but I wasn’t anymore!
Not everyone has the support that I did (family) but there was no social media back then, no support groups, no google and I had no clue where I could go for help.. So, I share this story knowing that someone may be in a similar situation reading this.. Maybe a mother is recognising something from this article in her own child (daughter OR son), or maybe they WERE me and escaped too but are feeling lost. Escape and reclaiming YOU is possible – you are not a slave to his abuse for the rest of your life I promise!
There is life after Domestic violence – an amazing life. It might not be all lollipops and rainbows (or dolphins and blue paint) but it is a real life full of joy and love and purpose and its waiting for you. You don’t have to do it alone – please see the below links (Australia) or reach out to your loved ones.
1800RESPECT – open 24 hours. Call or visit the website and chat online
LIFELINE – 13 11 14
White Ribbon – Click here to be taken to the domestic violence hotline pages