I met my ex-husband when I was 20 years old. He was good looking, popular and had a very outgoing personality. Our relationship became serious very quickly. He spoilt me with gifts and I loved his family and was made to feel very welcome from the beginning. I thought he was perfect.
Looking back, I remember him being obsessive and jealous. I learnt to never look or talk to another male. He often got into fights over men looking at me. Although I always hated the violence, I thought this was cute and was flattered that he must really like me to get so angry.
Before I knew it, we moved in together. He decided we should have a baby and being young and naïve, I agreed. Soon, I was pregnant. It wasn’t long after that the physical stuff started. The first time was a belt around my neck. I thought he was going to kill me.
The next day, I begged for his forgiveness for upsetting him so much. I received flowers and letters and was showered in love for a few days. I thought it was a one off. And so began my next 20 years.
The abuse kept up but each time I was reassured it would stop if I just changed my ways. I always believed if I don’t say that again, do that again, wear that again, speak to them again, argue back, stick up for myself, put my kids first, contact the friends and family he didn’t like, stay out shopping for too long, not have dinner ready on time, not cook the same thing twice in a week then things will change.
They didn’t, and I stayed and had 3 more kids. They were my life and kept me going. I never told anyone. I was too scared. We looked like the perfect family. Nice house, nice car, nice friends.
I hid the bruises – they were usually not visible anyway as he made sure they were on my arms, stomach, legs and head. I lied about my broken cheek bone. I covered up for him.
I used to hope and day dream that he would leave me or even worse that he would die in an accident. That seemed like my only way out. He would threaten that he would kill me or take the kids. After years of being put down and made to feel ugly and dumb I believed him.
When I left…
Eventually I realised how much the kids were affected. He started to treat my eldest daughter the same way. My son began sticking up for me and would get dragged to his room and belted. Eventually they were begging me to leave. So, I made plans. I secretly set up a house. While he was at work, I packed the car and the kids and left. I remember how happy we all were that first night in our tiny house with no furniture and a few hand me downs, but we were free. Although I honestly feared for our lives it was the best thing I ever did.
It was a hard few years with intervention orders (which he ignored) lots of police visits. Lots of running away in the middle of the night. Lots of sleepless nights, hysterical kids, phone calls of abuse and threats from him.
I am in a happy loving relationship with a man who treats me with respect and as an equal which has shown my kids what a real relationship should be. I work full time in a job I love and have many friends whom I get to choose. We did it tough for a long time but I am really proud of what my kids and myself have achieved.
As an Advocate…
I have grown so much since becoming a survivor advocate. I feel so passionate about getting the message out there. I have met some amazing ladies and we have shared our experiences. I have learnt to understand so much more about family violence and I have finally been able to voice my story and not feel alone.
To the broader community…
This can be happening to anyone. Any race, any age, any financial status, any suburb, any occupation, anyone! If you suspect this is happening to a friend or family member…ASK them! Sometimes all they need is to know they have someone to talk to and support them.
To anyone reading this who is experiencing abuse…
If this is happening to you seek help as it is so much more available now than when I needed it. If I left and survived, then you can.