Looking back now, I should have run a mile in the opposite direction as soon as I met my abuser. But nothing I noticed at the time raised any alarms. Due to sexual abuse in my childhood, I would not have been able to recognise the warnings of what was right or wrong in relationships anyway.
But here I am today sharing my story of survival from family violence.
The abuses I experienced were compounded as my ex-husband was not the only abuser in the marriage. His mother (my ex-mother-in-law) contributed significantly to my experiences of family violence.
These would include physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, financial, controlling, gas lighting, triangulation, minimising, blaming and denial of abusive behaviours, isolation, intimidation and torture of our children, our animals and myself.
It took seven attempts for me to be able to entirely escape from the stranglehold my abusers had over me. I cannot remember how many times I had desired to end the marriage.
How did I cope? Sometimes through disassociation, sometimes through surviving on medications for depression, sometimes starving myself or putting too much hope on him changing and far too much trust in his promises to change for the better.
There was no one specific abuse or event which was the deciding factor to leave. Instead, it was a gradual process between 2012 and 2014 of developing a new understanding of my abusers’ behaviours. This led to an increasing intolerance of abuse and an acceptance nothing will ever change if I did not make the change myself.
When I left…
I was already dead inside, and I knew I was going to die had I stayed. If not by him directly, it would have been from the chronic pain, insomnia and depression resulting from the family violence.
I had long given up hope of the change promised to us, I knew the only way change would come about was for me to act. Deciding to leave was the best change I ever made. Where I used to punish myself for going back to him or believing in his promises, now I celebrate my freedom from violence.
As an Advocate…
Being a Survivor Advocate, and a new one at that, I have already learned something. You know the cliché – “If I can save just one person then it will all be worth it”. On the first day of Survivor Advocate training, I learned a strength I had was of having been able to save myself. I did not really know if leaving was ever going to be possible. On the train ride home on the last day, I began thinking further into having saved myself from living with or dying from acts of family violence.
The most rewarding part of sharing my story is knowing I am not alone. Although each journey is different, there are numerous threads of shared feelings, shame, hurt, isolation and understanding.
Hearing the experiences of others creates a bond and a community of people who have come out the other side of violence against women. In doing so, we are standing up against the isolation and the silence which once ruled our lives.
To anyone reading this who is experiencing abuse…
I would say, you are worth more than what you are led to believe. You are worthy of living a life free from violence, fear and harm.
To the broader community…
I would like the broader community to know that just because a woman finally ends a violent relationship, it does not mean the abuse will immediately stop. Ongoing support and self-belief are essential for women who must continue fighting even after the relationship has ended.
While the abuser may not have the means to physically abuse in the ways they may have in the past, emotional and psychological forms of violence continue and can be just as damaging and painful to heal from as victims try to move on with their lives.
safe steps recognises that survivors have been among the most powerful activists for change regarding societal attitudes towards family violence. By courageously sharing their stories, survivors have raised community awareness about abuse in the home, and pushed for important political and sector reforms.
We share the stories of some of our safe steps Survivor Advocates to ensure their powerful experiences are heard by even more people, and honour the important contribution each woman has made as an advocate and an activist.