It seems if you turn on the television lately you’re confronted with another story of a woman being killed at the hands of someone she loved or once loved. In Victoria alone in 2013-14, police were called out to 65,393 domestic violence incidents; nearly twice as many as in 2009-10. Of that figure, nearly 30,000 were enough for police to have pressed charges. What is staggering, is that there were probably that many women again who did not report or seek help.
The 66 Statistic
In 2015, 66 women have died as a result of domestic violence. Let that figure sink in for just one second… that’s more than one woman a week. I know that domestic violence affects men as well. It isn’t a gender specific issue. Perhaps it isn’t reported as frequently, I just don’t remember hearing, or reading, about a man who had died at the hands of an abusive partner.
The specificity of the issue isn’t why I chose to write this blog. Each time I see a story reported on the news, it jolts memories in me and I wanted to relay my experience with this issue; if only to help one person remove themselves from a toxic environment.
Experiencing Domestic Violence
My first experience with domestic violence came when I was a pre-teen. I was aware that my parents fought, I just wasn’t aware of the extent of it until I saw it with my own eyes. I was babysitting my two nieces at the time whilst my sister was setting up a new business. I heard my parents start to argue and watched as my mother walked to the garage and got in the car. I figured she just wanted somewhere to try and hide from the diatribe that was being delivered her way.
That wasn’t the case.
I watched as my mother reversed out of our driveway. My father chasing her with, what seemed at the time, a branch that took him two hands to wield. She was on the road and he was chasing her with this branch threatening to hit the car with it. Then I watched as my mother drove away. I was 12.
I didn’t know what this man, who I had grown up worshipping, was capable of. I had my two nieces and my younger brother and sister completely distraught at what we had witnessed. I didn’t know what to do. So, I did the only thing I could think of. I rang my sister. I told her what I had seen. She clearly knew there was a history there because she told me to get the little kids and start walking up the road. She’d meet me.
Later, when my mother came to pick us up, I got in trouble for having caused such a fuss. What you may not realise… my mother NEVER drove a car. I didn’t think she even had a licence. My mother was petrified to the point that she got in a vehicle and left her three kids and two grandchildren. My mother was scared. Fight or flight kicked in and she chose the latter. My mother’s reaction to my seeking help was denial. Denying there was an issue made it easier to deal with.
But my eyes were open now; my innocence lost.
For the next fourteen years I would be my mother’s saviour; right up until the day before I went into hospital to have a baby. I cannot count on my hands the number of times I had to run down the road, barefoot, at 7am in the morning to try and get someone to help me stop him from hurting her. Him. My father.
I cannot recount accurately the number of times I wished that, when I came home from school, my mother would tell me that she was leaving. As a child you should never wish divorce upon your parents. I knew enough to know that their relationship wasn’t healthy. In any way.
I saw too much over this time. There were cuts that were ‘accidents’. There was never the “I walked into a door” scenario, but as good as. There were times I would step in for her and be berated for it; emotional abuse can sometimes leave scars deeper than that of physical abuse. But, I swore to myself. A promise, if you will. It was the pact to end all pacts. I would NEVER allow this to happen to me.
Until it did.
I had been seeing someone for twelve months. Long story short, he didn’t appreciate a compliment I received at a party to celebrate my birthday. By the end of the night, I had been physically, sexually and emotionally abused to the point that I looked in the mirror and saw a stranger looking back at me.
I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t. Fear raked my body. What if he woke up and did it again? I didn’t move from the place he left me. Not until he woke up and looked at me. Looked at me and asked why I had upset him to the point that he felt he had to do it.
And that was the beginning.
After that, as soon as I saw him with drink in hand, I knew that there would either be some form of bile spewing from his mouth in my direction or his anger would be taken out on me physically. Whether it be focussed on my weight, my clothes or just me in general. I began to believe what he would say to me. I didn’t deserve him. I was making his life difficult. I was lucky to have him love me when I was such a complete waste of space.
After more than three months of suffering at the hands of his abuse, I discovered that I was pregnant. This revelation, completely unplanned, was my motivation for wanting change. I thought it would be his too.
He was away with his friends when I found out. I set the scene; a nice dinner and evening to spend together upon his return. However, what walked in the door would be my worst nightmare.
He was drunk. So much so that I smelt it as soon as he opened the door. I smiled, for lack of a better response, and told him I was happy to see him. And that was when he unleashed on me. He was clever, he never hit where a mark could be seen. The abuse I suffered that night caused me to lose my baby. Someone I had only known about for 24 hours; but someone I needed to be my salvation.
That was the last time he touched me.
While he was passed out I left. When he woke the next day and started calling me, I answered only once, to inform him of the horror he had bestowed upon himself and me. I knew that I had hurt him by telling him over the phone, but I didn’t care. I didn’t see him much after that.
I didn’t date anyone for three years following that. I just couldn’t.
Don’t Stand in Judgement
So, while you might shake your head at the women (or men) you read about who suffer at the hands of someone they love, or at least thought they loved, consider for a moment just how hard it can be to walk away.
It’s hard to break up with someone when you love them. It’s harder still to break up with someone when they’ve beaten you down to the point that you think that the abuse is something that you deserve. Bit by bit, abusers chip away at your confidence until you don’t have any. That’s their power. They beat you down emotionally while they beat you physically. It isn’t something that I would wish on my worst enemy.
You may sit there and think you don’t know anyone who has ever had their partner raise a hand to them or treat them so poorly. None of my friends think they do. Domestic violence is far too prevalent in our society and it isn’t spoken about enough. I truly hope the tides are changing.
I look at people like Rosie Batty, who suffered the worst possible fate, and see their resolve and I think… we might just be okay. The fact that this woman can champion a cause that has taken the very thing she lived for is amazing. If she can help just one person walk away from a potentially life threatening incident, her job as Australian of the Year will be done.
I want to live in a world where I don’t hear about little girl’s being thrown off the West Gate Bridge, three brothers being driven into a dam, or any child having their life taken by the very person who created them in an attempt to hurt their other parent. I want people to be able to walk away from an abusive relationship and not have to hope that they won’t end up a statistic at the end of it. I don’t want them to have to stay for fear of the ultimate retribution being cast their way.
When someone breaks your resolve, when someone beats you down to the point you feel you have, or are, nothing… having any kind of person in your life makes you feel lucky. But, I know I am lucky because I didn’t end up like one of those 66 women this year who lost their lives at the hand of someone they trusted to never hurt them.
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PRIVATE GUEST BLOGGER
Every now and then we post blogs that are about quite sensitive subjects and the writers, while very much wanting to share their experiences to educate others, would prefer to stay anonymous. At Career Change Happens, we fully respect the need for privacy in these very delicate matters and would like to wholeheartedly thank everyone that contributes to the website.