You can hit me and emotionally abuse me, take everything from me, but you will never take my soul – that will always be mine. – Domestic violence survivor Brenda.
Brenda only became truly free when her abuser died ♥️
I was 15. He was 33. He made me abort our baby because he feared the law…
I met my partner when I was 15. He was 18 years older at 33. He was a friend of my friend’s mother. He was smart sophisticated and knew how to drink. Everything I was not allowed to do. The first party where I met him he had a girlfriend and also his ex-wife was there. She was with his friend.
That relationship did not last too long. I often walked past his house on my way to Saturday sports or a friend’s house. He stopped to talk to me a few times. It soon led to staying the afternoon and drinking gin. This was my first introduction to alcohol. The visits soon led to sex. He was my first. The secret visits lasted a few months until his flatmate found out and asked him to leave.
He moved to his own place further away. He would often come and find me on the way home from school and take me for rides on his motorbike ending back at his house for sex. Most of the talking was done by him all about himself and how bad his life and relationships had been. Within a few months I was pregnant. I was so naive. He wanted no part in it and wanted an abortion straight away.
His main concern was being arrested for carnal knowledge. He made me pay for half the cost. I had to borrow money from my sister – $170. That was a lot of money in 1981. What a mess I was. I cried for days. I was sore from the abortion and emotionally wasted. Mum found out because of the crying. The trauma was horrific. I was forced into this and had no idea how to cope.
It was exam time at school which i did not attend so failed all my subjects. I felt there was nowhere to go or anybody to turn to. He kept coming to find me and carried on having sex with no contraception. I still thought he was amazing and was so exciting to have a man take some notice of me. I got butterflies every time I saw him.
My mother forced to me marry another man to ‘keep the devil’ away…
A few months later I met another man while out with my sister. He asked me on a date. Mum wasn’t ecstatic I met this man. Apparently he was my savior from the devil. Wasn’t long before I was pregnant to this new man. He was only 10 years older. Mum gave me an ultimatum to marry him or my family would disown me.
He would also “kèep the devil away” (the other man). “No daughter of hers was going to have a baby out of wedlock”. So I married him. My daughter was born the following June. Wow what an amazing experience. It changed my life forever. I was so in love with her. I got so much support from my family that I had never had before. The marriage didn’t last long. My first partner was still coming to find me and stalking my house. He was also convinced my daughter was his. She wasn’t.
I would come to know and fear that look on his face…
I walked out and straight back to the devil. Life was exciting . Not knowing what was happening from one day to the next. Drinking was a big part of life. He was drunk everyday. I would have a few to relax and knew I had to stay in control. The violence started very early. He was out all day pub crawling with his brother one day. I went out with my brother and sister. We met school friends and went out for dinner. It was a fun night until i looked up. He was standing over me. He said “I am going home” and I was coming too. The look on his face was one I would come to know and fear.
When we got home he immediately took me in the bedroom and held me around my throat while he smashed the wardrobe door to pieces. I asked him to stop. That was when I got my first smash to my face. Blood everywhere. I went into shock and felt no pain. He told me everything was okay. His brother came home very soon after the attack.
He was horrified by the state I was in. His brother told him there is nothing wrong with me His brother showed me in the bathroom mirror. My lip was split wide open and my left cheek was swollen and bruised. I was rushed to hospital for six stitches to my lip. My daughter came home the next day from my mother’s house. She exclaimed “look mummy you have a spider on your lip”. I wished it was a spider. This was how life went on for the next few years.
Black eyes often – hidden with make up. Loads of drunken rages and drink-driving. I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone. Anybody who tried soon was the bad person. The tirade of abuse i heard about each person who was close to me became the norm. I recoiled into myself. Sat quietly and watched. I was so unsure what to do. I had nowhere to go. All this at 20 years old.
The day I went to heaven and woke up in hell…
One day in late October of 1987 he woke in a foul mood. He started drinking at 8am. A two-litre bottle of rum was the drink of the day. The night before he had tried to kill me while I was sleeping. He was naked and trying to strangle me and throw me outside the caravan we were living in. He ordered us in the car at lunch time. He wanted to travel three hours away to talk to his cousin.
He also asked the girl next door to come with us for a fun trip. She had a little girl the same age as my daughter and he thought would be good company. I remember getting in the car that day but no more . Apparently quite normal after huge trauma. He was drinking alcohol the whole way. Until we crashed head on. On a left-hand bend. We met the other car and crashed left to left. A family of six where in the other car. Their nine-year-old daughter was killed that day. I remember waking up in heaven. Or so I thought. The room was white. I saw my friends father walk past the door who had died three months before.
I will follow him to God. Turned out the man only looked like my friend’s father. The nurses explained what had happened. I was in a serious car accident and my partner was driving. They hadn’t assessed me yet and my blood pressure was dangerously low. They took me to see my partner who immediately asked if I remembered anything. He had five broken ribs and a broken wrist. I went into shock and felt nothing. Numb again.
My daughter had a broken rib and glass in her eye. The other girl took most of the impact and had every bone in both feet crushed. Her femur bone was replaced and her face was a mess. He never went to see her or say sorry. Apparently we swapped seats in the car two minutes before the accident. She remembered everything. There was also a witness following us for 10 km before the accident who gave evidence in court as to who was driving.
Turned out I am lucky to be alive.I dislocated my vertebrae in top of my neck. My neck fused back together so it is like that for life. I also damaged the middle of my spine. He spent three years in prison for killing a nine-year-old. He never showed remorse. He was still 20 years later telling people i was driving that day and he took the blame.
He beat me into submission then gave me a cloth to clean the blood up…
We ended up staying with his ex girlfriend after the accident. We apparently needed looking after. I could hardly move. My body was so sore. He never did anything for me. I ran around after him.Emotionally I was wrecked. I was talking on the phone one night. He was furious. He took me in the bathroom and beat me black and blue with the plaster cast on his arm as a weapon.
I really thought he was going to kill me. Blood everywhere. I had to get out. I kicked him as hard as I could in the groin. He didn’t feel a thing. And carried on. As suddenly as it started he stopped. He gave me a flannel to clean the blood from the walls and was like nothing had happened. He demanded sex that night too. The next day he took me to his cousin’s house on an island away from prying eyes. I really needed a doctor. My nose was broken and my whole face was swollen. I was unrecognizable.
His cousin was horrified but nothing was done. I fell pregnant around this time with my second daughter. He still drank while I was pregnant and i copped a lot of emotional abuse about body size etc. He tried once to attack me while pregnant but never did anything. I yelled at him for the first time. We moved a lot during this time and finally settled near his extended family and far away from mine.
The physical abuse was worse after my daughter was born. He snatched her from me one night. She was 6 weeks old. He barricaded himself and my baby in a room. He pushed a huge wooden wardrobe against the door plus a bed with him on it. The baby was screaming. I used all my strength to smash down the door. I finally made it. He was holding the baby upside down. She was.screaming. That was so strange I felt good because i fought back at last.
I was a great actress, always hiding my pain…
There was a lot of strangling until i blacked out on many occasions as well as punches to the head. I went to the doctor one day with a burst ear drum. The doctor knew it was from a big blow to my head. He just shook head. I spent many days in bed not able to move much. My body was so sore from bruising.
My eldest daughter often took over the mum role. She used to fear the silence that came after his rants and raves. I never screamed and suffered in silence. I learned to be a great actress when people were around. I knew the look he gave me. It still sends shivers through me.
He went to prison for a three-year sentence for dangerous driving causing death. I went into shock after the court hearing. The parents of the little girl were in the court room. He knew they were going to be there and he never told me. I shook uncontrollably all day. His cousin took me to the doctor for something to calm me down. I never took the pills I never wanted to rely on drugs to make myself better. This was my way out or so I thought.
When I needed my family, they let me down…
I moved back to my hometown. Hoping for support from family. I didn’t get a lot. Mum tried but it was all too much. One sister asked why I came back. I told her for support. She said I shouldn’t have. I battled on as a solo mother with two girls. The loneliness was like a big hole. I kept busy so I didn’t have to think about anything. I was taught from birth not to talk about anything. Let’s just sweep it under the carpet. I got myself a house brought with compensation from my car accident injuries. Life was starting to be a bit normal. I started making plans for my future.
My father died suddenly which brought up many unresolved problems on coping with stress. I had met a man and was having a casual relationship with.I fell pregnant but there was no way I was going to abort this baby. I had many health issues throughout my pregnancy and had growths in my womb. They were huge. I lost my daughter’s twin at 13 weeks. That was physically painful but emotionally I just carried on.
My abuser was out of prison the same time she was born. He arrived unannounced when she was three weeks old. I was suffering depression and only just coping. He of course was very supportive knowing I had none. He made life easier or so I thought. I moved back with him to his hometown. I really thought I was in control. I was getting emotional abuse constantly about leaving him in prison and killing our first child. My new daughter to him was replacing the first in his weird way.
The kids needed a father so I let him back into our life…
I was adamant if he hit me again I would leave. Things were OK for about a year. The kids needed a father. My relationship with my father was non existent so I had no idea really what one was. The physical abuse started with an argument. He went into his black rage and attacked me with a chefs knife.
He had the knife at my throat pinned to the floor. My eldest daughter could not cope with seeing any more abuse. She sent my second daughter in the room instead. She had heard the deafening silence that came with each attack and knew it was going to end in a good bashing. When my abuser saw my daughter he stopped and said it’s all okay and nothing was happening. This saved my life. I called the police for the first time. He threw me and all the kids outside and locked the door.
The police charged him and took him away.I was numb again. I got on with being busy. I was supposed to be in court as a witness. The police harassed me until the court day to turn up. I was threatened by the police who said I better turn up as so many battered wives do not. We were back together by then. He arranged for me to hide that day. The police came looking for me. I was petrified of turning up in court.
He used his cousin’s church to get off more prison time. We were ordered to go to counselling through the church. They stuck up for him. Nothing came out of it. He was just pleased he didn’t have to go to prison. He had and never did go to church or change. Never a sorry. I had my son after this. My last baby.
He could hit me, taunt me, try to kill me – but he would never take my soul…
The last beating was when my son was four months old. He took him from me while he was feeding and locked himself in the bedroom with him. He locked the door with a knife. Told me I was an unfit mother. I broke the door down and grabbed my son. He chased me into the lounge and bashed me up against the wall. I put my son on the couch as he would have been beaten too. I called the police again. They came and took him away.
The policeman stayed with me afterwards and talked. He said if he does this to you now he will start on the kids soon. This stuck with me and I started to really think about getting myself out. I told my abuser “you can hit me and emotionally abuse me, take everything from me, but you will never take my soul”. That will always be mine.
My chance to truly escape came. He got a job with the Salvation Army on an island for the drug and alcohol treatment department as a cook. I really thought this would be a turning point for him. No alcohol was allowed on the island. I home-schooled the kids and stayed for a year on the island. I went back to school myself and finished my last year. I loved learning. He tried to take over that to, telling me what to write.
I did a paper on social policy it really empowered me. He did start on the kids. He would wake them in the early hours because they had touched his remote. He would threaten them. My second daughter answered back. She was only eight. He beat her across the face and screamed abuse. He also thrashed my son for getting through a hole in the fence. He wouldn’t stop.
My escape plan took time but I broke free…
I planned my escape for a month slowly putting away clothes so he wouldn’t notice. I told my eldest daughter the plan. She was so happy. We had to make up a plausible story as to why we were going to town without him. He never let us go anywhere without him. The boat trip from the island left at 4am. I arranged the escape for a day he was working and couldn’t come. Phew.
We walked away with four bags of clothes and four kids. It was like escaping during a war. I watched the house for any sign of lights until it was out of view. The boat trip took three long hours. I never told a soul on the island. I arranged my friend to pick me up from ferry terminal.
I stayed with my friends for a few nights. Then I made my way up north to my sister’s house five hours away. I made the island his prison. I kept in touch with a counsellor on the island so I could monitor his movements. Life started. I felt free. Went to counselling for two years. I did a lot of psycho therapy. It was very empowering. I went to university and finished my diploma in social science. I started working part-time. Wow all these normal things. It was scary but so good. He eventually did follow me around the country. He would turn up at my mother’s house and kept in contact with mutual people. I was on my own for six years. I look back now and remember we had some fun.
My abuser died alone with nothing. I continue to thrive with everything…
I have been married now for 15 years . I met my husband by chance and been together ever since. When we met he lived next door to my ex. How ironic. He had heard the terrible stories about me from him. My ex continued to try and destroy me until his death three years ago. I moved countries times partly to escape from his constant contact. He told me I would never be anything. I told him to watch this space as I drew a square around my face. He died with nothing and very sick from alcoholism. ♥️
If you are in domestic violence crisis help is available from the Australia-wide telephone hotline 1800RESPECT. If you want to take part in the “Why I Stayed” project click here ♥️♥️♥️
Photograph by Sherele Moody © 2016.