“In the midst of all the turmoil I decided I was going to survive all of this, I was going to study and help women who had survived domestic violence”. Domestic violence survivor Cindy.
Cindy is using her experience to help change the world for women in crisis ♥️
A love found, a baby lost, a trust destroyed…
I met my violence ex after I had left my ex-husband and moved to Canberra. I was very vulnerable and he seemed to give me everything my previous relationship did not. He was charming and caring and loving. He complemented me all the time and was always showering me with adoration.
I had been in a marriage where I did not feel appreciated and my ex-husband did not share his emotions with me and did not tell me anything good about myself. I fell for this man hard and fast. I fell pregnant to him very quickly and that was very unexpected.
Tragically I had a stillborn when I was seven months pregnant. I wish I had run after the night I came home from the hospital after giving birth and saying goodbye to my baby girl. That night my partner insisted on having sex. I was gutted and confused and grieving and many other emotions going on but most of all I was blindsided.
Trapped in hell behind my own door and in my own bed…
Shortly after that he was evicted from his house so he moved into mine. (somehow this was my fault, I still don’t get why). Soon after that I was living in hell. My children weren’t good enough, I wasn’t good enough and nothing was good enough. He was addicted to marijuana and god help me if I didn’t have it ready when he got home. I was a terrible housekeeper, a terrible mother and everything was my fault. He would yell and scream and shout abuse at me all the time.
He would start screaming matches with me at least three or four times a week, eventually I didn’t argue back. He wanted sex every night regardless of how badly he had treated me because god help me if I didn’t comply there was more sexual abuse but I will not elaborate on that. There was also financial abuse, he refused to contribute to the bills, he helped with the rent when he felt like it.
He would not allow me to go shopping and do a full shop he wanted me to shop every day or so and he monitored what I bought to feed my children. He put very little money in for food because after all it was just his child and him eating.
I did all the cooking and cleaning with what I had and I did the best I could to feed everyone. Mind you he was a bricklayer and could earn quite a lot of money each week. His weed was more important than bills and food. Living in Canberra in winter is very expensive, I was left with around $4000 worth of gas and electricity bills for the time I spent with him.
New life heralds a hunt for a new life…
I fell pregnant again and then I knew I had to get out. After I fell pregnant things started to turn physical. He never actually hit me but he would throw me to the ground and push me around and push my children around. His son could do no wrong, my children could do no right.
I contacted a caseworker and she started to come and see, she put me onto a refuge and the fun began. I could not get into a refuge straight away and I found support services difficult to access because I was not weepy enough or shattered enough.
Mind you I was deathly ill with my pregnancy and I had 4 other children between the ages of 11 and 6. My caseworker stuck with me and supported me every step of the way for nearly two years. Eventually I could not take it anymore and I stopped paying rent and we were evicted. In my mind it was the only way to get him out of my house, he would not leave or he would leave and come crawling back and I would forgive him and take him back.
The fight of my life…
Now I was homeless, pregnant, sick and desperate. He secured a rental for him and his son and I had no choice but to stay with him. The refuge still did not have a space for me, I went to another refuge but they would not allow my two older boys there it was a difficult situation. Eventually I left so I could see my boys again and went back to his place. My mother knowing how sick I was, was trying to organise for me to come home to Queensland to have the baby and be in safety until the refuge had a place for me.
I was so very ill, I had gestational diabetes and hyperemesis gravidarium these two conditions together are a deadly combination. He kept threatening if I left him he would take the baby from me and he would make my life a living hell. I eventually got home to my mother with the help of my ex husband. Myself and my four children stayed with my brother and his wife and their three children.
I had the medical help I needed and a roof over my head, even though we were cramped we made it work. My doctor told my mother that she was going for a live mother because she was probably not going to get both, thankfully I got both. It was literally the fight of my life.
My life was in ruins…
There was still no place for me at the refuge so now I had to move in with my ex-husband. We were there for a few months before a refuge place eventually became available for me. It took me over six months to get a place and it wasn’t until well after my son was born. He was still abusing me at every opportunity as well as being nice to keep me. I was sick and confused and my life was in ruins. Eventually I got a department of housing house and finally I was not homeless. But I was not safe.
The abuse continued for another year, he would turn up at my house and yell and scream out the front of my house, he would turn up and abuse me as he desired, he would use my son and access to him to make my life a living hell. He threatened to have my son removed constantly. Again I could not take it any more so my mother helped me leave Canberra and come back home to Brisbane. Yep I was homeless again but I was safe.
The first custody battle ensued and he tried to have me moved back to Canberra. I was living with my brother and his wife again and their five children. 10 Children and three adults in the one house but we made it work. I got a job six months after getting back to Brisbane and a house followed shortly after.
He was still calling me and abusing me over the phone but I learned to hang up on him and told him if he continued to scream at me I would hang up, eventually he got the picture. It took us 18 months to fight the custody case and I won full custody of my son with him to have regular access on holidays but my son had to fly to Canberra, first with one of us and then eventually on his own.
I’m a survivor, no matter what he does…
In the midst of all the turmoil I decided I was going to survive all of this, I was going to study and help women who had survived domestic violence. After I worked my way up to assistant manager at the Subway I worked at I found the confidence to embark on higher education.
I gained my Diploma of Community Services Work, fought another custody battle for my son after my ex kept him on one of the visits. I won that case as well. After I obtained my diploma I went to university and started a Bachelor of Human Services which I study to this day.
I have also started an organisation that aims to fully support victims of domestic violence through the higher education process with a view to breaking the cycle of poverty that survivors often are faced with and to also empower them to break the cycle of violence in their lives.
I am still a single mum but I now have a loving partner that supports me and loves me for who I am. As a result of the trauma I am quite happy to keep out living arrangements separate because I feel in control of my own life and I will never allow anyone to have that much control over me again.
Why I stayed…
Why did I keep going back? I stayed because I had nowhere to go, he was good at making me believe it was all my fault, I would have no money, I didn’t want to sleep in my car, I was gravely ill and I was pregnant, I was also grieving the death of my baby girl. It all happened so fast. I kept going back because he had a house and I had no where to go. I will never go back again.
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.