“I thought I was being strong by enduring this life. I was wrong, I found my strength the day I walked out the door and drove my daughter away from a life of sexism, alcoholism and abuse”. Domestic violence survivor Emma.
Emma is a talented artist and a committed anti-domestic violence advocate ♥️
This is the tale of how I changed my life to make sure my daughter never knows violence…
This is my daughter’s story of how I said no more to the generational cycle of abuse and changed her future for the better. As I handed over his rolling papers I must of had a tear in my eye.
He locked onto it, “Oh I can’t believe you are doing this to me again. I can’t ask you one thing without you crying. This is why I can’t ask you to do anything,” he said.
As he continued to berate me, I began to wonder how did I get here, why had I stayed for so long?
We had met in 2010 when I was an industrial chemist. He was so much fun, was charming and so easy going with a wild side. He was also the best lover I had ever had. I had been newly divorced and wasn’t looking for anything serious.
My health had begun to deteriorate due to fibromyalgia and at that time, an undiagnosed disorder. I broke off the relationship as I didn’t want my ill health burdening someone else and I didn’t want to jump into anything too soon. I found myself thinking of him often so I re-established communication and we began dating. It moved along swiftly and within the year, we were living together.
New Year’s Eve, 2011, heralded the beginning of my descent into hell…
I had pain all over my body and my right leg was suffering the most. A specialist discovered that I had possible chronic osteomyelitis in my right tibia. It required two operations to remove a septic bone lesion and have the hole patched with a graft from my hip. I was on crutches for most of 2011 and was in a leg cast for 8 of those months. It was gruelling. He accepted my disability and cared for me when he was not at work.
I was totally dependent on him and my mother for a couple of months after the second surgery. Our relationship strained under the weight of it. My mum had noticed the amount of alcohol coming through the house, but I defended him. He was a pretty heavy drinker and had verbally abused me a number of times whilst drunk. I let it slip because I thought that it was due to the strain of me being a virtual cripple and needing constant care.
December, 2011 was a wonderful month. My cast came off and I had attained a new career as a content author. Finally, I could contribute to the relationship financially and I thought that might win back some respect from him. 2011 new year’s eve was going to be a blast. I had booked us a trip down to Sydney where we would stay with my best friend. Accommodation in Sydney for NYE is impossibly expensive so we opted to crash and my friends for the few days we were down there. The night was so much fun.
We spent it dancing and celebrating. On our return home everyone went to bed. I was tired and sore and ready to go to sleep. He wanted sex. I didn’t. It escalated quickly and I found myself fighting under his strength. I was anally raped. He knew he had done wrong, well at least I thought he did. I didn’t call the police, I didn’t tell my friend. Shame settled on my shoulders and I bared the burden until we got back to Brisbane. He told me he did it because he wanted to hurt me for making him sleep in some one’s lounge room.
I was trapped, pregnant and desperate to leave…
The next couple of weeks were a whirlwind of emotions. I wanted to leave, but I loved him. I felt betrayed, but I still loved him. I was ready to leave but had started to experience abdominal pain. A trip to the doctor revealed that I was pregnant. I wanted to leave, but now I couldn’t. He was excited, I was trapped and things were only going to get worse. Sex with him was unbearable.
He thought that I should just get over what had happened. In my second trimester, my obstetrician divulged to me that I had placenta previa. My placenta was partially covering my cervix. This meant that sex was off the table as it was too risky. I thought that I had a reprieve. I was naive. He decided that the obvious way around it was anal sex. His alcoholism was now unmistakable.
He would get drunk often and so begun his tirade of manipulation and dominance. If I refused anal sex, I would endure a drunken, narcissistic rage. I was being conditioned and forced into submission. I endured weeks, months of anal rape. I would try and stay as still as possible as to minimise any potential harm that would come to me or the baby that was developing inside of me. I cried. I cried for myself. I cried for the baby that would be brought into this. Four weeks out from due date I asked him to stay sober in case he needed to take me to hospital. He told people he was, but his “sober” still involved drinking.
A beautiful soul entered my dark, dark world…
I gave birth to a beautiful girl. My mother didn’t know it at the time, but she was my angel. In the years to come, my Mum would come over a lot to help look after my daughter and help me with the chores. I never told my Mum what was going on. Although I thought about it every day.
My father was also equally important. He reminded me of what a real man was. I grew up in his love and learned that there was nothing that I couldn’t achieve. He became and still is the most important male role model in my daughter’s life. The next two years were up and down. I struggled along, pushing my guilt, shame, and sadness to the back of my mind.
His parents were so proud of him settling down and having a family. My parent’s were happy in the notion that I was happy. I felt like I would be betraying everyone if I left him. I will not lie, there were good times in our relationship. He always told me that I was beautiful and would cook meals for us. Our days out to the beach were beautiful. I miss those moments of kindness and the love that I felt. But then I remember the juxtaposition of his actions.
He was never happy unless there was alcohol. He always had a bored, sour look on his face if he wasn’t at home drinking, smoking and watching TV. Every car trip ended with us stopping at a bottle-o. I wanted us to spend our daughter’s first Christmas at my parents place. He spent the whole night in the bedroom with our daughter. Later he told me that making him sleep at my parent’s place was like I was raping him. In what world is that comparable to what he did to me?
I needed booze to cope with his anger and his rapes…
His narcissistic rages were getting progressively worse and he mastered gas lighting. I was selfish, I took everyone for granted, I took him for granted, he had bought me a house and I was ungrateful, I was a horrible person, I was crazy. If I argued back, he would turn my words around and use them against me, if I shouted he would call me out of control, if I sat in silence I was not doing anything to talk things through, if I cried I was being over dramatic if I walked away I was not doing anything to make the relationship work and was giving up on us. There was nothing I could do other than meet his sexual needs or face his rages.
The only way I could bare to have sex with him was if I was drunk, so I drank with him on Friday nights. I struggled to keep up with him, the alcohol was ruining my body. My life had spiralled out of control. I had lost grip on what was a normal reality and had fallen into the perpetual motion of alcoholism and abuse which plagues his family. Now, our daughter was going to be another generation affected by apathy to a destructive pattern.
The defining moment that changed my life…
There was a defining moment for me. It happened after a night of drinking. I kept putting off going to bed because I didn’t want to have sex, nor did I want to get yelled at. So we drunk until the sun came up. Then we continued to drink through the morning. Suddenly, I had a moment of clarity and found myself in the passenger seat of the car, with my daughter in the back, outside of a liquor store a number of suburbs over. How the hell did we get there? I must of blacked out and had no memory.
I flipped out when he got back to the car. After we got home I told him that this had to stop, things had to change. I gave him the ultimatum, it was our daughter and me or the alcohol. He told me that he wasn’t going to stop drinking and that if I ever left, he would take our daughter.
He put me in my place and scared me beyond anything I had ever known. It was obvious that he was not ever going to change, so I decided that it was up to me to. I stopped drinking with him except for the occasional night when my parents would babysit overnight. His parents were not an option as my abuser strictly denied it due to his father’s alcoholism. Ironic.
I used art to show my daughter a beautiful side of life…
I began working on a massive art project that involved corsetry, fiber optic cable crochet, drawing and performance. It gave me purpose and direction and also allowed me to show my daughter positive actions rather than the negative. I wanted to show her that she could do anything if she put her mind to it. He was negating this by his sexist remarks, jokes and the pornographic imagery on his clothing. Our relationship began to wane.
It was apparent that the only thing that was keeping our relationship together was those alcohol fuelled nights. He continued to drive drunk to either get more alcohol or buy take away. I couldn’t stop him. He barely spent any time with us. He would get home from work then go straight to his parent’s place to drink. He was completely uninterested in our lives. Then something else started to happen.
Our daughter was climbing out of her cot. She was growing tall very quickly and was able to open the doors. Each night she would come into our bedroom and refused to leave. I ended up putting her mattress beside the bed because I was too exhausted to fight with her. This brought a whole new level of anguish. If she awoke in the night while we were having sex, he would get me to rock her to sleep while he continued. I will never forget her expression when she awoke in my arms and I was crying. Rocking my daughter to sleep is now one of my triggers.
This was wrecking me – this was wrecking my baby…
Each night I would take my daughter to bed, if my abuser would enter the room she would scream and say no. If he would put his arm over her, she would throw it off and get closer to me. She started to regress. She stopped wanting to eat solids and would often refuse food in place of milk from a bottle instead. She was also refusing to toilet train. I was the only person she would let change her nappy.
She was also very frugal with her affection towards her father. I begun to wonder that if she was trying to keep me safe at night. He was insistent on sexual contact whether she was awake or asleep. He wouldn’t stop if my girl as awake on the bed with us. He would instruct me to turn on the TV or put on the iPad for her. This was wrecking me, this was wrecking her. I’d try not to cry while he made me lye on my side watching her while he penetrated from behind. I didn’t want my daughter to think that anything was wrong. But it was.
He was grooming me, this was grooming our daughter too, de-sensitising her. He would make me give him a hand job while she was playing in our room, he would grope me in front of her. She was starting to grope me too because she thought it was just a game. On top of everything, he hated my friends. At my daughter’s third birthday party, all of my beautiful friends with their children came over to celebrate.
He was totally uninterested in our daughter and just got drunk with his best friend. After the party I faced his anger, I had let strangers into his home. He hated them all and called them arrogant. Last year my abuser landed a work from home job. The light of having my mum come around was now extinguished. I never felt comfortable inviting her over. I didn’t even feel like I could invite his own mother over.
He began working in his office but then started working everywhere but. Myself, my daughter and our dog were walking on egg shells. We couldn’t make noise. He constantly yelled at the dog who in turn began scratching and biting his tail red raw which would cause the abuser to yell at him even more. I don’t know when it started, but he had opened another bank account that I had no access too. He started transferring all of his wages from our joint account to this other one. All that would be left in the joint account was enough to just cover bills and a little for food.
His anger was increasing and I was terrified…
I had tried to leave one day. I had my daughter in the car but my abuser just opened the door and took her out and told her that I was sick in the head. He apologised but in the next breathe told me that he didn’t mean it. My leg was causing me so much pain again. Lumps had formed underneath the scar from my leg surgery.
I was placed on endone by my team of doctors. The pain in my body was extreme. I was also working tirelessly towards my solo exhibition that was over a year in the making. My opening was to be on a Friday and my operation to remove these masses was on the following Monday. My exhibition night was fantastic.
I performed a few songs and had a wonderful time. My abuser and I decided to head out to celebrate. We went to our favourite club and met a couple of people. We talked with them until the early morning hours. I went off to the toilet and when I came back, my abuser announced that these two men were going to come home with us to have sex with me. I was shocked, but not surprised.
Through our relationship he often talked of how he wanted to watch me have sex with someone else. I said no! He made one of the men kiss me. I apologised to the men and said good night. This sent my abuser into a such a rage. He began verbally attacking me. He yelled at me as we left the club, to the taxi and then in the half an hour taxi trip home. How dare I embarrass him, I was horrible to those men, we had talked to them all night and I just said no, then it moved back onto the normal repertoire. Things were different this time.
This was the first time he had done it in public. Now he had me cornered at the front door. I couldn’t get away. His anger was increasing and I was becoming more fearful of what was to happen next. I had my phone and I called his mum who lived just around the corner. I wish that I had called the police, but what were they going to do?
A small glimmer of hope fades as he swaps alcohol for drugs…
I couldn’t tell his mum anything. I was so ashamed. I slept for a couple of hours at her house then called my parents. I still didn’t tell them anything. After all that I still felt like I deserved it and he told me that it was just an argument. We were in contact via email. He offered for his parents to look after our daughter on the day of my operation. I was stupid and let her go back to him on the Sunday.
The moment I awoke from the operation, my first thought was of my daughter. I wanted to see her, to hold her. Luckily the lumps were just granulomas and didn’t involve the bone. So that afternoon I was excited for the return of my daughter. She didn’t come. He said that he would keep her that night and his mother would drop her back the next morning at 10. 10am came and went and I became extremely nervous.
He was keeping her. I’m sure he knew that I wouldn’t come back after what he had done. I said everything I needed to to get back to my daughter. Back to him. Things seemed to change. Miraculously, he stopped drinking! I couldn’t believe it. Maybe he was going to change for our daughter and me. I decided to forgive him yet again. It was short lived. He started to smoke synthetic cannabis. He tried to hide it at first, then didn’t.
I approached him about it and told him that I thought he was just giving up one vice for another. He told me he had it under control. The first thing he would do each morning was have a joint. He would continue to work and smoke outside. The house was stinking of it. Then he began using our daughter’s food bowls to prepare it in. I was furious. He was now also becoming more and more irritable.
His already condescending tone was being applied more and more. I was crying more and more. He had stopped seeing his parents and I seemed to be aggravating him more and more. His lack of empathy was disturbing. On boxing day I slipped on a wet tile and snapped a ligament in my foot. I had fainted. He gave me my crutches then went back to bed.
I spent four years living in fear and shame but now it was time to leave…
On the day before I left, I had forgotten to pick up his rolling papers. The next morning I was getting a grilling about whether I was going out or not. I put my daughter in the car and went out and bought them. I left her in the car while I went to give them to him. Why was I still standing there listening to his bull shit? I had resigned to the fact that this was going to be my life. Was this the life I wanted. Was this the life I wanted for my daughter? NO!
I had spent four years living in shame, guilt and silence. How many more was I willing to let this monster control? His moral bar had been lowering and lowering. He had broken down my boundaries. What else was he going to do to us? What else was he capable of? I had to protect my daughter before things got worse! I said, “I’m done”.
He blasted out more gas lighting manipulations but they were no longer working on me. I thought I was being strong by enduring this life. I was wrong, I found my strength the day I walked out the door and drove my daughter away from a life of sexism, alcoholism and abuse.
Now that I’m free I want to help other women escape their abusers…
I will never be silent again. Since leaving, my pain levels have dropped dramatically. I have decided to return to university to study a Bachelor of Law (Honors) and specialise in family law and domestic violence. I one day hope to be in a position to help other women to traverse post domestic violence legalities and help to change our states legislation regarding family violence.
I will also continue with my art and music and also help others heal with creative outlets. All the while, I will be watching my daughter grow into a strong, intelligent and wonderful individual living in a better world.
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.