“He didn’t kill me, he did not ruin me, and in the end he just made me stronger, not harder, just stronger”. Domestic violence survivor Karla.
Karla believes every woman has the strength to break free ♥️
Here is my story, but will you understand?
Everyone’s story is a little hard to tell. We find ourselves asking, even if we try to explain will you understand? Can I put my story into the right words so you will understand? Is my story even worth telling?
I never thought my story was worth telling, but here goes.
My story is recent and the justice system is still turning the wheels slowly, so I do not yet know whether I feel safe or not. I left my husband 15 months ago with my two daughters aged 10 and 12. I knew my marriage was not healthy, what I didn’t expect was to be left with so little.
I found myself with no home, no job and no money. It is these circumstances that let ‘him’ in to my life, he came across as everything my ex-husband wasn’t. The ‘great guy’ with the stable job, financially secure, adored the ground I walked on, loved my girls and had no problem communicating that love to myself and the girls over and over again.
Every time he came around he brought flowers and wine or chocolate. We actually had to buy another vase to accommodate all the flowers. At first it was far too soon out of my marriage and I didn’t want to parade it in front of my girls, but he was even content to come over after they’d gone to bed just to see me. I finally got a rental which I was sure I couldn’t afford it, he’d told me not to worry that he would help me. Unable to afford removalists, he helped me move into the house using cars and a trailer he had borrowed, we moved a four-bedroom house full of furniture on our own in two days.
Two months after moving, I got a job and began working full-time. Then just three months in to our relationship his settlement with his now ex-wife finalised, leaving him homeless. I said it was too early to move in, he begged, pleaded and made out that he had nowhere else that he could possibly go. Eventually I caved to his reasoning about how much money we would have with two incomes and just the one home. Besides, surely we knew by now how much we liked each other.
Those alarm bells just kept on ringing…
Even from the beginning of our relationship the alarm bells were ringing, I ignored them passing them off as new relationship jitters. Looking back it felt wrong from the moment he moved in, however I did not listen to the warning bells ringing in my ears. I kept telling myself that things would settle down once he moved in, but instead they got worse. The accusations started, all of the men I was supposedly sleeping with, from my work colleagues, to my ex-husband and basically any other male in my life.
Even accusing me of sleeping with a long standing gay friend whom I’d had dinner with whilst he was visiting from out of town. The name calling was the most degrading of all. He would keep me awake for hours, barricaded in my room until into the early hours of the morning with his tirades about how I must be cheating on him with every guy I’d ever met and calling me names. His favourite thing to say was “What about me?” He’d helped me move, he was paying for the roof over our heads. Yet by the time I got him out of my life it turned out I was 4 weeks behind in rent.
My car broke down, it’s okay he said, I’ll help you pay off another one. I like that necklace, then let’s get it, I’ll pay it off for you. I’ll just skip a week’s rent this week, and pay the extra next fortnight. That way we can throw a big party for your daughter’s 13th birthday, it’s a special day given she’s becoming a teenager after all.
Isolation starts so slowly, then it consumes your life…
One time I went to pick up the girls from their Dad’s; he’d invited me in for a glass of wine. Why not right? We should get on for the sake of the girls. When I got home, he started in at me and that was a long night. I began missing friend’s drinks, bbq’s or parties, it was just easier. He would always turn it around on me, “You go, I’ll just stay here. They’re not my friends, they don’t want me around”, on and on it went until I just didn’t go.
I stopped doing overtime at work to avoid the argument of why I was late. I agreed to let him pick me up from my work Christmas party at 9pm. I left my phone unlocked, but still the accusations came flying. I must delete all the messages, I must be sleeping with these guys during work hours. I could not wear the right clothes to work, he accused me of dressing too sexy so there must be a guy at work.
Walking through shopping centre’s he always commented on the guys looking at me. Slowly I retreated from going out into public unless absolutely necessary. I went to Melbourne Cup luncheon with my work team, he accused me of lying and that my work mate standing behind in the photos must have his hand on my arse.
He showed me love by taking it out on my body…
The first time he physically me hurt was early December. He detained me in my bedroom, this was something he had done many times so I was not scared at first, just very tired. He started yelling and throwing objects at me, I tried to get away. I tried just lying on my bed and going to sleep, he ripped the sheets and pillows off the bed. He tried to hold me down; he restrained me by gripping me round my wrists, around my arms. Eventually I calmed him down, by asking him what more he wanted from me.
His answer “Prove to me you love me”, as if living with him and sleeping next to him every single night wasn’t enough. His idea of proving I loved him was a sexual act. That night I got two hours sleep, going to work the next morning sore with bruises all the way up both arms and on my breasts. A couple of days later I had my youngest daughter’s primary school graduation party, I could not wear the dress I’d planned to wear as the bruises on my arms were too obvious. I never left his side. I acted like the loving couple we were supposed to be.
Christmas Eve brought another big fight. Again there were many hours of yelling, name calling, throwing things at me and threats of hanging himself. He actually made a noose and hung it from the beams in the roof, it hung down from the manhole in my garage. The threats of, if he couldn’t have me he’d rather die, as he had nothing else to live for. After just two hours sleep and degrading myself sexually so he would calm down. I woke up and got ready for Christmas day, telling him we’d talk later but he needed to move out. Christmas day was not the time or place to discuss matters, but as always we never got around to having that discussion.
The night I though I would die…
One Saturday in early January he consumed a great amount of alcohol, and was in a foul mood. I told him he had to go, he had to leave, and thus ensued the night we now refer to as ‘the incident’. The now usual barricading me in the bedroom, but this time I was sure, I wanted out. He pushed me down on the bed, I kicked him between the legs and made a run for the door.
However he put his hands around my throat and squeezed until I was back on the bed. I kicked him between the legs again and tried to get up but is hands went back around my throat. I actually thought this is it for me. My 11-year-old daughter (now my savior and a hero) tried to come into our room causing him to jump away, but the yelling had not stopped. Now I had to keep this away from her too. I grabbed my phone to call the police, he took it away from me. My daughter and I made it out of the room and into the kitchen, I grabbed the house phone but he took that too.
My daughter eventually ended up getting to a phone and called the police. He heard her on the phone and pleaded with me ‘Don’t do this, it will be the end of me, I’ll be ruined.’ But I would not back down this time. He has been in custody ever since. My daughter accompanying me in an ambulance to the hospital.
He was in my life far too long…
My story is not one that involves many years of physical abuse. I got out early, but it was still far too long. Does it make an easier recovery? Honestly I have nothing to compare it too! But of course I have struggled, and still do. The panic attacks, the cold fear that runs through me when someone touches my neck. I did not leave my house alone at night for 6 weeks. Even though I know he is in custody so he can’t get to me, I wonder how many other men could hurt me.
Why I stayed…
Why did I stay? There is not one reason, there are many. Financially I thought I needed him. At first I thought his threats of suicide were real, I couldn’t be responsible for someone taking their life. I thought I didn’t deserve any better, a mentality that my ex-husband had left me with. My youngest daughter loved him and I didn’t think I could take her male role model out of her life twice within a year. But ultimately, it all boils down to the fact that I didn’t think I deserved better. I left an unhealthy marriage, because I thought I deserved more. Yet later I was left thinking that I’d been wrong, that the relationship I’d had in my marriage was as good as it gets. I’d stuffed up, I only had myself to blame.
I of course know different now. I still am learning what a healthy relationship is about. I am learning about what I deserve, what my girls deserve. And most of all, we are learning how to be happy again. New realities about what we have actually been through and how wrong that is do still sometimes breaks us. We struggle some days more than others, but with every day we grow stronger.
I thought the whole time that keeping it away from my girls was a proud Mum moment. I have learned that the guilt they carry, for living in the same house and not knowing the extent of what was going on caused them to worry a lot, and now it pains their hearts and their bodies are racked with guilt. Talk about a lose/lose situation! Time will heal us, good friends, family and positive people around us.
But now we are armed with the knowledge that we are stronger, and we need to rely on no man for anything. We have each other and the mother daughter bond is stronger and more powerful than any man can try to break.
Through counseling and talking things through with family and friends, I have learnt a great deal over the last couple of months. Primarily that this was not my first domestic violent relationship, that abuse in relationships can come in many forms, not only physical but verbal, emotional and financial None of these are normal, nor healthy and I do not need to put up with that and I do not deserve it!
I see the best in everyone even at their worst…
I’ve also been told that I have a rescue complex. Some people call it a hero complex; others tell me I just manage to see the best in everyone. Whatever it is, at the crux of it all I know I think everyone can change with the right support and love, and as such I tend to see the best in people, even though their history and past tell me different. I’ve often been told I’m too nice.
I don’t know how much of this is true; however what I do know is that history proves that I attract a certain type of male. I do not want to attract this type of male anymore. I choose to be positive and moving forward I listen to those alarm bells, I look for the signs and I do not discount them. I choose to be stronger, but not harder! I’m being more selective in the people I have surrounding me and the level of influence they have on and in my life.
I am more forthcoming in letting the wrong males know that they are not the one for me, and no I do not want to even consider dating them to find out. It has been a struggle, financially and emotionally, I have learnt so much about myself and I’m finally starting to smile and be happy, and I want to remain that way as I continue to heal and grow strong as do my girls. I hope I never stop!
He did not kill me! He made me stronger!
I am now ready to move onto the next chapter in my life, I do not want to be seen as the victim anymore. My internal scars will always remain, and my voice box will always have some permanent damage that alters my voice. I have a tattoo to remind me never to forget, because at the height of the violence, the thing I remember the most is how exhausted I was and how much I just wanted to give up. I gave up my friends; I could never even ring my own sister without having to face consequences that I was too tired to contemplate.
But the thing I am most ashamed of is not that I didn’t see his manipulation, but in the end I nearly gave up, through sheer exhaustion and not wanting to live that life anymore. The worst part is remembering telling him to go ahead and kill me, to give it his best shot. I told him he was only going to get one chance, and that’s all I gave. He may have hurt me before that, but that was the first and last time he threatened my life. He didn’t kill me, he did not ruin me, and in the end he just made me stronger, not harder, just stronger. ♥️
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.