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This is Sandy’s Story ♥️

“I want other women to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it does flicker a bit sometimes”. Domestic violence survivor Sandy.

Sandy hopes one day soon she will see her beautiful children again ♥️

It was all my fault…

sandy-the-red-heart-campaignI met him at university in 1986.  We were both doing accounting tutorials and wherever I sat he would always seek me out.  He followed me to the train station and over time I told him my phone number.  I yelled it out, actually, as I jumped on my train with my sister.  We didn’t think he would remember it but he did. Little did I know how this would change my life.

From as far back as I remember, there was always violence. He talked with his fists.  It was always my fault.  I don’t even remember him apologising. He didn’t have to because it was my fault.  I’d grown up in a single parent family having been dumped by my mother with a woman she’d just met when I was only 12. I don’t know why.

I shut out most of those months. Mum never even called me. I must have done something wrong. Repeated sexual abuse by this woman’s partners. I was so naïve. I thought this was normal.  I thought I deserved it.  My mother turned up again one day and yes it was all my fault.  I was only 12.

Why would anyone want me? I was ‘stupid, dumb, fat, ugly, useless’…

I remember going to work after I started going out with my ex and we were engaged at this time. I was walking to lunch and two colleagues stopped me, asking me about the bruises down my arm. I was honest. Told them he had done this.  One of them said why are you marrying him then? What’s wrong with you? Well it was my fault.  That was why. Why would anyone else want me. I was “stupid, dumb, fat, ugly, useless”.

All terms he used to describe me to my face, to my friends, to his work colleagues. It must be true. He said these things to me in front of everyone, anyone. We married in a garage complete with grease stains on the concrete. I wasn’t worth a garden wedding or church wedding.  He told me that he wouldn’t get married anywhere else. I agreed. I had to cook and prepare everything. I paid for everything even my engagement ring. He wouldn’t pay for anything although he insisted we had to get married. I wasn’t pregnant. He said we needed to know where the relationship was going.

Obviously I deserved every punch, every bite, every torture … every thing…

I continued to pay for everything and I spent long hours at work and continued studying so I didn’t notice the control.  I had access to money and my car.  He was aggressive though in and out of the bedroom. I remember him not being happy with me in bed.  He wanted me to do things, to move a particular way.  If I didn’t he’d hurt me.  He bit me in places you don’t want to know. He bit so hard I bled. I was embarrassed. I was stupid. It was my fault for not doing what he wanted.  I couldn’t go to the doctor.  Then I fell pregnant. I had the first of four children.  From the day I was home with children the control and violence escalated.

My car was sold and he bought another one but put both cars in his name. When he went out he would remove a part from under the bonnet to prevent me going out. I was so busy trying to be a mum, not having experienced that loving family with my own mum that I still didn’t wake up. Remember I deserved the physical, emotional and verbal abuse.  It was my fault. I wasn’t good enough. I had to try harder.

He punched me in my left side at night in bed if he thought I’d moved over the centre of the bed. Eventually he punched so hard that he unhooked one rib from my spine. He made me sit up in the car driving to a chiropractor over an hour away to get him to put it back in.  The chiropractor later told me he knew this was DV. He didn’t report it. Obviously I deserved it. I still have treatment for the pain in my back. I fell pregnant again and again, miscarrying multiple times, 10 recorded miscarriages, and after having my third child doctors told him this had to stop. I couldn’t use the pill, had allergic reactions to the condoms, and he refused to have a vasectomy as he wanted more children.

I was determined to escape even if it took five years…

The day our third child was born I made a vow that I was going to leave him. I had this five-year plan. Why five years? I do not know. I had good friends and I knew by this stage that what was happening wasn’t right. But deep down I still believed I deserved this. It was my fault. Plus, I had no idea how to leave him. I needed money. I had none.

I was too stupid and useless to be able to leave him. I also knew I had to stop having children or I could die. He continued. I fell pregnant with the fourth child. I cried and cried and cried. My five-year plan to leave him was stuffed. I remember the day of the birth. I was in labour and my labours were quick. He dropped me in the hospital carpark. I was in the transition stage.

He said he had to find a better car park for his car as he didn’t want it scratched. The car behind him stopped and waited. I had trouble walking as the contractions were on top of each other and I was trying not to push. Nobody helped me. I made it to the front of the hospital and clutched a wall. Luckily a matron grabbed me and sat me in a wheelchair.  He turned up in the delivery room just as the baby was coming out.  I hadn’t even had a shower when he brought his brother in to see the baby, and his mother, and his sister etc. I had to go home that afternoon from hospital and was expected to cook dinner.  By this stage I knew this wasn’t what other people did but it was my fault.

I deserved this life.  I was useless.  Who else would want me.  I’d made my bed, now I must lie in it.  My mother had said that. Those words echoed through my head all the time.

I holidayed in hell, lived in hell, couldn’t escape his hell…

I remember holidays spent up the coast in a unit overlooking a cliff.  He dropped me up there one time just after our fourth child was born.  I think he was only barely 6 weeks old.  He chose a place with no lifts and put me in a top floor apartment, three flights of stairs.  No pram either.  Not that I could get down the stairs anyway, not even to the pool.  We were left there with no phone, no car.  He took the car and went back to Brisbane.

He said don’t you ever say you never get a holiday. He left me there with some bread, cereal, tetra milk etc. I was stuck with four kids under five in a top storey apartment. Yes, I had a holiday. I deserved that. I hated holidays. He refused to help with the children, didn’t even come home to help put them to bed.

If the children were still awake when he arrived home, he would go and talk to the neighbours and they told me later he would say he was not going home until I got the kids to bed. However, he’d invite his family around after 9pm at night and they’d get the children up out of bed to play with.  Even the newborn. I had to get them all back to sleep. It was my fault they couldn’t settle.  He had to go to work and I was useless.

He learned jujitsu just so he had another way of flogging me into submission…

He started learning Jujitsu.  I remember him telling me he was learning jujitsu so he could hit me and not leave bruises.  He showed me this move where he put his thumb between his pointer and middle finger and pushed it into my temple.  He would do this often.  It did leave a bruise.

I got headaches for months after he left. I remember just having a normal conversation about the day with him when he’d get home then without warning I’d be on the floor with his thumb pushed into my temple, or he’d remove a cushion off the lounge and push that thumb into my temple and my head into the springs. He said he did this because the springs were harder. I couldn’t breathe. There was never any warning.

Preparing vegetables for dinner and he’d grab me and choke me pushing me back hard over the sink. Then letting go just as I started gasping for air. No idea why. What had I done? I must have done something wrong again. I only remember some of these incidents. I wonder how many more there are.  In court I sobbed as the prosecution read out what the children had witnessed. He went on and on and on. Friends have told me about incidents I still can’t remember and hope I never do.

Beating me black and blue wasn’t enough so he beat my little boy as well…

One night I’d taken my eldest to scouts.  He’d rung me and I’d asked if he could pick him up for me as the others were in bed.  I’d asked if he could speak to him about cleaning his room up as I’d asked him to do it before scouts.  My son walked in crying.  I had no idea what was wrong. As I was consoling him the ex stormed in saying over and over it was my fault and grabbed me and threw me on the couch. He removed the cushion and shoved my head into the springs pushing that thumb in really hard. I blacked out. Not sure for how long. I came too and heard screaming.

I remember managing to get up but my head was hurting a lot. I staggered to the dining room to see my ex standing over my son who was begging me to help him. I grabbed my ex from behind and finally he stopped and turned back to me. I told my son to run to bed. I blacked out again. I remember waking up in my bed but had no idea of how I got there. My head hurt still and I had bruises down my face.

What I didn’t realise is that after I blacked out my ex went up to my son’s bedroom and continued his abuse, hitting him again and again. I didn’t find this out until court when my son opened up. He was scared to tell me. I don’t blame him. Apparently when my ex picked our son up and started driving home from scouts my son told the court my ex had without warning punched him in the side of his head as he sat in the passenger’s seat in the front of the car. Why?

Because he hadn’t cleaned up his room before scouts. I should never have told him. I should have stopped telling him anything. It was my fault. I went to soccer after school at school as my ex wouldn’t let the kids play weekend sport as it interfered with his weekend. He worked during the week so that was his time. Of course this was fair. But how come other families do weekend sport with their kids? I started to question this too.

A lady I didn’t know came up and started chatting about general stuff like school, the weather, soccer. She then asked why I had bruises down my face. I told her the truth, that my husband punched me. I said it like I was talking about the weather. It was normal. It was my life.  I fell to the ground crying. I could not stop. I went and hid in the trees.  It was my fault. What would happen if she said anything? He would find out and kill me. I was petrified. I never spoke to her again.

Re-building the self-esteem he stole from me…

By the time the youngest was three, I had four children aged 3 to 8.  I remember a lot happened that last year.  Early 2004 there was a meeting down at the school as I was concerned my eldest son was being bullied. He had bruises down his arms.

I didn’t realise it was from his father until he laughed and told me how stupid I was. He grabbed my arm and made hand shaped bruises saying do these look familiar? I never thought he was touching the children too. I deserved it but not them. This was a huge wake up call. I started to exercise and escaped at 4am before he got up and went walking.

People at school and my friends started commenting on how good I looked. I started to feel good about myself even though he kept saying how ugly, stupid and fat I was. I started to doubt this. I can see now that my self-esteem which he had destroyed was slowly crawling back.

Reporting incidents fell on deaf ears…

From here the violence escalated.  He saw a change in me.  I started standing up to him.  Slowly. I was scared. I took the boys down to the doctor to have incidents recorded and checked up. I asked the doctors for help. I’d write down incidents and demand they scan these into their computers.

I had no computer at home or even a mobile phone. I wasn’t allowed these. I thought the doctors would report the violence for me. They didn’t.  Instead the doctor sent me home to ask my ex to come in and speak to him about the violence. I counted the days before I could summon the courage to tell my ex what the doctor had said. I thought he would kill me. I counted the days. It took me ten days to summon the courage to speak to him. He didn’t kill me. Well not dead anyway. The doctor did get in trouble in court for not reporting the incidents though.

The beginning of the end…

Every day I cried.  I cried after school drop off, in the car park, driving along, at the shops, in the toilet and shower. Everywhere.  I had finally summoned the courage to tell my sister.  She’d suspected something.  My best friend said she thought that was happening. At play group even they were concerned. None of them came forward and helped though. I don’t know what I expected them to do.

 Really I needed to do something more myself but I didn’t know how else to ask for help. I’d reported incidents to the doctor, spoken to the school chaplain, rung the DV helpline. I couldn’t go to the police as his brother worked in the local station. I was confused and felt alone. I thought, well they are all scared of him too.

It’s my problem not theirs.  He started telling me he would kill me if I left him, he would find me and kill me. As I cried these words would echo through my head and I was sure he knew everything I said to people, who I’d told. My sister got a Domestic Violence kit from the hospital for me. I was too scared he would find out. I hid it under the dresser. I couldn’t save money.

We had a joint bank account but I had to explain everything I spent, including sanitary items. The violence escalated. Then one morning I heard a scuffle upstairs. By this stage I tried to not leave him alone with the boys at all. However, I was making breakfast and lunches. I couldn’t be everywhere but that was my fault too. I did try. My ex came down the stairs and threw his head back laughing as he told me he had just picked up my eldest by the neck and thrown him into the wall.

My son came out of the bathroom area crying and had his hand around his neck. My ex quickly got ready and refused to let me take the boys to school. I cried and cried then rang the doctor and got an appointment. I couldn’t speak. I wrote this incident down and made them record it, and check my son. The doctor thought he was fine. He did not report it.  It turned out he had a whip lash injury. This was the beginning of the end.

To die or not to die? That was my choice…

The night before show holiday I remember he was out yet again.  He quite often didn’t come home till 4 or 5am but I didn’t care. Sometimes I would panic waking at 4am and he still wasn’t home. Would I get in trouble for not reporting him missing if he was lying dead in a gutter? I felt safer when he wasn’t there.

I didn’t care about the infidelity.  I deserved it.  I wasn’t good enough for him. I was useless. It was the early hours of the morning before he returned on this particular night. I was asleep. He decided we were going to have sex so he yanked my underwear off. I remember trying to wake up and as he entered me I started fighting him off.  He was determined and I remember pulling him out of me. Saying no.

He grabbed me by the throat and I remember trying to pull his hands off my throat. His face grimaced as he was trying really hard to choke me. He wouldn’t let go. I was trying to remove his hands and it seemed like minutes went by. I felt myself losing consciousness and then I just gave up. I could finally escape.

I took my hands away and prepared to die. It was at that moment I heard the door open and one of my sons asked his dad what he was doing to mum. I started fighting again. He let go and went to the door. He took my son back to bed. I can’t remember what he did or said as I was struggling to breatHe must have semi-crushed my windpipe.

I kept catching my breath and this continued for months. He came back to bed and appeared to go to sleep. I did not move.  I lay stiff waiting for him to sleep. It seemed like forever before I was sure he was asleep and I slipped from the bed, grabbed my joggers and clothes and went down stairs. I left the house and walked, collapsing on the side of the main road unable to breathe again. Nobody stopped. It was close to 4am by this time and there were a few cars around. I slowly went home.

When I got there my son was still in bed and was shaking. I asked my ex what he’d done. He said nothing.  He kept staring at the ceiling. I told him to go see the doctor. I was getting stronger. He left for work. I packed a bag. I started ringing hostels that were written in that DV kit my sister had given me.  No space. I was transferred, hung up on. I tried three. Last one told me to try and go to a friends or family. She was rude. Luckily I wasn’t suicidal at that moment.  I had four kids, too many for friends or family to take in.  Plus, nobody wanted my ex on their doorstep.  I was stuck. I stayed.

The final countdown to freedom after 18 years…

Then finally two of the kids broke down at school after watching my ex strangle me yet again over the kitchen sink.  The police turned up and took out a domestic violence order.

I was shaking and could hear myself breathing.  This was it.  Finally, someone was helping.  Child safety insisted I had to move out by 3pm Friday but I had nowhere to go.  It was already 2.30pm.  The policeman convinced my ex to move out as he had his family all living close by and his best mate only one kilometre away. He did.

It had taken eighteen years but I was finally free.  I would not take him back although he threatened he was coming home when the domestic violence order finished.  He did not.  I changed the locks.  He threatened me for buying new car tyres.  He demanded a key.  No – I stayed strong. It was now 2004.

He crushed my heart but he didn’t crush my soul…

Since then I was able to complete my teaching degree, get a mobile phone, and a computer. I am now a teacher and have my own life. I am free. I love camping and 4wding. I hope one day that I’ll be able to have another relationship but for now am happy with my life.

I have trust issues and have built a barrier around my emotions that I am working on but it is slowly disintegrating.  I write poetry which I find helps to express my emotions and release them as well. My ex moved two states away and refused to follow family court consent orders, eventually stealing our children away in 2012.

I tried to get him into court to breach him for not following the court consent orders, however, he knew the law too well. I had to give up. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I just did not have the money to continue taking the matter back through the family court again and again.

Although I feel I am still suffering domestic violence as he has completely alienated the children and I haven’t been able to get near them since, I have escaped his clutches physically. I worry about my children but know that one day they will work this out for themselves. They are teenagers now and young men. I just empty nested early.

I also started up a group called Support for Parents of Stolen Children through Facebook and am advocating for parental child abduction to be made a crime in this country so victims do not have to fund the prosecution of this currently legal crime. I want to prevent this happening to other families and also for my kids to know this is not the right way to treat your spouse or your children. I also want other women to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it does flicker a bit sometimes. ♥️

To join Sandy’s Support for Children page visit here >>

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.