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This is Catherine’s Story

I had no one to call. No one to hold my hand and be by my side as I was told that one of the babies had died and the other’s heart beat was weak, to be prepared to lose it. – Domestic violence survivor Catherine.

Catherine hopes her story of survival will inspire women in crisis ♥️

He destroyed everything I valued about myself…

catherine-the-red-heart-campaignI am a survivor of domestic violence. I was in a physically, emotionally and verbally abusive relationship for 11 years. My self-worth, trust and confidence was destroyed. This was my first real relationship. Though I never loved this man, it’s hard for others to see why I stayed for so long. I know now that I was continuing on a cycle of violence that began when I was young. I now have the experience and knowledge to see why I and many others stay.

Like mother, like daughter…

Growing up I never dreamed about my fairytale wedding, I never hoped for a house with a white picket fence or the husband and 2.5 kids. My innocence and dreams were lost as a young child. My cycle of abuse started before I was born. I was trapped in my mother’s web of abusive relationships and quickly followed in her footstep.

I grew up thinking and believing my body wasn’t my own and my thoughts and feelings didn’t matter. I was only on this earth to be used and abused. I was physically, emotionally and sexually abused for years, all the while hiding behind the same mask my mother wore. I had a mental breakdown at 17. I had hit rock bottom.

Drugs and alcohol had been in my life for a while. They were my vice, my escape from the reality that was my own life. I didn’t know who I was or where I fit in. I felt alone. But I always stood behind the comment that other people in the world are worse off than me. Obviously this was happening because I could survive it. At 18 I was gang raped, I had to fight with my own thoughts to whether I deserved it or not. I was still in early recovery from my breakdown and had no self worth.

I ran right into a deadly cycle of trauma and abuse…

I was a mess and didn’t know where to turn. I ended up running away and joining the travelling show and carnival. That where I met him. I had not long turned 19. He was tanned, toned and strong. He told me he would protect me, that he would never let anyone else hurt or hit me again. I soon learnt it was anyone else bar him.

I knew something wasn’t right very early in the relationship. He was jealous, overly jealous. If someone spoke to me he accused me of flirting or cheating. I wanted out, we had only been together a few weeks and I already was scared and pregnant. I felt trapped. He already had such a control over me. A power I couldn’t understand. I was again weak, alone and afraid. We moved down to Victoria to be near his family (who I quickly learnt were all he same as he was.) thousands of kilometres from my own. I knew no one.

Masking the bruises became second nature…

I put back on that smiling mask and hoped things would change. They did. He became violent. I endured daily emotional and verbal abuse. I no longer had a say or a voice. It was his way or the highway. I was being pinned against walls, shoved down halls and locked in rooms all while he was screaming and spitting at me. Anything triggered him. There was always some excuse or blame. I felt I could do nothing right. I was walking on egg shells and trying to believe everything will be alright when the baby comes.

I know wishful thinking from a child. As soon as the baby was born he started hitting me, only in places where the bruises could be covered. I wore long jumpers in summer, covered my legs with long pants, tied my hair up to hide the bald patches from chunks that had been ripped out. I bought make up to cover bruises that were visual only to be called a slut or a whore when I wore it. I hid this from everyone.

He beat me so hard, I lost one of my unborn twins…

Next thing I knew I was pregnant again. Twins. I’d only just found out there was two. He already threatened me to try and have an abortion. I didn’t have the courage to tell him it was twins. He was already too concerned about his drug and alcohol habit. Having a six-month-old and a baby on the way was putting financial pressure on his partying ways. He flipped out constantly, whether at home or in public. One day while waiting for a bus he lost it. I didn’t have money so he could go score some weed.

He attacked me, punched me in the stomach. I crumbled in pain. I sat there crying and started to bleed. He took off with our child while yelling at me I was never going to see them again. An elderly couple driving by transported me to the hospital. I was scared. I felt I had lost everything.  I sat in the hospital alone waiting for a scan. I had no one to call.

No one to hold my hand and be by my side as I was told that one of the babies had died and the others heart beat was weak, to be prepared to lose it. Four days earlier I had heard and seen to healthy strong heart beats for the first time and the last. I grieved alone. This little one was a fighter. The heart beat got stronger, I was still pregnant. He came to the hospital with cheap flowers, all apologies and lies. All I wanted was to hold my child. I had just lost one and thought I had lost my six-month-old as well. I never told him about the twin. He didn’t deserve to know. I hated him for what he had done.

Trapped in a cage by my own fear and his violence…

After our second was born things were still the same. He was still more concerned about getting drunk and stoned and spending time with his mates. He would be telling them how much of a good mum and girlfriend I was and how lucky he was to have me, then when he was at home I would be used and abused by him.  Constant put downs and name calling, I was made to feel guilty about any contact I had with my own family, which by then was minimal. I suffered from some form of abuse daily.

I don’t remember any good times. The honeymoon periods for me were the days to weeks between being hit, kicked or strangled. I was in a cage to scared to break free. He was constantly threatening me. Telling me he would hurt or kill my family, or hunt me down and kill me if I ever tried to leave. He threatened to take my kids from me so that I would never see them again. I feared for my own life.

The police came around quite often. Whether it be concerned neighbors that called or another drug raid. (I had been clean from drugs since before I fell pregnant.) When the police came around for a domestic dispute call I would have to act like everything was alright as things would get worse if I didn’t. I learned that the hard way.

Leaving him meant leaving my kids…

The first time I left, I was removed by the police. He had just physically assaulted me, I was physically bruised and disheveled and had suspected concussion. The police drove me away from the house. I screamed and cried for them to grab my babies as well. It fell on deaf ears. The police took me to get checked out before handing me over to a refuge. All I kept asking was when would I have the kids with me.

I was their mum, their full time carer. I had been the one with them every day. Now I had to fight for them. I fought and lost. His lawyer convinced the judge that I abandoned my babies. So he got them. His family rallied behind him and spread/believed the lies. I was only allowed to see them once a fort night. All I lived for were my kids. They were my breath my heart beat. So I went back to him for them. The abuse continued. I fell further and further into depression. I would never be free of him.

I was a puppet and they controlled the strings…

He had all the power and control and his mother was right by his side. They both told me that they would do whatever it took so that I would never have the kids if I left again. I believed them I was their little puppet, strings pulled for their amusement. Then I fell pregnant again. He called it our band aid baby. A new start now that we were back together. He promised he would change, that he would never hit me again. He lied. At 9 weeks pregnant the police took me to hospital after another physical assault. The baby was OK but I wasn’t.

I was stressed, bruised, underweight and sore. I was placed in a safe house, away from my kids again. Then by some miracle, during access he gave them to me. He wrote them notes to read when they were older apologizing for his actions. I was happy, I was over the moon. But he still had a powerful hold over me. I was starting my new life when he found me. He didn’t leave. I was still too scared of him. Things went back to the way they were. Years passed. The daily abuse continued. The kids witnessed things that no person should have to. I was hospitalized on numerous occasions, always making up some excuse. I tripped, I fell down stairs, I’m so clumsy. I didn’t want to lose my kids.

He was intent on killing me! I was intent on living!

I will always remember the fear in my children’s eyes as they watched from the back seat their father punching me in the face and smashing my head into the window as he was driving me to the bush to end my life. I will never forget their screams and pleas as I jumped from the moving car. It shocked him that I jumped, but when you are in fear of your life you will do anything.

I told him that if he ever laid his hands on me again he will never see me or the kids again. They didn’t deserve this life. The verbal and emotional abuse continued, but months went by without him raising a hand at me. I felt like I had a small win. But it didn’t last long. He hit me and I stayed. I hated myself for not being strong enough.

How my little boy saved my life…

My eldest child who was nine came and spoke to me. They quite often tended to me after an episode, holding me or placing frozen peas on my lumps and bumps. “Leave mum or he will kill you”.  Those words awakened me, gave me a strength I knew was in me somewhere. He was starting to make threats of physical abuse to the kids. He would stand over them yelling and screaming with clenched fists.

I knew we all had to get out. That conversation started something in me, a fire, a desire, a freedom that was actually achievable. I focused everything on a plan. I was becoming stronger. I started working on myself, gaining knowledge and support from DV support and other services. I started counseling without his knowledge.

Under the guise of a dutiful wife, I planned my escape…

I reached out to my family and we worked on an escape plan. I had had minimal contact with them for over 10 years, but they heard the change in me. My escape plan was set. I played the dutiful house wife. I kept up my act, but underneath the mask I was a different person. I believed I deserved better. I wanted to break the cycle and be free.

In March 2011, he physically assaulted me for the last time. I fought and I fought hard. I was fighting for my life. My kids’ lives. I knew how close we were to being free of him. As he held me up by my throat and I could feel my life leaving me I knew I had to keep fighting. I hit him and I hit him hard. His attack changed to kicking and punching. I could survive this.

He left when he was done. I sent my mum our code word. Plan was in action. Police came, I made my statement. I wanted him charged. They took me to the hospital. I was black and blue. My whole stomach and thighs were swollen from bruising, soft tissue damage and tears. My hair was missing chunks and knotted. I had a red line across my face from where the foot of the pedestal fan had hit.

I had raised red hand marks around my neck. I looked a mess. But I was smiling. I was free. From that moment on I had control. I had my kids. ‘We were free’. The guilt and shame that is so powerful and stamped into you was gone. I no longer questioned myself if it was my fault. I was no longer worthless. He no longer had a power over me. I was no longer scared. I survived and I was free.

I was a victim! Now I am a survivor…

I am now five years free. I have lived past domestic violence. I have outlasted that point in time when I was a victim and moved past it. I found the person inside myself who could not accept domestic violence and made it past that stage in my life to find another way. In short I regained myself; my own person, welfare, interests and beliefs. I wanted to show my boys what life was meant to be, and re-educate them on what living in a healthy environment was. I wanted to break the cycle for them as well.

It was tough as I had to remove m boys from everything they had ever known for our safety, but we were lucky we had the support of my family. We set about building our new future one step at a time. A lot of hard work, counseling, therapy sessions and melt downs followed, but we got there. We found ourselves for the first time making happy memories. Our house is now filled with laughter, and hopes and dreams. I did it. I broke the cycle of abuse that had a hold of me for 30 years. I don’t regret my past.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I had walked another path. I am a strong, independent woman whom many people are shocked when they hear that someone like me endured years of abuse. I continue to share my experience with others so as I may help inspire others. I hope to give people hope that there is life after domestic violence and no matter how low you feel you do deserve better. I hold my head high and proudly say I am no longer a victim. I am a survivor.

He destroyed everything I valued about myself…

I am a survivor of domestic violence. I was in a physically, emotionally and verbally abusive relationship for 11 years. My self-worth, trust and confidence was destroyed. This was my first real relationship. Though I never loved this man, it’s hard for others to see why I stayed for so long. I know now that I was continuing on a cycle of violence that began when I was young. I now have the experience and knowledge to see why I and many others stay.

Like mother, like daughter…

Growing up I never dreamed about my fairytale wedding, I never hoped for a house with a white picket fence or the husband and 2.5 kids. My innocence and dreams were lost as a young child. My cycle of abuse started before I was born. I was trapped in my mother’s web of abusive relationships and quickly followed in her footstep. I grew up thinking and believing my body wasn’t my own and my thoughts and feelings didn’t matter. I was only on this earth to be used and abused. I was physically, emotionally and sexually abused for years, all the while hiding behind the same mask my mother wore.

I had a mental breakdown at 17. I had hit rock bottom. Drugs and alcohol had been in my life for a while. They were my vice, my escape from the reality that was my own life. I didn’t know who I was or where I fit in. I felt alone. But I always stood behind the comment that other people in the world are worse off than me. Obviously this was happening because I could survive it. At 18 I was gang raped, I had to fight with my own thoughts to whether I deserved it or not. I was still in early recovery from my breakdown and had no self worth.

I ran right into a deadly cycle of trauma and abuse…

I was a mess and didn’t know where to turn. I ended up running away and joining the travelling show and carnival. That where I met him. I had not long turned 19. He was tanned, toned and strong. He told me he would protect me, that he would never let anyone else hurt or hit me again. I soon learnt it was anyone else bar him .I knew something wasn’t right very early in the relationship.

He was jealous, overly jealous. If someone spoke to me he accused me of flirting or cheating. I wanted out, we had only been together a few weeks and I already was scared and pregnant. I felt trapped. He already had such a control over me. A power I couldn’t understand. I was again weak, alone and afraid. We moved down to Victoria to be near his family (who I quickly learnt were all he same as he was.) thousands of kilometres from my own. I knew no one.

Masking the bruises became second nature…

I put back on that smiling mask and hoped things would change. They did. He became violent. I endured daily emotional and verbal abuse. I no longer had a say or a voice. It was his way or the highway. I was being pinned against walls, shoved down halls and locked in rooms all while he was screaming and spitting at me. Anything triggered him. There was always some excuse or blame. I felt I could do nothing right.

I was walking on egg shells and trying to believe everything will be alright when the baby comes. I know wishful thinking from a child. As soon as the baby was born he started hitting me, only in places where the bruises could be covered. I wore long jumpers in summer, covered my legs with long pants, tied my hair up to hide the bald patches from chunks that had been ripped out. I bought make up to cover bruises that were visual only to be called a slut or a whore when I wore it. I hid this from everyone.

He beat me so hard, I lost one of my unborn twins…

Next thing I knew I was pregnant again. Twins. I’d only just found out there was two. He already threatened me to try and have an abortion. I didn’t have the courage to tell him it was twins. He was already too concerned about his drug and alcohol habit. Having a six-month-old and a baby on the way was putting financial pressure on his partying ways. He flipped out constantly, whether at home or in public. One day while waiting for a bus he lost it. I didn’t have money so he could go score some weed. He attacked me, punched me in the stomach.

I crumbled in pain. I sat there crying and started to bleed. He took off with our child while yelling at me I was never going to see them again. An elderly couple driving by transported me to the hospital. I was scared. I felt I had lost everything.  I sat in the hospital alone waiting for a scan. I had no one to call. No one to hold my hand and be by my side as I was told that one of the babies had died and the others heart beat was weak, to be prepared to lose it. Four days earlier I had heard and seen to healthy strong heart beats for the first time and the last. I grieved alone.

This little one was a fighter. The heart beat got stronger, I was still pregnant. He came to the hospital with cheap flowers, all apologies and lies. All I wanted was to hold my child. I had just lost one and thought I had lost my six-month-old as well. I never told him about the twin. He didn’t deserve to know. I hated him for what he had done.

Trapped in a cage by my own fear and his violence…

After our second was born things were still the same. He was still more concerned about getting drunk and stoned and spending time with his mates. He would be telling them how much of a good mum and girlfriend I was and how lucky he was to have me, then when he was at home I would be used and abused by him.  Constant put downs and name calling, I was made to feel guilty about any contact I had with my own family, which by then was minimal. I suffered from some form of abuse daily. I don’t remember any good times.

The honeymoon periods for me were the days to weeks between being hit, kicked or strangled. I was in a cage to scared to break free. He was constantly threatening me. Telling me he would hurt or kill my family, or hunt me down and kill me if I ever tried to leave. He threatened to take my kids from me so that I would never see them again. I feared for my own life.

The police came around quite often. Whether it be concerned neighbors that called or another drug raid. (I had been clean from drugs since before I fell pregnant.) When the police came around for a domestic dispute call I would have to act like everything was alright as things would get worse if I didn’t. I learned that the hard way.

Leaving him meant leaving my kids…

The first time I left, I was removed by the police. He had just physically assaulted me, I was physically bruised and disheveled and had suspected concussion. The police drove me away from the house. I screamed and cried for them to grab my babies as well. It fell on deaf ears. The police took me to get checked out before handing me over to a refuge. All I kept asking was when would I have the kids with me. I was their mum, their full time carer.

I had been the one with them every day. Now I had to fight for them. I fought and lost. His lawyer convinced the judge that I abandoned my babies. So he got them. His family rallied behind him and spread/believed the lies. I was only allowed to see them once a fort night. All I lived for were my kids. They were my breath my heart beat. So I went back to him for them. The abuse continued. I fell further and further into depression. I would never be free of him.

I was a puppet and they controlled the strings…

He had all the power and control and his mother was right by his side. They both told me that they would do whatever it took so that I would never have the kids if I left again. I believed them I was their little puppet, strings pulled for their amusement. Then I fell pregnant again. He called it our band aid baby. A new start now that we were back together. He promised he would change, that he would never hit me again. He lied. At 9 weeks pregnant the police took me to hospital after another physical assault. The baby was OK but I wasn’t.

I was stressed, bruised, underweight and sore. I was placed in a safe house, away from my kids again. Then by some miracle, during access he gave them to me. He wrote them notes to read when they were older apologizing for his actions. I was happy, I was over the moon. But he still had a powerful hold over me. I was starting my new life when he found me. He didn’t leave. I was still too scared of him. Things went back to the way they were. Years passed. The daily abuse continued. The kids witnessed things that no person should have to. I was hospitalized on numerous occasions, always making up some excuse. I tripped, I fell down stairs, I’m so clumsy. I didn’t want to lose my kids.

He was intent on killing me! I was intent on living!

I will always remember the fear in my children’s eyes as they watched from the back seat their father punching me in the face and smashing my head into the window as he was driving me to the bush to end my life. I will never forget their screams and pleas as I jumped from the moving car. It shocked him that I jumped, but when you are in fear of your life you will do anything.

I told him that if he ever laid his hands on me again he will never see me or the kids again. They didn’t deserve this life. The verbal and emotional abuse continued, but months went by without him raising a hand at me. I felt like I had a small win. But it didn’t last long. He hit me and I stayed. I hated myself for not being strong enough.

How my little boy saved my life…

My eldest child who was nine came and spoke to me. They quite often tended to me after an episode, holding me or placing frozen peas on my lumps and bumps. “Leave mum or he will kill you”.  Those words awakened me, gave me a strength I knew was in me somewhere. He was starting to make threats of physical abuse to the kids. He would stand over them yelling and screaming with clenched fists.

I knew we all had to get out. That conversation started something in me, a fire, a desire, a freedom that was actually achievable. I focused everything on a plan. I was becoming stronger. I started working on myself, gaining knowledge and support from DV support and other services. I started counseling without his knowledge.

Under the guise of a dutiful wife, I planned my escape…

I reached out to my family and we worked on an escape plan. I had had minimal contact with them for over 10 years, but they heard the change in me. My escape plan was set. I played the dutiful house wife. I kept up my act, but underneath the mask I was a different person. I believed I deserved better. I wanted to break the cycle and be free. In March 2011, he physically assaulted me for the last time. I fought and I fought hard. I was fighting for my life. My kids’ lives. I knew how close we were to being free of him.

As he held me up by my throat and I could feel my life leaving me I knew I had to keep fighting. I hit him and I hit him hard. His attack changed to kicking and punching. I could survive this. He left when he was done. I sent my mum our code word. Plan was in action. Police came, I made my statement. I wanted him charged. They took me to the hospital. I was black and blue. My whole stomach and thighs were swollen from bruising, soft tissue damage and tears. My hair was missing chunks and knotted.

I had a red line across my face from where the foot of the pedestal fan had hit. I had raised red hand marks around my neck. I looked a mess. But I was smiling. I was free. From that moment on I had control. I had my kids. ‘We were free’. The guilt and shame that is so powerful and stamped into you was gone. I no longer questioned myself if it was my fault. I was no longer worthless. He no longer had a power over me. I was no longer scared. I survived and I was free.

I was a victim! Now I am a survivor…

I am now five years free. I have lived past domestic violence. I have outlasted that point in time when I was a victim and moved past it. I found the person inside myself who could not accept domestic violence and made it past that stage in my life to find another way. In short I regained myself; my own person, welfare, interests and beliefs.

I wanted to show my boys what life was meant to be, and re-educate them on what living in a healthy environment was. I wanted to break the cycle for them as well. It was tough as I had to remove m boys from everything they had ever known for our safety, but we were lucky we had the support of my family. We set about building our new future one step at a time. A lot of hard work, counseling, therapy sessions and melt downs followed, but we got there. We found ourselves for the first time making happy memories. Our house is now filled with laughter, and hopes and dreams. I did it. I broke the cycle of abuse that had a hold of me for 30 years. I don’t regret my past.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I had walked another path. I am a strong, independent woman whom many people are shocked when they hear that someone like me endured years of abuse. I continue to share my experience with others so as I may help inspire others. I hope to give people hope that there is life after domestic violence and no matter how low you feel you do deserve better. I hold my head high and proudly say I am no longer a victim. I am a survivor. ♥️

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.