“When these violent incidents happened, they were followed by very believable apologies. At the time, I believed these apologies, believed these incidents were alcohol-fuelled and I also believed he loved me and that I loved him”. Domestic violence survivor Michelle.
Michelle is a single mum determined to end domestic violence ♥️
How abuse seeps into every corner of your soul…
Like how any other relationships starts, I suppose you would call it the honeymoon phase. I had the butterflies and all those feelings that you get when you first meet someone. When I met him, I was only very recently single.
I had separated from my ex-partner with whom I had an 8-month-old daughter. I met him through a friend – he was attractive and very charming. He said all of the right things and very quickly we were an item. Whilst there was all of the amazing feelings you first get when started a new relationship, it also wasn’t long before the first “incident” – as I would learn to call them – happened.
After going out for some drinks and enjoying just being with him, I remember him accusing me of looking at some nearby men in the bar. I hadn’t even noticed the other men – he was all I was interested in. No matter how much I tried to tell him this, it didn’t matter.
Next thing I knew I was being called a “stupid slut” and left in the middle of the street on my own wondering “what just happened?”. The next day he apologised telling me that it was the alcohol and that he was sorry. We’ve all done things I’m sure that we are not proud of when affected by alcohol, so I believed him. He also told me that day that he loved me.
The incident the night before all of a sudden seemed irrelevant. Not only is it so scary to look back on that specific incident and see just how quickly all was forgotten simply by blaming alcohol and saying he loved me, but I would later down the track find out that after he left me stranded that night, he also slept with someone else. This was the first of many times that he would cheat on me.
I was scared, injured and completely humiliated…
I had a beautiful home at the time that was also my place of business, I had nice material things and took pride in my house. I suppose you would say that we lived together because, except for on the occasions where we had a fight and he would leave, he was always there. Interestingly though, He never paid a cent towards rent or household expenses.
He always claimed that his money went to his ex-partner for their two children – yet another thing that I would later find out was untrue. I had a 50-50 custody arrangement with my daughter’s father and by no means am I giving this person a positive word here, but I will say that he was never in fact nasty to my daughter. In fact, he was quite good with her.
However, looking back, I see this was purely another tactic in ensuring it would be very difficult to see him as a “bad person”. Whilst he may have been “nice” when she was in my care, he didn’t hold back when she wasn’t. This however changed one day following him returning from a Christmas party very drunk. Sensing tension rising, I suggested he go home.
Making this suggestion sent him into rage. Fearing what he may do, I picked up my daughter and made way for the front door to get her away from danger. He pushed past me whilst I held her and I quickly took her to a neighbour’s place in the complex I resided in.
To cut a long story short, from suggesting he go home as he was too drunk – resulted in my car being completely vandalised inside and out and my car keys thrown into a neighbouring paddock. I was then thrown across the bonnet of my car in which I landed on my side. He then jumped with his whole weight on me and he screamed names at me for all the neighbours to witness. I was scared, physically injured and completely humiliated. I still to this day suffer from the injuries that were caused to my back as a result of being thrown across the bonnet of the car.
He tried to control everything I did…
I suppose you would call our relationship hot and cold. When it was good, it was good but there were the bad times in between. The bad times were pretty much always around the same issues – where I had been that day, who I had seen, who I had spoken too, why I had spoken to certain people and why I was wearing certain clothes. I would even be questioned as to why my make-up bag had moved to another place in the house.
He was insinuating that I had more make-up on at some stage in the day and then removed it? It felt like all of my time was spent answering all of the crazy questions and accusations. And when my answers weren’t good enough or allegedly “true”, the name calling would again start. Over time it went from name calling to also destroying or stealing my property.
I wouldn’t be able to tell you to this day how many phones went flying passed my head, narrowly missing me and smashing against walls and breaking into pieces. On one occasion, my phone was launched into a nearby river, followed shortly after by my handbag with all my possessions – wallet, keys etc. This was again a “normal” occurrence.
It appeared that each time these arguments took place, he would always take or destroy things that I really needed – my keycard, wallet, house keys, even at one stage my hair straightener. He destroyed anything that was either something I needed or liked.
Why I stayed? Because leaving is never that easy…
To so many people, when hearing of incidents such as these, the obvious question is often “why wouldn’t you leave after he did all of those things to you?”. It seems so simple to some. There is not just one answer to that question. There are many.
In my own experience, when I look back and ask myself that same question, I’m able to see more clearly why I didn’t in fact “just leave”. And my answer to that is this: Probably for about the first two years when these incidents would occur, they were followed by very believable apologies (what I would later learn to see as excuses). At the time, I believed these apologies, believed these incidents were alcohol-fuelled and I also believed he loved me and that I loved him.
With time, you become accustomed to being abused…
Over time, I think I had become conditioned to the abuse and when the aftermath of these incidents went from apologies to blame, I believed things were my fault. I was accused of things on a daily basis as well as called names every day. When these names and accusations are repeatedly directed at you, you begin to believe them.
I had no reason to think that someone who apparently loved me so much would cause me harm intentionally – that made no sense. My self-esteem by this stage too was so low that I just did not have a clear mind or strength to know I deserved better. Once he held me against my will whilst driving around the mountains for three hours.
For these hours I honestly was not sure what he was going to do with me. He continued to drive around in dark places away from the main traffic and other activity. I remember asking him at one stage what he was going to do to me and he answered “I don’t know yet”.
I don’t think I had ever ever been so scared. I honesty thought I was going to be statistic. Eventually, I got away. Police had to locate me via GPS from my phone as I had no idea where I was and was completely disorientated and traumatised. That incident started over an unrecognisable number on my phone.
The worst year of my life…
The last 12 months of the relationship were the worst. The ones that I had experienced up until now were bad, but what I went through in that last 12 months made the first four years seem trivial at times. In that last year, I lost any emotional tie to him. I no longer wanted to be with him and I can’t say by that stage that I loved him anymore. I detested him and I feared him.
He had become even more erratic and angry which was a bad combination at the best of times. To top it off he was beyond paranoid. His paranoia turned to a weird possession or obsession – I’m not sure what you would call it. I recall one incident that the police attended, the officers found had phoned me 117 times, sent me 36 text messages and left 11 voicemails in less than 24 hours.
In these texts and messages he called me names that I cant even put into words and threatened to have my daughter taken from me. This threat was used each time I tried to walk away from the relationship. I think he knew I was done and that was when the abuse got worse and the threats were carried through with. I just couldn’t leave.
He destroyed every single part of me – physically, materialistically and emotionally…
Over five years, I experienced physical, social, financial, sexual and the most horrific psychological and emotional abuse from this animal of a man. To say he tortured me would be an understatement AND IF I WERE TO WRITE ABOUT EACH AND EVERY INCIDENT THAT OCCURRED, THIS STORY WOULDN’T END – THERE WERE SO MANY.
By the end of this five years, he had stripped every single part of my being physically, materialistically and emotionally. I was 15kg underweight, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, not in a position to be the parent my daughter as she needed me to be and I was depressed and also suicidal.
I had got to “fight or flight” stage. I get very very emotional to think back to the point where I can remember so clearly thinking “I cant do this anymore”. I had got to the stage where what this man had done to me also made me choose to take my own life.
As quick as I had this thought, however, I thought of my daughter who needed me and how I wouldn’t let him take anymore from me than he already had. The years of abuse left me with post traumatic stress disorder. It took me 12 months to also stop having nightmares every night. I still shake when I go to certain places as I relive events that happened. But these things have made me stronger.
Leading a normal happy life is my new normal…
Two years later, I have never been happier. These days I lead a normal and happy life. I have the most amazing family support and a very close relationship with them. I have an amazing job that I love and most of all, I am on a mission of my own to do what I can to help those affected by domestic violence. When I think back on my story, I feel the pain – I literally feel my heart break and I start to cry. I don’t want anyone to feel like that.
My mission? To make the world a safer place…
I’ve made it a mission to do what I can to put preventative measures in place. To do that, I am currently liaising and working with the police, Domestic Violence Prevention Centre and Relationships Australia to create a training and education package that we are aiming to roll out to large organisations on the Gold Coast. I can’t at present comment on to whom but I can say we have some positive headway with local organisations thus far.
We want to educate our communities around recognising the signs of domestic violence and knowing what services are out there to help those affected. I have created a organisation of my own called R.A.I.S.E & Rebuild. You can find it here>>
Separately, I am also doing both my psychology degree and my diploma in counselling. I have also completed my recognise domestic and family violence module, am an ambassador for Share the Dignity and am a qualified facilitator of the LoveBites program which educates year 10 high school students about domestic violence and sexual assault.
So these days I am beyond busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I do what I do today firstly for my daughter, to show her that no matter what, you keep going and that she must never let anyone try to break her or abuse her. And I do what I do for other women out there who may be experiencing domestic violence. That pig broke me till I had nothing left, but I became a fighter and I now fight harder and harder every day to make sure people like him don’t hurt anyone else.
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.