Call 1800 RESPECT

This is Rachael’s Story

“He waited until I was fully locked in to the relationship and giving my whole heart when he slowly began to withdraw, criticise, isolate, control and manipulate me”. Domestic violence survivor Rachael.

Rachael believes everyone has the strength to shine ♥️

Every story is worth telling, even mine…

rachael-the-red-heart-campaignFor years I have felt very reluctant to share my story because I never felt it was worthy enough to tell. I never counted or considered what I had been through with my ex-partner to be “abuse” or an extreme enough case to be told.

Over the last few months reading stories from courageous victims of emotional abuse similar to mine, it all really resonated with me and showed me that there are all different types of abuse, ranging not only from the type, but also the severity.  Most importantly, it encouraged me to take a stand – as every story is worthy of being told.

Swept off my feet by a charismatic charmer…

My story begins quite similar to that of many survivors’ in the sense that, like most abusers, my partner started out so idyllic and too good to be true. When I first met my abuser at a friend’s birthday party I was instantly smitten by him.

He was so charming and charismatic and continued to smile and act very coy from the other side of the room, and when he finally came up to introduce himself, it felt like we had a lot in common and much to talk about. I was swept off my feet in the initial months that we were dating. He told me he was falling in love with me on our second date and he did cute and quirky things to make me feel special.

Piece by piece, he tore apart my heart…

He lured me to believe that what we had was unique and going to be forever. He waited until I was fully locked in to the relationship and giving my whole heart when he slowly began to withdraw, criticise, isolate, control and manipulate me. And it happened so slowly and subtly that I didn’t notice it until I was in too deep – too deep in love with him that I wouldn’t leave. The changes first began with subtle withdrawing. He would kill me with kindness in text messages, but then when we were together – he would act distant.

He would hang out with me only in small doses before making excuses to be somewhere or do something – even if it was just being at home. He would never invite me to come along, I always just had to go home. He always made me feel like a puppet on a string, and always taking two steps towards me, and then one back… always leaving me wanting more.

When I asked him if he wasn’t interested in me anymore he would say it wasn’t me, it was him. He had a lot of worries and anxiety about things, and had done so his whole life. He was scared of losing me, and didn’t want to screw anything up. It made sense. I sympathised and empathised with him, and promised to be a supportive girlfriend and try to help him work through his issues, and stand by him – unlike those who left him in the past due to all this.

Slowly, but surely he isolated me…

But the withdrawing still continued. Given I was a compassionate person who spent my days helping people as a youth worker, I felt I couldn’t get mad at him because I always understood his reasons for everything, and cared so much about him. I stopped taking it personally when he needed to go home in the midst of us doing things or having fun. Though it did annoy me at times I was sure things would get better.

Before I knew it, and right under my nose without me recognising it, I was quietly and strategically becoming isolated.  He became uncomfortable and overly nervous with simple social tasks. He felt nervous eating in public, so we didn’t go to restaurants. He didn’t like sitting in the cinema because the seats hurt his back, so we never went to the movies. He didn’t like crowds or loud music – so we didn’t go to concerts or nightclubs. If I suggested to go on a road trip together, his response was “What’s the point… What will we do when we get there?”

For him, every solution had a problem…

Despite all my effort in lifting his confidence and challenging his anxiety, and even suggesting the idea for him to get professional help, it’s as though he found a problem for every solution. He seemed comfortable with having these limitations and worries, and enjoyed being stuck in victim mentality. He accepted he was going to be like this for life. I, on the other hand, wasn’t so accepting that this was going to be my life.

But from then on, we ended up staying most of the time at his house. What I didn’t understand and what seemed incredibly unfair was he would then turn around and accept an invitation to meet mates out in the valley at a nightclub, or see a mate of his who was doing a hip-hop show, and attend parties etc. He could never do those things with me in the past because he was “too nervous”, yet he could break through those barriers for his friends.

Meanwhile I was stuck at home with him during our time together where I got nothing from him. He didn’t like playing board games, he would fall asleep during DVDs… there was next to no attention being paid to me anymore.

Driven to the edge of despair…

Sometimes he could be such a gentlemen and be so romantic, and cook me dinner and be so affectionate with me, and tell me he loved me several times a day – yet when I needed him, in moments like when my car broke down outside his house at 9pm at night, he wouldn’t let me stay over his house. He told me he needed time on his own that night. He literally made me take a cab home.

When I continued asking him about it the next day, he said it wasn’t a big deal he just needed time to himself. I often thought he lied behind my back about continuing to take drugs though he promised he had given it all up. Perhaps that explained the mood swings, and withdrawing? He didn’t have a licence, so I was driving nearly an hour to come out and see him two/three nights a week. One weekend, he wanted me to come out and meet his cousin from Canada. So I drove us all into the city, which was a big deal for me as driving in the city scared me, but I did it as I thought things were turning around.

I was being included for once, and he was opting to go out for a change! But, we were only there for about an hour before he took me aside and said he’d like it if he were to spend a bit of time just as “the boys”, and said it’d be good if I left them to it. I didn’t want to go. But he said I was being rude if I stayed. So I had to brace myself for the drive home alone, and ended up getting lost and panicking the whole way.

I’d stand up and he’d knock me right down…

When I would become offended, and stand up for myself, he had the ability to turn the conversation around so that he always looked like the victim or like I was making a big deal over nothing. My biggest mistake was trying to understand his mind, and his motives, and also trying to argue back. None of what he ever said made any sense. None of what I had to say ever mattered. I would get lost trying to follow him and attempting to understand him. If he broke promises he would say he never promised at all and that I made it up in my own head.

He would twist words so that he could turn it around on me, and shift focus so that we were talking about something other then the original topic. He made me think I had remembered things wrong. I would become exhausted and confused and give up – which is exactly what he would want. I was growing a bit concerned about whether or not things would always remain the same, and then I spoke to his mother and other family members about his odd behaviour.

They all individually admitted (at separate times) that he had always been that way. And the best advice they felt they could give me was to not take his bait, and to ignore him. Though his mother would say this, she was his biggest protector – he couldn’t do a thing wrong in her eyes.

In trying to help him, I lost the things that made me, me…

The next few months are incredibly hard to explain for me because they are slightly a blur. I became lost and absorbed in trying to help him and in his world so much that I lost myself completely. I kept blaming myself for that, and I blamed myself because he would tell me I had no friends and I needed to go out and do social things myself. He said just because we were in a relationship didn’t mean we had to hang out socially.

When I challenged that way of thinking and realised how ridiculous that was, he would argue that he was right until he was blue in the face. He was the kind of person that could sell ice to Eskimos – a phrase he once actually used about himself and was proud of. He would keep going until you eventually would give in to him-  just for peace.

He would break me, then he would hold me…

The most unsettling thing was, he would break me, and then he would hold me and comfort me. In a moment by abuser would become my rescuer. He would tell me he loved me and was there for me. And I believed him. He liked making me think that I was in the wrong, and I was the one losing it. That’s when he would step in and make me think he was my knight in shining armour comforting me, trying to reinforce the idea I was the one with the problem. He had expressed that he didn’t think much of my friends, and my family were weird.

He really started to talk negatively about my job too. He didn’t tell me to stop seeing my friends or family, or to quit my job, but I felt I couldn’t talk about any of those things to him because he would ridicule them. I felt less important, and wondered why he was with me. When we first began dating, I was apparently helping him come off drugs, and helping him with his social anxiety and self-esteem… and only a year later, I was now the one struggling.

A bubbly youth worker who loved helping and working alongside people to fulfil their goals… I now couldn’t’ recognise that person in me anymore. That girl was vanishing. So was my self-esteem. The tables had turned completely.

Believing his lies was easier than denying them…

I could no longer work. I had terrible anxiety and he would constantly be using it against me. I was apparently “paranoid” when he went out for drinks with a girl who was “just a friend”. When his eyes were red, I was told I was “paranoid” because he hadn’t been smoking, he was just “tired”. I began believing him, and convincing myself that he was telling the truth – because like he always said “I had no evidence or proof”.

Logically he was right. I didn’t have proof. But then why did it never sit right with me? It was pointless arguing because he was never going to come clean and admit it. And when I did have proof that he was telling a lie, he would say “Big deal… so what? It’s not the end of the world… you just dwell on everything. Build a bridge get over it”. My feelings never mattered.

New life blossoms from the chaos…

After two years, we moved in together. Only four weeks after we moved in, I found out I was pregnant. I knew he would become anxious, as always, but I was not quite prepared for his reaction. He was in denial about it. He didn’t want to even talk about it. One of the first things he said was, “You can just take a pill and get rid of it”. He was very threatened that I would now have to start caring for someone else. When I opted to keep the baby he said it wasn’t an option. Then the bitter truth came out. “If I knew there was a chance you’d fall pregnant and would want to keep it, I would have left you ages ago”. This coming from the man who said he wanted to marry me and tattoo our kids’ names on our arms in our future.

When I said I wanted to keep the baby he grabbed my wrists and got close to my face and screamed “You’re not keeping it… and if you do your gonna fuck up its life”. But, I had made up my mind. Once I told him my decision, he didn’t talk to me for three days. When I gave him a choice to stay or leave, he chose to stay. He told me everything was going to be OK But it wasn’t OK.

He showed no interest in talking about our future; finances, birthing classes, baby names etc. He never even contributed one cent to the preparation or arrival of our baby. And of course when an exciting event came up like the 20 week scan to find out the sex of the baby – he had to ruin it with his nerves. I was told I wasn’t allowed to talk to him before we went to the ultrasound, and my excitement was making him more nervous. In our new home, when I tried to get close to him, he would hug me and watch TV. Make jokes and giggle.

But that’s where it ended. He said we didn’t need to hang out socially as we saw each other plenty at home. When I asked about quality time, he said “Quality time is us being under the same roof – even if we are doing separate things, and are in separate rooms – that is quality time”. You couldn’t reason with him. These thoughts made sense to him, and when I tried to point out how unhealthy it was, and not the case for all other couples, he would say I asked for too much. If I told people what he had said  in front of him, he would tell them “I didn’t say it like that at all…”

I was giving birth, he was giving me hell…

And of course, the time came when I went into labour. When a woman goes into labour, they are incredibly vulnerable and needing a lot of support. For me, my partner treated me like nothing but an inconvenience and a huge burden on his life when I first began having contractions. In fact, it took me a good half hour to convince him I was actually in labour. He outright refused to believe me. My cries of pain fell on deaf ears as he exclaimed “You’re just having back pain… it’s not labour”, and then casually went back to watching his show on TV.

I just remember going into survival mode knowing that I could not rely on him for an ounce of support. So I lay there on the ground focusing on every breath, and every minute, telling myself I could do this. When my sister came over to drive me to the hospital my partner was now yelling at me for packing too many bags to take to the hospital. Once we arrived I was taken into the examination room only to be told I was 2cm dilated, so I was given pain killers for my contractions and told to go home. Home!? Alone with him? I couldn’t bear it. I begged them to let me stay, feeling I would have more support at the hospital, and they agreed to let me stay in a ward upstairs until my labour progressed.

After taking the pain killers, I started to feel really sick. The next thing I knew I was throwing up everywhere. In a world of pain from my contractions I was now having to deal with the guilt from my partner for not vomiting in the “right place”.  Next I was ridiculed for sitting in stupid positions, and being told to switch off to the pain and go to sleep. After all, he had back pain all the time – so he said my labour couldn’t be that bad. When we arrived down in the birthing suite, I couldn’t take it anymore. The pain was enough to deal with now, but my head was an absolute mess. He was now even making fun of me to the nurses, that my behaviour was irrational. What behaviour? I was terrified to even open my mouth! I insisted I had the epidural, as I just couldn’t cope anymore…

I was having out of body experiences and questioning my own reality – was he actually doing this to me? Was this all happening, or just a dream? I just wanted someone to hold me and support me. After the epidural had been administered and my contractions were under control, my partner decided he didn’t like the temperature being so cold. But cold was the only thing that kept me comfortable at that time.

When I told him this, he ignored me and went ahead and turned the temperature up higher… and as I warned him that heat made me feel sick – I threw up again. He decided there was no point being awake while I just lay there, so he went to sleep on the chair away from me. When the time came and I gave birth to my beautiful son, it was a lovely nurse’s hand I was holding… not his. And only an hour after the birth, he left to go home; leaving me in my ward with both legs numb from the epidural, and enduring an extensive wait from the nurses once I had pressed the buzzer for help.

He was a doting father, until we were alone…

As I lay there, gazing adoringly at my newborn son, my happiness suddenly turned to panic. How was I going to get us both out of this mess? My partner showed no interest in my son, or I, after we returned home from the hospital, and at any chance he got he went out with mates, or hid in the shed having cigarettes. However when his family or friends were over visiting, he played the role of a doting father and wonderful partner. It made me sick to my stomach watching it. If I needed him to help out and take over while I had a shower, cooked tea or went to the shops, he would put our son in his jolly jumper and watch TV. One time I found our newborn swinging at a speed of 5 (the max. speed) in his rocker.

So leaving him alone with our son was not the most comforting option. One night our little boy got seriously sick and I told my partner we had to take him to the hospital. He said I was being melodramatic, and yelling at me for packing bottles and bags as apparently it was a waste of time, and we wouldn’t be there for long. He knew everything. Then the moment we arrived he switched roles just like a showman does, and put on the role of a caring parent taking our son out of my arms and walked in to the hospital pretending he was the concerned one.

As I wait with my baby in emergency my partner tells me to get to sleep, and if I didn’t go to sleep then he would go to sleep… because there was no point being up all night. But I couldn’t sleep – our baby was critically ill. Couldn’t we comfort each other right now like normal couples would? Then came the mean comments, and ridiculing me… mimicking me… belittling me… making fun of anything I said as though I was an idiot – whenever the nurses weren’t around ofcourse. Our little boy ended up spending five nights in hospital and I stayed day and night.

When I needed my partner to bring formula along, but forgot, I had to go home and get it. When I returned, my son was limp in his arms. I automatically knew something was wrong. When I held him, I alerted the nurses, and our son was put on oxygen. I wondered how he wasn’t aware of it – until I realised he was talking to another woman in the room at the time. Always trying to be best friends with everyone and look like a great guy.

Fixing the unfixable became my goal…

The next event that caused a stir was when I wanted to hyphenate our son’s last name, incorporating both of ours. But, I wasn’t allowed to. Apparently I promised him we would use his last name, and I was the biggest bitch and c*** in the world for going back on my word – the word I don’t even remember saying. He said he would not speak to me again if I didn’t give him his last name. So…I did. From then on nothing was good enough.

My dinners were “unacceptable” because they weren’t “creative” enough, and I was blamed because his clothes were not folded the right way. I was doing my best whilst also adapting to motherhood, and a little baby who would only sleep on me, or in his cot for 20 minutes at a time… not leaving me much time in the day to get everything done.

I was becoming increasingly sick of the way my partner would act like someone different in front of different audiences too. One time he invited his family over, which I didn’t really feel like, and then he went into the spare room and did a painting. When I came in to find him and ask if he was coming out he said “They’re your guests, you entertain them”.

If I were to go out and tell his family what he had just said, would I be believed? And if I was, I would have just been told not to take his bait, or to take him seriously. I actually did reach out for help several times, but no one ever seemed to know the severity of things. In their eyes, we just ‘argued’ a bit. Everyone in my family was trying to be positive for my sake that things would work out.

No one actually shook me and told me to leave. But it wasn’t up to them, it was up to me. It didn’t help or comfort me to hear strangers say: “In my day we fixed things, we didn’t walk away from our relationship”, or “You shagged him… if he was that bad, why did you do it. Why are you with him?” All I could do was blame myself. I didn’t want to let anyone down either, especially my family. I had to fix this.

His split personality finally pushed me over the edge…

Then came the time I absolutely broke down after he switched personalities after we had company. His dad and partner came over to visit, and once they left, he turned. I’d had a hard day, and listening to his negative comments about his dad and partner after just portraying himself as a loving person infront of them sickened me. After early mornings, and massive days with my son, I just wanted to go outside for a walk and clear my head. But apparently that wasn’t ok. I wasn’t allowed to.  He told me I had to talk to him. My fuse was about to blow, I just wanted a little time to walk around the block – just 10 minutes. It had been a big day – and I did all the work!  But that wasn’t allowed.

He blocked the doorway that led outside. I was sick of being afraid of him, so I pushed past him. He grabbed my son and followed me outside onto the road. I broke down to tears asking him to leave me alone, but he didn’t. He kept following. I was at boiling point, my heart was pounding, my chest was tightening – I was just sick of it. Keeping it together all the time for my baby, yet dealing with this shit from my partner all day long. I decided to turn back around and phone his dad who had just left to show him the turn around that happened when he left. I wanted someone to see it, to be able to believe the monster that he was when we were behind closed doors.

Once I had got inside and called his dad, he began telling me he was going to deny it and to tell them I’d just gone crazy again when they got here. I could see my sweet little boy in the arms of a monster… how was I going to get us out of this? As he continued to antagonise me, I told him I was going to go to the police. He just laughed and said “Go ahead… You’re gonna tell them what, we had an argument?” I slowly reached for my keys on the bench, and bolted for the door. As I ran for the car, he ran after me with my son in his arms. I started my car and began to back it out on the drive way when my door was pulled open while the car was still in motion.

He had my son in his arms, whilst trying to get me out of the car. I instantly stopped the car, turned off the ignition and wept. I was trapped. I got out, absolutely weak and exhausted, and fell to my knees at his feet. I screamed at him and asked why he kept doing this to me, and bawled my eyes out – looking exactly how he wanted me to look to the neighbours – crazy.

He told me to get back into the house. I had enough. I jumped back in my car slammed the door and sped off as fast as I could, only to find the police station down the bottom of our street was closed. Was this an emergency? Could I call 000? He didn’t hit me… it was just another argument. Maybe I was being dramatic? Maybe I was crazy? I decided to call lifeline instead, whom informed me that it took women on average 11 times before they left their partner for good, and I that I should not return to the house that night.

My partner’s dad found me on the side of the road on the phone to life line, who then spoke to him as well and instructed him not to let me go back into the house. He took me home and I gathered some things so my son and I could leave the house safely. As I left I could still hear my partner screaming at his dad.

I stayed for my son. I left for my son…

His dad said he’d work with him, and we all agreed he had issues and one of the terms to which I would come back was that he got some professional help. He agreed to get help and was apologetic when I returned back home. Ofcourse, when he went to see a psychologist he returned home from his appointment saying their opinion was that I had trust issues. This was not going to work.

When our lease was approaching renewal, I couldn’t bare the thought of living another year under these conditions. After almost four years of being together and trying everything I had to help him and save our relationship, I had enough. I stayed in the beginning because I loved him and wanted to stand by him despite his problems, but after my son was born I stayed because he convinced me that the problems we had were “my problems” and I was too sensitive. Most importantly i stayed for the safety of my little boy.

My parent’s had become quite concerned in last few months, and after a distressed phone call to my mum, she told me to come home to be with her and my dad. When I told my partner about my decision he told me if I left he would fight me in court for our son and tell everyone I was crazy so that I wouldn’t be able to get custody. I felt so trapped and isolated now. I had to make sure my baby was safe. That night, he began playing with my mind again during an argument, as he tended to do, and I felt so worked up that I needed someone to help me. I went to try and call my dad for help but he tackled me to the ground, ripping my phone from my hand.

My stomach was squashed on the carpet as he sat his full body weight on top of me, telling me he wouldn’t get off until I agreed not to call anyone. Once I agreed, he got off, and walked over to the bed as though nothing had happened. Even moments where he would turn me inside out, he was able to just switch off and carry on about his day – unaffected. I wept on the floor before pulling myself together and attempting to go to sleep next to him. I had to. My son needed me the next day, and I had to have the energy to keep up with him.

He was all that mattered to me. The next day I told my partner I was going to visit my parents for day day, and I ended up packing more and more things in my car that he didn’t notice so I wouldn’t have to return. Here I was thinking that the hardest chapter of my life had just ended. Little did I know another difficult one was just about to begin.

We were apart but he was always there…

Dealing with grief and a shattered self-esteem, the rest year I was subjected to a whole lot of new threats and menacing behaviour. He told me if I were to move on with another guy he was going to take me to court over our son.  I swore to him that I wouldn’t. The well-being of my son was far more important. There was even a rumour made up by his mum that I had post natal depression, and was a “schizo”. This was so damaging and really cut me deep – after all I had been through, they were looking at me as though I was crazy.

Just as my partner threatened would happen.  And then the knife was twisted just that little bit more when my ex’s dad started seeing her side and thinking I had post-natal depression too. It seems as though my partner was doing what he did best, playing the victim and turning the story around. I decided to seek out a DVO from the courts after I brought my son to see his dad at a visit, and when my ex tried to talk to me and I refused to talk to him, he began trying to intimidate me and harass me with words.

When I decided to leave, he grabbed our son and told me he wasn’t giving him back until I talked to him. He never wanted an ounce of time with our baby at home, but would use him as a means of communication and way to contact me and to see me.  It continued into other visits too, and when I asked him to stop intimidating me and he continued, I would pack up our things so I could take my son home. My little boy would become upset after being whipped away suddenly from playing, and my ex would say “Look what mummy’s doing to you… making you sad and taking you away from me”.

I didn’t even find it bad anymore – it was second nature…

When it got to the courts, it was the first time I had ever done anything like this. And I was there alone to apply for a DVO. Not one person by my side, as I felt no one really understand me and what I was going through. In the waiting room area he walked up to me in front of everyone and said, “So are you gonna drop this thing or what?”

I tried to find every bit of strength inside me to pull it together and not cry and replied with a stern “No”. He acted distressed and frazzled and upset in front of the judge but then outside as I sat with a support worker as the appropriate paperwork was processed to continue the case, he walked passed me with a serious look, and then as he walked outside the glass doors he looked back inside to me and smugly grinned at me indicating he was going to get out of this. I was issued with a temporary order, which meant if he broke the conditions he was still committing an offence.

But how was I ever going to prove it. I had to go to the police one time when he kept harassing me at visits and asking if was seeing anyone, so I spoke with my lawyer who recommended I went to the police to have it recorded – and I did. When the police officer offered to call him to give him a warning and to back off, she got off the phone instructing me to stay away from him because in her words he was “an idiot”.

I heard her trying to reason and be calm with him on the phone, and by the end she was raising her voice and becoming annoyed. The same way I used to get worked up. It wasn’t only me, people were beginning to see his other side. He might’ve been able to fool many, but his true colours were showing. Even in my final appearance in court before I had the case dismissed due to the stress it was causing me, another police officer overheard how he was speaking to me in the waiting room area and pulled me aside. She said “Do you let him speak to you like that? Get into the safe room!”. I honestly felt numb, nothing that he said bothered me too much anymore because I was so immune to it. I didn’t even find it bad anymore – it was second nature.

It was a nightmare that would play over and over…

After he began showing up extremely late to visits, starting arriving with new clothes and a hangover – but no money for ice cream for our son when he politely asked daddy for one, and then at times even ‘forgetting visits’, I began becoming quite annoyed. He wasn’t prioritising our son at all, but did the ‘poor me, let me see my son’ speil.

He kept saying he was looking for work, and began studying floristry, and told me he was getting his life on track. He began showing more interest and doing the right thing, until that didn’t last forever and he was out partying while I was pulling a double shift and he didn’t see the problem. I told him it was make or break – if he didn’t agree to get help from a professional, and for me to attend atleast one appointment to give her my version, then it was over entirely. I broke down to her in private and told her I was worried I wouldn’t be believed.

She told me she did believe me and that I also needed to get help for myself to deal with all this. She felt my ex was not ready to change, and even admitted noticing a change in his tone when talking to me in session and noticed him becoming worked up. I waited until we were in a session with her where I safely broke it off, so it didn’t turn into a screaming match or an attempt to play with my head, because at this stage I wasn’t sure what he was capable of.

I got my mother to attend and supervise visits between my son and his father after he was arrested only hours before my son’s visit for drugs. From then on so I could move on and not have to see him. As each week it was a nightmare that would replay over and over again.

At last, a chance for me to heal…

After all that – it was time for me to heal. I began seeing a brilliant psychologist who changed my life. She helped me piece my broken soul back together after a very blurred reality I had experienced for the last few years, and an incredibly low self esteem. I always wanted to do right by my son, and do the best for him. In order to do that I wanted to have a good head on my shoulders and a healed heart.

I did a lot of hard work to understand abuse and the cycle and what I needed to do to understand it and break it, so that I would never find myself in another situation like it. I now have intentions to give back and do something positive with my experience by working with survivors in the future in some way to empower them, and educate people about self worth and self esteem so that we can spot these abusive monsters from afar and never be trapped again. ♥️

I will never let him break me…

After all he did to me, I’ve never let him break me. I have turned my life around, and though I have found forgiveness in my heart, I will never be able to forget.  A message to survivors is to never give up. You are stronger than you think! They may have tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.

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.