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I was broken, homeless & bankrupt... but I survived!

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it definitely takes immense hardship before reflection and hindsight ever really plays a part in understanding one's story.

I never witnessed or was immersed in an environment of domestic abuse or violence growing up, but I do not use that as an excuse for missing the sign posts of it myself, as I had enough knowledge to know better, but not enough understanding of just how much mental and emotional abuse truly is the driver of attack!

When my marriage ended in 2012, after some time I went looking for a new start and I met a man online through an internet dating site. He was amazing. I fell in love with him almost instantly...we laughed and talked together for hours. We met day after day, loving the moments we shared together and eventually building a trust deep enough to introduce our children into the relationship. He had a son and I had a daughter and son. It was perfect. ... at first!

…I still remember the first time he lied to me and I blamed myself. When I realised he had lied and I confronted him about it, he said to me…"I wasn’t sure how you would react to the truth. You can be fickle at times, and I wasn’t interested in the drama that would follow”. I was horrified that he thought of me that way, that he perceived me that way. Instead of it being about his behaviour and his lie, I agonised over what actions I had ever done that could cause him to think like that about me, and the night ended with ME apologising to HIM! (crazy right! … but little did I know that his reign of manipulation had in fact just begun and I had walked right into it like a love-sick, blind fool).

This subtle manipulation & behaviour continued for months – until I truly believed that he knew best. That I had issues that only he could really ‘see’, and that he was my saviour. I believed that he was the only one that was ever truly ‘honest’ with me about the external projection of myself and as a result I needed help. I needed him to pull me up on my attitudes and behaviours that he saw and I was actually thankful for this realisation and assistance. (Oh, he was good!)

We moved in together in 2014 with shared care of our children and I was completely in love. But I was also moulded into exactly what he needed me to be. I started to doubt everything about myself as he began to point out more and more of my ‘faults’ on a daily basis. He made me see that my friends were ‘no good for me’. That my family were ‘toxic and controlling’ and before long I began to loathe myself. I believed for the first time that I was a poor mother, being that he constantly told me ‘how’ to talk to and raise my kids and that I was doing it wrong. Everything I did was always wrong and he knew best. He would tell me that I was the reason for all of our problems. That my temper, my attitude, my demeanour, my hostility, my naivety, my compassion – ME – was the cause of every problem, argument and issue we ever faced…and I eventually believed him. I was a shell of who I once was and I believed that no longer could I be loved by anyone (even my own family) and that he was the only one that could ever really see the true me and love me for it anyway. I was broken, manipulated and used.

...then came the attack!

I had been a bridesmaid for a best friend’s wedding that day and I was happy, smiling, surrounded by people in my life who love me, and it was too much for him. I had attention on me that day, not him, and he hated it. As we got home that night, he berated me, belittled me, called me names and when I refused to engage or react he then began to lay his hands on me.

I tried to get help from my neighbours, but no one responded to my screams as he took me into a headlock trying to choke me and eventually sent me careening into the door frame of my son's bedroom door. …As my head split open from the impact, I will only remember the sheer feeling of relief that followed as his arms came away from my neck and I could breathe again - that was, until the pain hit. As I threw my hands up to my head, blood began pouring over my eyes and nose. At this point he grabbed me by my legs and dragged me down the stairs, onto the tiled rumpus room floor where he left me.

I managed to get away and call an ambulance and I curled up in a foetal position to await its arrival (or whatever my fate was next).

The ambulance arrived and immediately rushed me to hospital, but he returned and climbed into the back of the ambulance with us, smiling and conversing with them the entire way. By the time I arrived at the hospital I was unable to remember my address and was showing signs of confusion. I was placed in a waiting room until they could find a bed, where I spent 7 hours waiting to be seen by a doctor with my head split open to the skull, a possible fractured eye socket and a considerable concussion.

...And what did he do? When we were once again alone, he griped my hands, hard, and said - "Don’t you ever _-_-_ lay your hands on me again, do you hear me! You had NO right to touch me and push me the way you did and the fact you fell after doing so, just goes to show how drunk you were after your big day at the wedding!”

At that point I went completely numb. I realised then the story he had told the doctors and himself. None was going to believe me - he had already convinced them I was a stupid, clumsy bridesmaid who had too much to drink. I was physically and emotionally numb. He had achieved what he always wanted. He had broken me (physically, mentally & emotionally). I deserved it, all of it - everything I got. I was pathetic and I deserved it (at least I thought so at the time, thanks to the version of love I had been sold by this man).

So, I told my friends, my family and my staff that I had fallen. That I tripped on the hem of my skirt and landed with my full body weight on the door frame. Just a dumb, silly, accident – and they all believed me (after all, why wouldn’t they – I had never lied to them before!) and inside I died. I lied and I covered up an assault. I placed my kids and I into a position of the worst kind…violence within their own home; and I did it all because I loved the man that laid his hands on me. I really was pathetic. I deserved it.

I had always wondered how women stayed with men that abused them and that hit them. I used to blame the woman for staying – after all, that is what society teaches us, right – VICTIM BLAMING. I could not understand how a woman could put her kids in harm’s way or ignore an attack in their own home…but, now I knew – as I was living that life. It never starts with a fist or being choked – it starts with the mental abuse. The degradation of your self-esteem and your soul. Of your knowledge of who you are, until you are so weak, that the attack becomes easy. It becomes almost a welcome punishment for how pathetic a person you think you are. That is how! Now I know!!!

This story has a happy ending though, as I eventually left him. The mental torture hit an all time high one night and he told me to get out (he said this often)… but what he didn’t realise, was that I finally saw my chance in it this time – my escape. And I took it. I grabbed my kids out of their beds in the middle of the night, packed up what I could in my car and I left.

...Don’t get me wrong – it was awful and horrific. The kids were howling and crying. He was trying to stop me and I was almost on the verge of hysteria. I was leaving my ‘step son’ whom I genuinely loved, but I DID it. I took the kids and left.

We slept in the car for the first night, homeless and so scared. I had no idea what I was going to do if where I was going to go.

After some time I eventually I got up the courage to approach my ex-husband & my family and tell them everything, and I never went back.

I spent months in hell, trying to overcome my pain and my losses. I cried myself to sleep every night. I even tried to take my own life. I had no access to any money (my kids even had to change schools), we had no home and in one final attempt to control me, my partner placed both of our businesses into liquidation and I lost everything. I had no income either. I was broken, homeless and bankrupt!

...but with time, I found myself and my children again. And every single day since then I look at my daughter and my son and I thank the heavens that we went through it – if only so they learn how NOT to treat another, and how NOT to ever let yourself be treated. I helped my daughter dodge a bullet, ensuring she was not raised by a man that might easily turn one day to treat her as he did me, and that my son would not learn traits and behaviours of a man that hurt women with words and actions.

Today – I am healed & I know my worth once again.

I have a scar across my forehead now where my head was split open that night and every single day I see it in the mirror as a reminder of who I once was (or wasn’t). Some days it still makes me cry, other days it makes me determined. Determined to make a difference and ensure other women find the strength and support needed to get out of the way of this harm. That they find their self-worth and know that they ARE loved.

***If you need help from domestic abuse or violence, or mental health support please – tell someone. Anyone! It’s hard but your children will thank you (and you will thank yourself one day too). I promise you that***

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