…but after reading that six Australian women have been murdered this week, and after seeing so many brave women tell their story around the world, I figure it’s time.  

Abusive relationships don’t start out being abusive – otherwise there wouldn’t be any!  No, abusive relationships start out as any other – loving and caring and all caught up in the honeymoon bubble.

It’s only further down the track that you wake up and realise that slowly and insidiously, the boundaries have shifted – that you’re now accepting and tolerating behaviour that you never, EVER thought you would.  Not in a million years!

Absolutely anyone can find themselves in an abusive relationship.  I did.

It’s only now with the benefit of hindsight that I can see the slippery slope that led to me fleeing the family home with my two children.  There was the emotional and psychological abuse.  There was the financial and verbal abuse.  There was the physical abuse but this was always quite mild (is there really any such thing??)

However, the good times far outweighed the bad times and he was always so apologetic and loving afterwards and swore that it would never happen again…but gradually it became more regular and more threatening and until one night he dropped the phone in my lap and advised me to keep it with me to call an ambulance after he “flogged the f#ck” out of me.

It was that moment, late one winter’s night, that I knew that we had passed the point of no return.  I gathered up my baby and my toddler and we fled the family home with nothing but our pyjamas.

I was so very fortunate to have my best friend live close by and we sought shelter there for a couple of nights.  I was also very fortunate to live in a small, close-knit community who all came out of the woodwork to help my children and I gain some sort of normality and to offer their support.  I often look back at that time and wonder if it was my only window of opportunity – whether I would have had another chance had I not have taken it then.

That’s when the real nightmare began.  The threats, the stalking, the fear.  He threatened to sneak into my best friend’s house “like a rat up a drainpipe and take the whole lot of you out.”  He threatened to put me “in a hole” and to take me fishing and use me as bait.

I escaped to a nearby town where my parents lived and we hid my car, hired another one and waited in a small motel room, under a false name, until I could get a Domestic Violence Order through the Courts.  That would turn out to be the first of two consecutive DVOs.

One of my ex-husband’s favourite sayings was, “Don’t let fear hold you back.”  Neither of us could have guessed that, ironically, my biggest fear for many years would be him.

So began the next several years of more threats, abuse and stalking combined with lawyers, fear and intimidation.  Who knew that my lawyer wasn’t even going to mention the domestic violence to the court as they “look down on it”?  Seriously??  Who knew that my children would be forced to spend time with an aggressive, unstable and violent man against their will?

During these years, he risked my children’s lives by driving drunk with them in the car.  He even rolled his truck with the kids in it!  He punched holes in the toilet door when my son was in there.  He turned up to my kid’s school drunk one morning and chased them around the school until a teacher finally intercepted. 

I was always on edge on the weekends that my children were with him, so imagine my horror when I received a phone call from police asking if they were my children.  I instantly imagined the worst but it turns out that my ex-husband had stormed into the station with allegations of child abuse against me.  The police officer actually rang to check whether or not he should even have the children as he seemed “a bit of a loose cannon.”

On and on it went and it seemed that the only one of us who had any rights was him!

In the end, my children decided that they no longer wanted to see their father, however we all knew that they could be forced to.  The only thing I could do to guard against it was to keep a stash of money in my son’s wallet with instructions for him to just call a cab if it ever happened and I would meet him somewhere on the way.

Eventually, their father lost interest and we were able to live in some sort of peace.  However, the nightmares never left us, even after living in hiding, moving homes several times and protecting our privacy in every way, shape and form.

In fact, even coming out now and telling my story terrifies me.  I have kept it secret for so many years for fear of upsetting him.  However, when I read about the number of beautiful Australian women being killed at the hands of their ex-partners, I feel it’s time to speak up. 

If we don’t tell our stories, the perpetrators are protected and ultimately win.  If we don’t tell our stories, raise awareness and advocate for change, more Australian women and children will be hurt….or worse.

Ironically, I actually feel safer now having told my story.  Perhaps the pen is indeed mightier than the sword.  Perhaps it’s true about what they say about facing your fears.  Perhaps the truth really will set you free.

PS. My children are now adults and I’m pleased to report that we’ve never been healthier or happier.  Sometimes I wonder if that’s because of the above, not despite it.  Sometimes there is only the strength and wisdom that comes from adversity. Kx