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Breaking the Cycle – 20 Years of Survival

Alison Percy

Nice Bloke knocked on my door 24 years ago. Both of us were professionals in a similar field, with similar degrees.

I fell in love with Nice Bloke, and his actions said he loved me. We walked on air for three weeks. We held each other tight, I laughed at his jokes. I was 30, and I thought I’d finally found The One with whom I’d spend the rest of my life.

I was right. I am spending the rest of my life with him. But not in the manner I’d imagined.

After three weeks of bliss, I went away for a weekend. Nice Bloke became Cold Man. An icy ravine, freezing, black and unfathomable, separated us. I had no idea what I’d done (for, of course, it was my fault). Some days passed. Cold Man thawed and became The One again. Over the next few months, I met other facets of Nice Bloke. I met Mr. Critical. I met Furious. I met You-Don’t-Exist.

But still, I was special. I was the love of his life – as long as I did what he said. As long as I continued to implement the self-improvements he suggested. I needed to change the way I dressed, the way I talked, the way I ate. I needed to drop the friends he didn’t like. And my family were all terrible people, so it was imperative that I reduce contact with them.

This was the pattern of our relationship. The One was predictable in his unpredictability.

After 10 months of tempestuous times, I fell pregnant. What a glorious surprise . . . for me. Reluctant Father was not so happy. But he fell in love with his child (although, even that was my fault, because I forced him to be at the birth).

I saw Nice Bloke less and less through my pregnancy, and then as a mother. He hated me breastfeeding our child. “I’m the father. I should have a say! You should stop breastfeeding after a month!”

Furious visited often. His verbal abuse became physical. When he was angry, he seemed to inflate in size, towering over me. I was petite and shrank in fear. He discovered that spitting at me until my hair was wringing wet was effective at controlling my little outbursts of independence.

My constant companions became Fear, Dread and Anxiety.

I came to know Furious intimately. My stomach knotted when I saw his face grow red. His jaw line would tighten, the muscles moving minutely. I would cower at his spray of words through teeth that were bared, but did not part.

I attended a parenting course. Reluctant Father did not approve, and Furious and Mr. Critical emerged more often, with vehemence. I was determined to continue. This course was a life-changer for me.

One night Mr Critical morphed into Furious Rage, and flushed the parenting book down the toilet. While Baby clung to my hip, he tried to strangle me. Interestingly, Furious Rage had enough self-control that he did not hit me. As he said later,

“I never hit you, because I’ve been brought up to never hit a woman.”

I’d had enough. I called the police. Furious and I split up. But Nice Bloke wanted us back together. He wanted us to have more children. I went away to see my family. Furious broke into my house, and stole my safety. I was devastated and completely petrified. I fled.

My new homes became The Family Court and The Magistrates Court. I lost control of my life. I was at the mercy of Furious and his numerous court applications. My future was subject to the decisions of many Judges and Magistrates. This was one of the forms of harassment and fear in which Furious became an expert. We fronted the courts regularly for over 16 years. We both ended up representing ourselves. He, my abuser, directly cross-examined me. I, the abused, looked for the courage to stand up to ask questions of him.

One day when our child was five, I parked the car in our garage. I looked up, and there by the door, his torso blocking the drive’s side window, loomed Furious Rage. He stamped back so I could edge out. He started to yell. His face grew incandescent, the colour of molten metal. His mouth contorted into a thin-lipped grimace. Through his clenched teeth spittle spewed forth, along with words and volume. His finger pointed and pointed and pointed.

Furious Rage dragged our child from the safety of my hip. He forced a tiny Petrified into the car, face screwed up in terror and confusion. “Daddy, I don’t want to go. Daddy, I don’t want to go”. Furious Rage skidded away with my child in the back seat.

The courts made Furious Rage bring his child back. But then ordered time with Dad again, beginning just a couple of weeks after this traumatic experience.

How could I help my child? How would a tiny Terrified cope, and grow up, after suffering trauma after trauma at the hands of Frustrated Dad?

Furious continued to pursue me in various forms for over 20 years. His latest clever tactic is to try and ruin my reputation. Hence, I write under a pseudonym.

My Young Adult child is now in a stable relationship, and doing well at the University of choice. Young Adult has a good sense of self-worth, and is warm, compassionate and kind. I believe that this child of violence will not perpetuate, or participate, in a relationship of violence. The cycle is broken.

I have survived, and work in the community sector. I dedicate my life to helping parents break the cycle of generational violence. I know, through my lived experience, that it is possible to bring up children, male and female, to be respectful of others, and themselves. To be non-violent.

No one should suffer as my family has. No one should suffer as Rosie Batty has. No one should die at the hands of someone they loved.

  • Ms Jennifer

    Aahh the criticism. That is were it all starts, the apologies, how much they love you and how much you (and the children) mean to them. It took me 20 years and you think I would have known better, I had spent most of those years in an industry supporting women and children who had fled domestic violence. That thankfully was more than a decade ago now….and he doesn’t scare me anymore. Nor has he laid a hand on me since. I am truly one of the lucky ones.

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