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I’m your average Canberra woman. And I’m a victim of domestic violence.

Anonymous

violence-2First off, let me say that I am not a paid writer, nor am I a representative or advocate of any support group. I’m simply a woman like any other woman in the world.

There is nothing significant about me or my story. You won’t hear my name in the news, there will be no national discussion on how brave I am, or how much of an impact my story has on the community or world at large.  You won’t see me being the spokesperson for a national awareness day and at no point will the history books make mention of this small blip in time that has impacted on my life. So being that my story is nothing unique or special, why would I take the time to write it, or more importantly why would you continue to read it? Well while MY personal story will never be told on any grand scale, a grand scale of women tell the same story.  Millions more live it and never speak of it.  And that’s just not ok.

Recently I was the victim of domestic violence at the hands of a man I loved dearly. A crime that happens all too often. A crime that should never happen.

I’d like to start off with thanks for people who probably don’t get to hear it enough.

Thank you to the police men and women who willingly walked in to a potentially violent situation and assisted me without judgement or hesitation. You saw me at my worst and made sure I was okay. Thank you for being the ones to press charges, as this is an incredibly hard thing to do to someone you love.

Thank you to the ambulance officers who cleaned me up, treated my injuries, and kept me calm and mentally occupied on the ride to the hospital when all I really wanted to do was hide away in shame.

Most importantly thank you to the Domestic Violence Crisis Support Team. I arrived at hospital for examination at 4am and two very lovely ladies were there waiting for my arrival, ready to support in whatever way they could. Had I not have needed to be at the hospital they would have come straight to my house. At 4am. On a wet cold Canberra winter morning. None of the typical ‘call us during business hours and we’ll see what we can do for you’ attitude. They were there as fast as they could be and their main concern was my safety. No judgement, no prying for information, no blame.

Armed with information on emergency accommodation, legal support or just a shoulder to cry on, they were there and ready to provide me with an action plan on how to deal with all the issues I was about to face, when let’s face it, judging from my ugg boots being on the wrong feet, I was not in any state to be thinking this through for myself.

The support the DVCS provide is amazing. Not only do they have a phone counselling service just to talk and make sure you’re okay,  but they liaise with the police and court proceedings to keep you informed about what’s happening.

They are there to assist with legal matters – helping you find (or afford) a lawyer for the court sessions you may be required to attend. They can help with custody and asset splitting issues. If you need it, they will help with emergency accommodation for you and your family so you don’t have to stay in a violent home.

They are an invaluable organisation whose services are freely available. While I will never be able to repay the emotional support they gave me, my future tax returns will always show my donations to this amazing service.

I was fortunate to be in a situation where I had the support of my family and friends and didn’t need to utilise many of the options available to me by the DVCS. I realise many women do not have the luxury of such support and I highly encourage you to contact DVCS to discuss what your options are if you feel you need assistance. Please do not wait until it spills over into a violent and potentially life-threatening situation. I walked away with scratches, bruises and a broken heart, but most importantly I walked away with my life.

It hasn’t been until now, over a month on, I realised how strong I was to walk away and leave such a situation. I was lucky in that my family, friends and work colleagues were strong for me, and didn’t let me believe for a moment that things could be all sweetness and light again between my ex and I.

For anyone out there currently thinking that things will get better, let me be the one to tell you – they wont. A leopard will never change their spots. Not the day after, not the week after, and more than likely not 10 years after. No matter how many bunches of flowers, how many apologies, or how many promises to change you get, you’ll find yourself facing the same situation over and over.  The cycle of abuse can only be broken when you are strong enough to realise you don’t deserve it. That you are strong enough to change your life for the better.

Its hard work – lets get that straight. There’s scary and lonely stuff like sleeping alone at night in a creaky house. There’s even more scary stuff like legal matters in dealing with a separation, and the splitting of assets, and custody battles if there are children involved. There’s boring, tedious and incredibly emotionally draining stuff like packing up the house you once shared, cleaning away so many memories and moving on. These things all suck, but support is available for you.

Sometimes its hard to realise that your relationship is abusive. For me, I didn’t realise until it became physical, but in retrospect, name calling, being overly controlling about my whereabouts, excessive phone calls, and not treating me like an equal in the relationship were all signs of abuse. Everyone needs to draw a line on what you will and won’t put up with, and stick to it.

Having been through this dark passage and successfully survived to see my future brighten, let me tell you that once you make the decision to move forward, life does get better. Wade through the pain and hassle of moving on, and life suddenly looks pretty damn good again. Life is full of exciting and fun things – there’s your new place to decorate, new adventures for you and the kids (or fur-baby in my case), new people to meet. Even simple things like realising you have complete control of the TV remote is exciting.

I would like to remind each and every woman out there, that you are much stronger than you think you are. Be strong. Be your own number one supporter and stand up for your rights. You have the right to be in a fulfilling relationship free from emotional, physical or verbal abuse. There are so many people out there willing and able to help, sometimes all you need to do is let someone know your concerns.

I hope people will read this and draw from my experience. So many positives have come from something so awful in my life.

Please believe you do not deserve to be treated like anything less than the amazing woman you are.

If you feel that you or someone you know could be in an abusive relationship please call the Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS) ACT 24 hour crisis line on 6280 0900 or visit www.dvcs.org.au.

  • Heather

    I am going to commend your bravery. Thank you for speaking out. Thank you for taking care of yourself. Thank you for providing such a well thought out and practical list for others who may need help. I wish you the very best for each and every day that follows.

  • Rebecca

    Thanks for sharing your story, I hope it helps someone today! Or tomorrow…

  • Sarah

    What an open and honest article. I’m so glad to hear that you got out of your situation and are now moving one with a great life ahead. I hope many women can gain strength from your story.

  • Kristen Holzapfel

    Thank you for sharing your journey and your insights with HerCanberra. Rest assured your courage and strength are very much appreciated by many, many Canberrans. In a relatively short passage, you have managed to honestly describe both the awfulness of domestic violence and the ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’ I hope the process of writing has been (somewhat) cathartic, or at least useful to you and your recovery. I wish you all the very best for a warm, loving and promising future. Xoxo

  • Cassidy

    YAY you for finding the strength to get through. I hope this article inspires and encourages others to do the same.

  • virginia

    I really like how you talked about the behaviours that were evident before the physical abuse.. Being constantly put down , having money controlled, asking for permission to pick a flower from the garden-all because I was terrified of setting off my partners temper. After 17 years, I am free. Looking back is dark, looking forward is full of sunshine x

  • Cath Stanley

    As someone who endured 6 years of never ending abuse, some of it I won’t even speak about, I like to think of myself a ‘survivor’. You too are a survivor, not a victim. The victim has become the victor. Bravo. Well done, I understand your path and the strength it took to take action. My blessings to you.

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