How I finally walked away

Last updated 09:36 07/04/2014
Victim
IN THE SHADOWS: It's easy to tell people to leave, but no one can prepare you for how hard it is.

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Andrew and I had huge chemistry when we met. I was confident, having just got my first full-time job in television, and he was charming, handsome and wealthy.

There were no signs of things to come, but he was unpredictable. He could be two completely different people. Utterly charming one day, unrecognisable the next.

The progression to violence was textbook. It's gradual; they start by chipping away at your confidence. He'd subtly undermine things like my clothes, and criticise the people around me. Socialising was a nightmare. I constantly monitored my behaviour so he wouldn't get jealous.

I always wondered how victims of domestic violence could stay. I thought domestic violence meant you were punched in the face, bruised and battered. But it took a long time to become physical. I think I found the mental and emotional abuse far worse, because there was a constant threat.

The violence kicked off the first night we moved in together. We'd gone out for dinner. He was angry because he thought I hadn't supported him when his father died. We had a fight, and when we left he pinned me against a wall and shook me.

It took two guys to pull him off me. I begged them not to hurt him. They said 'we're not going to hurt him; we just don't like seeing a man treat a woman that way.' It breaks my heart that I didn't thank them.

I called the police later that night, but only because he'd locked me out and I needed clothes. They gave me a card for a domestic violence counsellor, but I couldn't connect that to what had just happened.

The first time it happens, they cry, express regret, promise never again, he'd get help, he needed me, loved me. He'd be on best behaviour, then the possessiveness would start again. How many men worked in my office, did they talk to me? He monitored my phone calls and infiltrated every area of my life.

I was too ashamed to tell my friends. Then I'd have to admit I knew that I was in a bad relationship. It's easy to tell people to leave, but no one can prepare you for how hard it is. You still love them. When the relationship was good, it was SO good - that's hard for people to understand. I told mum the second time I left. 'I said don't let me end up one of those women whose black and blue, who says 'but I love him'.' She said she wouldn't let that happen.

The first time I left him, he crumbled. He had a fake break-down, and pretended to attempt suicide. I went back, but told him he had to sort himself or I'd leave.

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One night he punched me in the back and tried to strangle me. I booked us in to see a counsellor. At the last minute he refused to go. I went, and the counsellor told me I'd broken the code. She said 'The violence was just between the two of you; now there's a third party involved. It's going to escalate. You need to go home pack your stuff and get out because it's about to get a whole lot worse.'

I always knew when he was about to kick off, I learned the signs. I kept a bag packed with a mobile charger, cash and clothes so I could get out of the way quickly. I could tell he was off one night, so I went to bed early. I heard him on the phone to a mate downstairs, calling me a whore, saying I didn't understand him.

I picked up the phone. My mother had given me an ultimatum; "The next time you call us about Andrew, it has to be that you're leaving. Because that's the last time we'll let you come home." I sat on the bed thinking 'Is this it? Is this it?' I rang mum and told her it was time.

When I walked out the door, a bunch of teenagers were smoking in front of the newsagent opposite. Andrew screamed at me to get back inside. "I said 'I'm leaving you because I'm sick of your bullsh*t!'" The kids clapped and cheered; 'You go, girlfriend!' I'll never forget it - a cheer squad saying 'you can do this, you've got this.' It made me laugh - in that moment I found strength. I was never going back.

I'd pre-booked a cab to meet me at the end of the street. He chased me, but there thank god the taxi was already there. He got on his knees, crying, threatening to kill himself. I said 'Well hurry up and give us all peace.' I knew it was manipulation.

He tried everything to make me go back. He got my new number and called 80 times a day, he found out where I was working. Another time he sent $600 and a note saying there was more where that came from. Then he tried blackmail. We'd made a video, and he threatened to send it to my father if I didn't return. The police were incredible. They told him if the video ever got out they'd charge him with distributing pornography.

It feels like another person when I talk about it now. I stropped trusting myself, and it took so long to rebuild. But the support I got from the counsellor, my family and friends was brilliant.

If this sounds familiar to anyone, but they're too embarrassed to talk to friends, tell a counsellor what's happening. You may have lost trust in your own instincts so ask them if it's normal. They'll spot the signs way before you do.

I still don't really think of myself as a victim of domestic violence, but the truth is I was.

- Daily Life

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