Making voice heard in a world of distrust

ANALYSIS: Shifting the gender bias

Zac* didn't get to say goodbye to his mother before she died. 

He was just kilometres away from her in her last moments - sitting alone in his car waiting for his wife to finish TAFE . 

He wasn't allowed to leave. 

Zac, of Bendigo, spent much of his 18-year marriage following rules; he was confined to his house and closeted away from family and friends. 

He can't remember when the physical abuse started. 

"It started with her controlling me, telling me what to do, not letting me have access to my money," he said. 

"Slowly it turned into yelling and hitting and kicking ... I have scars from where she grabbed me.

"But I knew if I did anything, she would call the police on me and tell them I was to blame."

For years, Zac was left trapped without contact to the outside world, as his partner blocked all phone calls and mail. 

"I missed out on so much and had no one left. I missed out on my life," he said. 

"I had to wait for my partner while she did things - I couldn't leave even when my mother was dying."

And then, one day while his partner was out of the house, Zac's sister came to take him away for good. 

"Within half an hour (my partner) was calling me and demanding to know where I was," he said. 

"But I stayed at my sister's house and was determined to get out."

But even when Zac did finally get out, he was accused by some of causing the violence and pushed away from services he so desperately needed. 

"They pretty much told me to get over it, to be a man," he said. 

"They asked what I'd done to her to make her lash out. 

"It was hard to feel totally distrusted and it's been two and a half years of trying out different counsellors before I have found someone who says I'm not to blame and who is willing to help me.

"The slightest touch from my new partner can send me into a spin, but at least now people believe me and I can start to move on."

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