Family violence survivor Mia* shares her story on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
What does family violence mean to you? The reason I ask this question is because it means different things to everyone, but to me it means being physically hurt, emotionally put down and isolated from my family and friends by someone I loved and trusted.
The emotional abuse lasted for years, it affected the core of my being. All my self-worth, confidence and self-belief was taken away from me, day after day it dissolved. He chipped away at my sense of self and independence over time, until I felt that I was no longer worthy of love by anyone. The physical injuries healed, but the torment continued. He wouldn’t let me be a good mother to my children and his abuse towards me hurt them too. Now I wonder, how did the violence and abuse affect my three children… What did they feel and experience... They were all just babies. Some days I still see the impact now in their faces.
I was a fun-loving independent woman who just wanted to find love, settle down and have a family. I never asked to be treated like this and my family wasn’t like that. I never asked for someone who I loved, the father of my children, to put his hands on me, to leave me with long-lasting physical and emotional injuries and pain.
Many people, including friends and family asked me “Why didn’t you leave?”, after I did leave. I had tried to leave many times, why would I want to stay with someone who abuses me? I stayed to keep myself safe and to keep my family together. I didn’t know if anyone would believe me. I couldn’t believe that he could treat me like this, so how could anyone else?
People never saw him as an abuser, that’s because he behaved like everyone else in public view. People thought he was a top bloke and he was treated as a valued member of our community. This just made me feel further victimised and isolated and all I wanted people to do was listen and see what he was doing to me.
So many people didn’t understand what I was going through, they would ask… “What did you say or do to him to set him off? Perhaps he just had a little too much to drink.” So many excuses, so many reasons about why he was abusive and so much judgement of me. No one deserves to be abused, it’s not OK to do that to anyone, ever.
Many people, including friends and family asked me “Why didn’t you leave?”, after I did leave. I had tried to leave many times, why would I want to stay with someone who abuses me? I stayed to keep myself safe and to keep my family together. I didn’t know if anyone would believe me.Mia, family violence survivor
One night we had a massive fight, well that’s what people said, it’s just a fight or an argument. But it was abuse, I was emotionally abused and physically assaulted, it had happened again. Even though I didn’t know where to go or what to do, I had to leave, I needed to get my children out of there, before he killed us all.
It was late at night, I was terrified. I had a baby in my arms, a toddler in bed and a four-year-old screaming at my feet. I was desperate for help, but couldn’t call, and I had no access to my phone or my purse, nothing.
I quickly grabbed my three children and left running out the door, with nothing except my car keys. I didn’t even know where to go. I went straight to the hospital, I was in so much pain and my children were hurting too, but I was thinking what now, what happens now?
Read more: Walking for the end of violence
My mind was going a million miles an hour and then it was dead silence, I couldn’t hear any noise, and everything was still. I have no idea how I arrived at the hospital and to this day I have no memory of driving there. I had to use my words, words that no one had heard before and words I had never said. I had to tell someone and it was a complete stranger that I told. How did the words come out? I’m not even sure what I said, but they could see the fear in my face.
The next I remember, there were police officers standing in front of me and they were asking questions. I’ll never forget the simple words that meant such a lot, one officer said … “You’re safe now”.
I relied on everyone around me, complete strangers to help support me through what was one of the hardest and most dangerous times of my life. It was a time that I found out that leaving him was even more dangerous than I expected…Yes, more dangerous than staying with him and thinking I could keep myself and my children safe.
Did you know that the most dangerous time for a woman and children is after they leave? That person who you loved and trusted has now lost all their control over you and they will do whatever it takes to get it back. Even saying they will kill you, rather than think about you being with someone else. I still fear that he will follow through with his threats… But luckily that hasn’t happened to me. I am no longer a victim of family violence, I am a survivor.
*Name has been changed to protect her identity
In Bendigo and central Victoria, support is available from the Centre for Non-Violence, which can be reached on 5430 3000 or free call within the Bendigo area on 1800 884 292.
Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-operative provides support to Aboriginal women experiencing family violence; the organisation’s phone number is 5442 4947.
Culturally sensitive and generalist counselling, with interpreters as needed, is available from Bendigo Community Health Services on 5430 0500.
Men looking to end their violent or abusive behaviour can call the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491.
In an emergency, call triple zero.