It’s been one year since I had the courage to gather all my things, break my lease and run from my brush with domestic violence. Well I wouldn’t say brush – I was well in the thick of it.
It’s unfortunate that domestic violence has such a bad wrap – it’s swept under the rug with an off-handed approach as if it were the victims fault that they found themselves stuck in this particularly complex mental struggle in the first place and not that it helps (at all), but every god forsaken bystander expects them to muster up enough courage to pull themselves out of it. In some cultures, it’s even deemed acceptable! How the hell does that even bloody even make sense?
That’s why I’m bringing to light my own experience – to explain that it’s not that simple nor is it’s solution black and white. I can’t just break free of what’s happening to me and nor should there be an expectation for me to do so. I want to bring anyone who reads this closer to an understanding of the mental complexities behind domestic violence – how I truly feel. I want to share this with my family and friends who I haven’t told before. I want you to know that domestic violence is real, and it could happen to the strongest person that you know.
Who has ever uttered the words ‘that’ll never happen to me’? Now let’s take it one step further. Who was ever told about a domestic violence experience, either on the news or through a family member/friend and then proceeded to claim ‘omg, I would have totally just up and left if he/she did that to me – that’s f*cked’ or perhaps a ‘why would she let him do that to her over and over again? Stupid’. Cmon, show of hands…don’t be shy.
Look, I’ll be the first to admit it. When I was younger (naive, inexperienced and uneducated among others things too), those were my exact thoughts – bloody ignorant if you ask me now. I praised myself in being a go-getter with an absolute zero tolerance for anyone’s bullshit. Fast forward a few years, twenty two years of age and ‘in love’… well guess what happened? Yep. You’ve got it right.
So how did it all start?
My partner at the time, was a little off the beaten path – he was damaged and like any human being would, I wanted to be the one to fix him. For example, you see a sick puppy and you want to help it right? Well simply put, I wanted to be the one to gather all the pieces ridden with bio polar II, anxiety, depression, multiple personality disorder and glue them altogether to create one perfect and happy human being. 1. What a complete joke and 2. I’d clearly forgotten an extremely crucial concept… that by nature, humans are flawed – you can’t fix that shit and it’s not your job to.
I came to the quick conclusion that in order to alleviate his stress and pressure, I needed to extract us both from our toxic environment (being his extremely disruptive family dynamic). What this really meant was that I uprooted my life in Sydney and made a new life here in Perth, where we would be closer to his more understanding step family. I packed and I left. Without a second thought. In my head, I thought this person was worth saving, worth sacrificing my family and friends for – I thought I was doing the right thing by someone else… I mean this is what love is meant to be right? (Hint: wrong. Life isn’t a Nichols Sparks’ novel)
The hardest parts…
I lost who I was. Completely. The reason why I lived and breathed was so that one day, he could find his place of happiness and be ridden of all mental illnesses – but I didn’t know at the time, that the day I longed for never existed in the first place. That this game was not meant for me to play.
My life here in Perth wasn’t how I painted it to family and friends back over East. I worked ten hours a day, five days a week at a shoe store. When I came home from work, I started my after-hours shifts on my laptop as a community manager from 7PM to 2AM and did day shifts from 10AM to 3PM on my weekends (in between crying and arguing of course). He never even tried looking for work. He said it was too hard for him and blamed his depression…
But that was okay with me at the time. I thought that his unwillingness to help himself would pass. I felt sorry for him. He convinced me that if I truly loved him, I would make the necessary sacrifices so that he could afford hospital treatment for his show of mental illnesses. But he never tried to help himself. When all I wanted was for him to make an appointment with a doctor at the hospital… he never even tried to call.
And one night, when I was struck with a serious case of food poisoning, he was reluctant to drive me to the hospital. The reason? Because he didn’t like hospitals. I was extremely feverish and had been vomiting for five hours consecutively. He dropped me off at the emergency entrance. I crawled inside. And he drove off. I stayed in emergency overnight by myself…
When I grew tired, when I became exhausted from my weeks work and came home to dishes that weren’t washed or clothes that weren’t hung out to dry, he said he couldn’t do it. His depression was stopping him from getting up and helping around the house. He slept all day. He watched me wash the dishes and cook him food bought with the money that was left of my weeks pay, while he pumped obnoxious music and got ready for the gym…
When I wanted to speak to my friends, guys and girls alike, back home or at work – he hated it. He didn’t let me have any. So I piped up. You can take away anything from me, I don’t care, but you can’t take away my family and friends. He didn’t like that I had an opinion to voice. Quick question – how do you convince someone to never speak to their friends? You threaten them with the ending of your life… you hold them at knife-point, you push them and strangle them against the cold tiled floor of their studio apartment that they worked so hard to keep afloat. You leave them bruised, battered and broken. ‘She deserves it. It’s her fault I did that to her. She always pressures me to get better,’ he said…
I was once whole, big and strong, thinking I had the capabilities to save anyone… but God/whatever divine being out there can’t even do that… so how could I? In the process of trying to fix someone else’s problems, I’d managed to break myself. It’s rather poetic isn’t it?
I slowly realised that this wasn’t how love was meant to be. This was not who my mum, a Vietnamese War refugee who fought tooth and nail to raise me here in Australia, who raised me to become a well educated strong young woman – this is not how she intended my life to be. This was not who I wanted to become. A slave to emotional abuse and manipulation, hidden behind a guise of a broken human, in need of desperate healing. My life was meant for more than being kicked to the ground, mentally and physically every single day. But how do I get out? All my money is stuck in this godforsaken apartment, I’ve got no car, no money, no friends to run to. I had too much pride to leave. I wanted to fix things and show the people that I left behind in Sydney, that I was doing a great job here in Perth. So how the fuck do I get myself out of this position?
I snapped. I spoke up.
When I snapped and when I spoke up, I had my work lunch completely smashed right in front of my eyes. Raw chicken smeared onto my work dress and proceedingly pegged at the floor. The rice cakes with peanut butter, the only snacks I could afford with the money left from my pay check were obliterated and strewn across the apartment. Plates were flying against walls and chairs were being broken. ‘Why do you always push me like this? You’re making me this violent person’, he said. Apparently it was all my fault…
I screamed a blood curdling scream.
I saw all my hard work being taking for granted. All my hard work, in helping and supporting another human being was basically shat on. So I saw red. I had enough. I was broken, and there was no way in hell that I’d come back to this bullshit. I piped up again.
Then it started to get physical.
And so began the pushing. This time.. I pushed back. Hard. Kicking and screaming. And then began my body being dragged across the tiled floors. And then began the choking and the threats… honestly this was how I thought I was going to die. I’ll be brutally honest about that.
I broke free.
I ran down the hall way. Out the elevator. Onto the streets of Northbridge. All the way to work and into the back room… covered in chicken, peanut butter, bruises, tears and no voice. I can still see the stunned faces of my team mates through teary eyes.
This to me, was the point of no return but the nightmare wasn’t over yet.
The police arrived at work. Issuing me a police order for 72 hours. Within this period I wasn’t allowed to step within a certain radius of my apartment or I would be arrested. I couldn’t attempt to contact my partner or I would be arrested. And guess who they were protecting… my partner. He claimed that I withheld all the money that he ‘worked for’, that he had no family in WA, and that I had trashed the apartment. Was this a joke or was this a joke? The police believed him anyway.
I had never felt betrayal on this level in my life.
I had sacrificed my entire life to attempt to make this person happy but I’m the one that gets stuck with the police order…? I stayed with my store manager in Highgate that night. And the next. And the next.
I came back 72 hours later to a dismantled apartment. Raw chicken and peanut butter rice cakes still on the floor. Shards of broken plates still embedded in the carpet. Empty wardrobes and news that he’d flown back to Sydney with all his belongings. That was literally the last I had heard from him.
I was left with an overpriced city apartment to pay rent for, three day old raw chicken to scrape off the ground, bruises on my arms, legs and neck, no voice, mental exhaustion… BUT I CAME OUT STRONGER.
ME. I CAME OUT STRONGER, ALL BY MYSELF.
Right now and a year on, I’m working a dream job with a dream company. I have my own car. I have Car Insurance. I have Health Insurance. I competed in a bikini competition. I explored the South and North of WA with an amazingly understanding man, and now current partner. I flew to Melbourne with my life-long bestest gal pal. I flew home to Sydney to see my family and catch up with friends. I’m about to begin my Certificate III and IV in Fitness for heavens sake! I’m living! It’s strange how life just pans itself out doesn’t it? I’m just beyond thankful and grateful for the things I’ve gone through. It wasn’t an easy road to recovery. But I’m here now.
I of course have learnt so much from this year long ordeal and within the additional year of healing. My message and drive in life is now loud and clear. I’ll never let that happen to me ever again.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing any form of violence, please let them know that they’re not alone and that there is an end to it all.
I know this may sound all truncated and strange but I think it was really for me, a chance for closure. To finally close the book and start anew.
Thanks for reading and until next time…
Keep exploring WA.