July 2013

Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate

I’m so grateful that there are places out there for women like me, who find themselves in a situation you’d never have believed you’d be in, writes Tamara.

BY Tamara*

I was celebrating my 25th birthday when I met the man who would become my live-in partner, the father of my child, and my abuser.

I’d had previous relationships, but for the majority, they were unhappy. Most of the guys I’ve been with have been aggressive, violent or possessive in some way. I’ve never been in a good relationship. Ever.

After my 25th birthday, some friends knocked on the door of my place and they brought a few extra people around with them. We went on partying for my birthday. He was one of those people that came around that night. I hadn’t met him before.

We were inseparable from the start and he moved himself in pretty much straight away. I thought life was going to be great because I found someone who was going to provide me with this fairy tale life. So I thought.

His dreams and goals for the future seemed to coincide with mine and we were going to build a family, be happy and successful. He got a better job but that was about as far as the fairy tale would go.

It was only a couple of months before I fell pregnant. I don’t know if he was deliberately lying to me or to himself and it was all just a façade, but he never carried much conviction in his words. He lied constantly with cheap talk that was always louder than his actions.

I’m different to that. When I say I am ambitious and want to be successful, then I make plans and carry them out with determination and hard work. I’d never known anyone to be so dishonest like that before, so I was probably a bit naïve and gullible to his grand gestures of emptiness.

Looking back now it’s hard to believe that I was so blind to his manipulations, but he was good at using his love as a weapon which clouded all my better judgement and rationality.

The physical, emotional and financial abuse was there from the start, even when I was pregnant. But I thought I couldn’t leave when I was pregnant. I was very sick in my pregnancy. I was sick every single day. I had a pregnancy rash from head to toe and the steroid medication gave me gestational diabetes.

I felt trapped because I didn’t think I could survive on my own. I was too sick to work and you can’t survive alone on benefits of $200 or $250 a week. We were living in Victoria and my family was in another state. We had moved away for his job so I didn’t have any friends close by or outside support. He was all I had.

At first I blamed the drugs for all our problems and his abusive behaviour. I constantly pleaded for him to give it up as I didn’t want our child growing up around drugs, fighting parents and abuse. Finally he gave up and was sober but that didn’t stop the abuse.

The first time he hit me sober was the last and I realised that he was never going to be the man he portrayed himself to be in the beginning. I think I was always in love with the idea of the person he claimed to be and never actually with the real person he was.

He never apologised. Not once. Sometimes he would just flat out deny anything had happened and other times he would blame me for his defensive wounds. In the end the resentment was so thick from everything he’d put me through that my heart felt like stone.

As soon as my baby was born I left him. I stayed with my family first, but that didn’t work out and I had nowhere to go. So I just Googled ‘domestic violence’ and found a women’s help hotline number and I rang it. And they were great. They organised for me to go into a women’s shelter run by Save the Children and then arranged transitional housing through the Good Samaritan Sisters.

I’m so grateful that there are places out there for women like me, who find themselves in a situation you’d never have believed you’d be in. They gave my son and I, who’s almost four now, a place to live and to get back on our feet. And it’s safe. The abuser can’t get to you. It gives you the space to get your head around the fact that you don’t have to go back there.

There are options and you can do something with your life.

In 2011, thanks to the support I received from the Good Sams, I enrolled at university in a Bachelor of Health Science (Genetics) degree. I really want to go to medical school, but to do that you need an excellent grade point average (GPA).

During my first year I was working so that I could fill my new and stable place with furniture while looking after my one-year-old son while also at uni. I earned passes and a few credits, but not the GPA I needed.

So this year, I started a Bachelor of Paramedic Science by distance education, so I’m doing a double degree. I am pretty excited about the cancer stem cell research I am starting this semester. And I’m hoping that all the biochemistry and cellular processes, along with the practical experience of paramedics, will give me the edge I need to get into medical school.

I’m 29 years old now, living independently with my son and studying for a better future and I’m just so grateful for these opportunities to turn my life around.

To any woman out there experiencing domestic violence or even just having difficulties in being a single parent, you don’t have to settle for a life that is less than you’d envisioned for yourself. All is not lost. Just pick up the phone and call a hotline. There are people out there to help and safe places for you to go. And the people on those hotlines have heard it all before. They know what to do to help.

The situation you’re in doesn’t mean your life can’t get better. You can start something better and new, and your children don’t have to grow up with an abusive parent. You’re better than that. You can study, dream and achieve something. Reach out and learn to be that happy person you used to be.

* The author’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

Find out more about the Good Sams Foundation. Projects supported by the Good Sams include The Good Samaritan Inn in Melbourne and the Transitional Housing Program in Brisbane.

National hotlines include:

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732), a 24-hour, National Sexual Assault, Family and Domestic Violence Counselling Line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence or sexual assault.

Lifeline (131 114), a 24-hour national number who can help put you in contact with a crisis service in your State.

The Good Oil

‘The Good Oil’, the free, monthly e-journal of the Good Samaritan Sisters, publishes news, feature and opinion articles and reflective content which aims to nourish the spirit, stimulate thinking and encourage reflection and dialogue about contemporary issues from a Good Samaritan perspective.

If you would like to republish this article, please contact the editor.