Hello. My name is Kate. I am a single mother to three beautiful children of primary school age. I am also a survivor of domestic family violence. It is an incredible privilege to be invited to share my lived experience with you.
It took me a very long time to understand and accept that what I had, and continued, to experience in my relationship with my children’s father, was domestic family violence. My partner had never physically hit me. There were no outward scars or bruises. So the term domestic violence did not seem to relate to me and made me feel very uncomfortable and resistant. Gradually, with the support of brilliant counsellors, I came to understand that domestic family violence is not just physical abuse. The abuse can also be emotional, psychological, financial, verbal, social, sexual and spiritual. At the heart of all of these abusive behaviours is a need for, and sense of entitlement to, power and control – a power over someone. When I was shown the domestic family violence cycle and power and control wheel it was a lightbulb moment for me. I could tick almost every box. Finally, there was a name for the experience in which I’d felt so trapped, hurt and confused. I was living in a cycle of abuse and it was traumatic, confusing, bruising and relentless. I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t to blame, I wasn’t blowing things out of proportion, or being soft. Whilst I was relieved to finally identify what was happening to me, on another level I was hit by an emotional tsunami. Awareness was my first step toward getting the help and healing I needed but it certainly wasn’t the end of my journey. It has often been a challenging, painful and tumultuous experience even after separation and I have needed ongoing support.
In my relationship I had truly thought that if I loved, supported and encouraged my partner enough he would get the help he needed for his anger, unhappiness, bitterness, negative outbursts and self-sabotage. He could be the person, partner and father I believed he could be and we could be the positive strong loving family I had grown up in and yearned for us to be. But for years all my attempts fell short and in the end I came to feel like a rescuer trying to save a drowning person but being pushed under water as he gasped for air. I lived in vain hope that this time he would keep his promises to turn things around and be more positive and loving. Sometimes I would have glimpses of the man I’d fallen in love with, or we would share happier times, and I would feel relief and hope for us, but sadly it never lasted. Promises were never kept and things only ever got worse. Later I would learn that this was a honeymoon period depicted in the power and control wheel and domestic violence cycle. Letting go of my dream for a happy loving family and stability for my children was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. The grief was and is enormous.
Time does not permit me to go into detail, but I would like to share with you now a diary entry that depicts my painful lived experience of domestic family violence written shortly before our separation after six years together.
Read diary entry written in 2010.
I stand here by the lakeside alone, gazing up to the glittering stars as they dance above the night cloaked lake and bush silhouette…Time is suspended.
I came here tonight with heartbroken tears still wet on my cheeks, aching from yet another ‘honesty session’ with him. I needed to walk away. My cherished children lie sleeping at home. I want them to have a bright and happy future. I’d do almost anything to ensure it. But my relationship makes me very unhappy and miserable. I am with a man for whom I am never enough and who want me to change. In some matters I wish I could. I do try.
But trying is not enough. In his eyes I am constantly ‘less than’. I do not keep the house to a standard he finds acceptable. I’m painful to live with. ‘All you need to do is keep the house together and you can’t even fucking do that!’; ‘You’re a lazy woman’; ‘You’re a lazy parent’; ‘You need a bullet up your ass’; ‘Sorry I have to be honest with you’; ‘You’re hopeless’; ‘You make me resentful’; ‘You put me in a bad mood’; ‘Maybe that’s why God brought us together…so I could give you a kick up the ass’ etc.
On the other hand he has continually failed to provide for the children and myself financially. All my pleas for him to work to keep a roof over our head have been ignored… And now I discover that his parents believe that the reason he is not working is because of me. Apparently I am ‘not coping’ as a mother and housewife and require his help. So now I’m the scapegoat for inaction. Our ‘conversation’ tonight was triggered when I told him this was unfair and untrue.
Here, in these stolen moments, I am overcome with serenity. It is so beautiful and tranquil. You know, I actually want to remember how miserable and crestfallen he leaves me feeling. How bad be makes me feel about myself. Because every time this happens (and it gets worse every time), I put it away, reason and rationalise it, move on.
But it would seem that his love is not real love or love as I perceive it. I am not a hopeless or deficient person. I know that I have worth. I know that there are people who love me as I am. I will never know but perhaps there is someone else who could truly love me.
Out here under the stars my pain is carried away with the cold and persistent breeze. I am reminded how small I am in the realm of God’s universe as well as Life’s infinite possibilities. I deserve true love and life’s beauty. And maybe I will have to walk my journey alone with my children.
Leaving the relationship did not end the cycle of abuse which continued to escalate until a frightening domestic violence incident in early 2015 led to police laying charges and serving an ADVO on my ex-partner resulting in him having no contact with myself or the children for fifteen months.
But despite the challenges and trauma I’ve continued to face from my ex-partner, particularly financially and emotionally, and I am grateful to be free. Free to regain my sense of myself, to embrace life, to set new goals including a teaching degree, to empower myself through pursuits like Martial Arts where I am halfway to black belt, enjoy meaningful connections with friends and family, and to be the mother and provider I want to be for my children who are my world. When I watch my children being carefree, not walking on eggshells, and free to express themselves, I am always moved knowing it would not be possible if I were still in my abusive relationship. I treasure my freedom. I have found my voice and today I am breaking my silence on my domestic violence. For those who are still living with domestic family violence please know you are not alone and help and support is available.