I survived domestic violence.
I spoke up.
I finally broke free.
And I chose to live.
I had my first boyfriend when I was 20, and with a guy I actually went to high school with – it still baffles me, as I never gave him a second thought or glance at in high school.
I remember him in high school as being quiet, always looked ‘grumpy’ but seemed OK when he spoke to you (he never looked at you directly in the eyes) and he played a-lot of sport.
Fast forward two years, we bumped into each other at the library at technical college and started chatting and hanging out. I don’t actually remember how we got together. Who made the first move? Who asked out who first? Who kissed who first – it clearly wasn’t that memorable.
He was a year younger than me and understood about having domineering parents (me being Portuguese – him being Croatian). The way we would meet up to hang out, we would both ride our bikes to the back of the high school and just sit on the bench to chat and kiss. I admit it, I enjoyed those early days. They were fun, exciting and we both felt like Romeo & Juliet. Two star crossed lovers, with two families not wanting us to be together. But the difference with us was that we kept our relationship a secret from our parents.
It should have been my first sign for me to take notice because when we argued, we REALLY argued. He wasn’t violent physically in the early days but his voice, when he was angry, would send severe fear of ripples through my whole body and pierce my brain. He would call me every derogatory word under the sun and when he saw me break down crying, he would stop and look at me, wipe away my tears with his hands, and laugh at me. And then he would always say, I’m his Princess.
To this day, I have a mental and physical aversion to the word “Princess” if I’m ever called that by someone, whether joking or not. It still makes me feel physically sick inside.
We never had sex in that first year and a half together. I was still a virgin at that age and never lost it with him ever.. Where on earth would we go to have sex? Definitely not at his or my place, and also we both too scared to go that next step in our relationship. Then one day, after a year and a half of being together, his parents announced that they were moving to Croatia. They sold everything they had. He never wanted to go, his sister didn’t want to go either but the parents said they were going and that was that.
I missed him… but there was a part of me that felt such incredible relief. Relief that there was no more arguing, that I wasn’t being controlled or told how to behave and act. Just pure simple relief in being me.
Back then I wrote songs. I had dreams of being a songwriter and music producer. To this day, I have written 466 songs and still have all of the journals. Songwriting was so therapeutic and a release for me. Looking back over the songs, there are a few where I wrote about mental confusion, love breakdown and violence. But I never saw it further or the deeper meaning behind it all until many years later when I realised I was writing from my own experience.
He rang me once a month and allowed me to ring him once a month. He wrote four letters in the two years he was away, and I wrote a letter to him every single month. By the seventeenth month I had enough, as he would even argue with me over the telephone. I then decided to write him my final letter saying it was over.
I went on with my life, being ambitious, travelling, loving my clothes & fashion and just being happy. Until one day my grandmother in Portugal (I was on holidays with my parents) said to me, ‘shouldn’t you be thinking about marriage? Finding a boyfriend? Your flower will lose its bloom’.
That was the trigger that clicked inside of me that made the worst decision of my life.
I wrote a letter to my ex-boyfriend begging for his forgiveness and if he would take me back. That I was so sorry for breaking his heart when I first ended it with him. I never heard back from him. Until one day his parents returned back to Australia, and many months later their children returned too and over the coming months he and I, somehow got back together.
Again we returned back to the same cycle – severe arguments. This time, his demeanour was uglier. More darker. I remember one massive argument we had, and as I stormed off to go home, he raced out after me, screaming at me in the middle of the street and I got quickly into my car. As I turned my car on, he laid down in front of it, underneath the car – as if to taunt me, to stop me from leaving. I remember sitting in my car thinking what the fuck has my life come to – I was once this happy, ambitious girl who loved clothes and fashion, supermodels, and wanted to be a songwriter and producer. Family and friends were my life, so how did it all end up this way?
I stared at him, confused and in shock though my side car window. I look around the street, at all of the houses surrounding his parents just to see if anybody was watching this horrific tele-drama happening (and actually, if they would step in to help me). I can still vividly hear his taunting derogatory words, trying to bait me over and over, trying to torment and tear me down.
Then something inside of me, clicked. I don’t know if its a good or bad click but it just clicked. I turned on the car and very slowly make its way to move, very slowly. My reason for this was just to scare him to move, to get out from under my car and so I could finally leave, and go home.
I moved the car a little bit more forward.
He jumps up and screams at me through my window: “You were going to fucking run me over, you fucking piece of shit. You c**t!!”
I just stared up at him, and responded: “Well, no I wasn’t… but I got you to move, didn’t I?” and with that I drove off.
Sometimes giving a person a second, third or four chance is like giving them an extra bullet for their gun because they missed you the first time round.
For ten years, my life was like a prison cell. He told me what I could and couldn’t wear, what I could spend my money on and when I was able to talk to other people if we were out and about. He also controlled what I was allowed to eat in of him – and if we weren’t together, I had to tell him what I ate that day.
One time when I was driving us to a soccer presentation, he looked over at me and looked straight down at my thighs and said: “What the fuck have you been eating?! You’ve got cellulite!” I continued to drive on in silence (and in shock).
When we would go out to a nightclub he would tell me to stand in the corner and to not ever move, and just wait for him. I would be there in that corner for at least three or four hours, and for most of the night I wouldn’t ever see him. My instincts told me he has picking up other girls, because as soon as would get home, the moment he fell asleep, I would get up and check his phone and see text messages and saved numbers from other girls. But I stayed with him because I felt I had to and that I deserved it after I broke his heart.
His favourite alcohol was Jim Beam and coke (to this day, the smell repulses me), and he drank it until he passed out from it from Wednesday to Sunday. He had a huge and I mean a HUGE collection of porn DVD’s, all stashed against the wall in his bedroom.
I would get pressured from him and his parents to help them out financially, because like his father would say constantly over and over again to me: “You will be marrying my son one day, so you must help us”. I had applied for credit cards to help them buy furniture, home appliances, pay their bills – again, I felt like I had to after what I put their son through (sad fact: I am still paying off those credit cards, many years later). One time he rang my house at 11PM to tell me that he had been having a chat with his father, and they both agreed that his name should be on my parents Will, since we would be marrying one day, and I had to make my parents do it and I had to make it happen. I never did.
Even though his father, his mother and his sister, even some of his friends would be witnessed to our violent arguments – I felt I deserved it. I believed he was this way because of me. And over time, like he once said to me: “Only I can love you. Who would want to love you?! Look at you!! No one would want you! No one will love you like I do.”
And I truly believed him, and stayed with him for ten years.
The physical violence started around our fifth year of being together. Like always, we were having an argument and as I stormed out of my car towards his parents house, I knocked on the door, his father opens it to let me in and I go to sit on the couch. His father then closes the door. Moments later, he pounds on the door, fiercely – his father opens it, he pushes past his father and he makes his way towards me, screaming at me, “why did you slam the door on me!” And at that moment he pins me to the sofa bed and punches me on the side of my waist repeatedly, over and over and at my face. That was the first but not the last time of being punched and hit – for another five years.
Over time I became like a walking shadow of myself, playing a part. I never told anyone, not my own friends and parents what I had been going through. I hid it so well. I was living in silence of the pain and turmoil – I was so ashamed that I had allowed myself to be treated this way, to let it go on for as long as it did, but most of all – I was so afraid of what my parents and friends would think of me. That they too would say – it was my fault.
The other sign that I should have paid attention to was after a short while of spending most of my time at his parents house, was the way his father treated his mother. He too screamed at her and would hit her. One time I was in the lounge room waiting for my boyfriend to arrive, and I could hear in the back end of the house his parents screaming at each other and somebody hitting somebody. Whack! Whack! Whack! His mother would appear a day or so later, with bruises on the side of her face.
The last few months of our relationship I started to get suicidal thoughts. I felt the only way I could get out of this hell was to kill myself. Obviously I never went through with it but it took one night for the closeness I got to killing myself to awaken the spirit within me. I had grabbed a knife from the kitchen and took it to my bedroom. I sat with it on my lap in the middle of my bedroom. The heartache pain was so overwhelming, so palpable that I just wanted it over, I just wanted to die – I wanted it all to end… I must have sat there for like hours or at least it seemed like hours, with tears streaming down my face.
I woke up in the early hours of the morning with the knife lying beside me.
That was the defining moment for me – I wanted it to end, and so I did.
I got dressed, rang him to meet up at the front of his house… he came out smiling all happy, jumped in my car and I said to him its over. He looked over at me baffled, confused by what I said and just replied, “its not over. I’m never letting you go.” I repeated it again, never looking at him.
I said to him I had had enough and this time it was for real, and to get out of my car. I never screamed, I never yelled at him. All of that wasted energy had depleated me for so so long and I was too tired. And for the first time in our relationship, he never questioned me. He got out of my car, came round to my side, leaned in, looked at me and said, “You can’t live without me – you’ll be back. You’ll always be my Princess!”
I drove away and never looked back.
Why am I telling my story? Well, domestic abuse and violence is still such a hush hush topic even still in this day and age, and has such a dirty stigma around it. And whether you’re male or female who’s being abused – you become so afraid to tell someone for fear of being looked upon and treated differently or the fear of someone actually saying to you, “well, you did kinda provoke them”.
I’ve reached a place in my life with things I have gone though and I know now that I’m not the only one going through it, and by speaking about it maybe it may reach someone and let them know that you’re not the only one. You’re not alone. Another voice, can help a person. Sometimes by sharing your own story, can help another person out there who is suffering, too scared to ask or seek for help.
No one deserves to be abused.
Whether or not you realize it, you can and you will survive it – despite the trauma clinging to you once you’ve leave the situation. You feel like no one is ever going to love you again but also, can you ever love again? And yes to both questions – just don’t go back to the abuser because you’re afraid of being alone. It’s better being alone, than being so unhappy and lifeless inside. And its OK to feel hurt for as long as you want to, you will heal from it – I promise you. It’s just going to take a-lot of time.
From all of the bullshit you will arise a much stronger person, and yes you will still have moments where you break down and cry – even many years later down the track – its definitely OK and it’s normal. In time, you will figure out and move forward with such amazing strength, will and courage.
If he (or she) makes you lose you family, lose your friends, lose your confidence, lose your self-esteem or lose your happiness – then you need to lose him.
Remember, you do not deserve this fucking crap and it was NEVER your fault.
If you are being physically or sexually abused please ring: 1-800 737 732 (in Australia), 08 08 16 89 111 (United Kingdom) and 1-800 799 7233 (United States of America)