real life

'My daughters and I left my abusive husband. It cost me $300,000 in the court system.'

Content warning: This post includes descriptions of domestic violence and sexual assault.

I met Shane in my early 20s. We would talk on the phone all the time and see each other once a week for the first year.

He seemed funny, caring and supportive. But every now and then he would make me feel naïve and silly. He would sometimes chastise me for not having manners, or not knowing how to behave in public. I took it in my stride and tried to 'be better'.

After a few years, the natural progression was to move in together. What an exciting time! We chose furniture, we renovated our house, we cooked, danced and laughed. About a year in to us moving in together, I saw another side of him. His mother had mocked me and was implying that I was incompetent and not good enough as a partner for her son. I told Shane immediately after. I expected his support, instead he told me that if I ever said anything negative about either of his parents, he would stab me to death. I was terrified.

I went home after work not knowing what to expect, but he had cooked dinner and was full of apologies. He had said it was the pressure of having a mortgage, and he was also unemployed at the time. About a month later, he proposed. I hesitated, but said yes. He explained his behaviour had been so bad as he was hiding a secret from me for months — that he had bought me a ring. I believed him.

It was so fun preparing for our wedding. All of our family and friends were there to celebrate with us. We came back from our honeymoon so happy and in love. We would have parties at our house and have people over all the time. We would cook and clean together, play board games, watch movies, sing and dance. I would pinch myself sometimes... how did I get so lucky?


We planned to have a baby, and we were blessed enough to be pregnant. My pregnancy went well and Shane was very supportive and loving.

Things took a sudden turn when our baby girl was born. He was angry towards my family from the minute they visited the hospital as they did not congratulate him first. My mum dared instead to come to me first, knowing I had an 18-hour labour, instead of seeing how the baby's father was doing. After that, my parents were in the bad books and he would leave our house if they dared to visit us to see our baby. He would call and message me incessantly, saying: "Have they left yet?????"

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Shane wanted to have another baby soon after, even though I was not ready yet. He really pushed me into the second pregnancy much sooner than I was mentally or physically prepared for. I was pregnant before our daughter was one. 


It was a difficult pregnancy, with constant vomiting and sciatica. He started forcing me to have sex with him during pregnancy, even when I said I was in pain. He would yell at me, saying things like, "This is your duty" or "You're lucky I don't sleep with other people, especially because you are so disgusting right now." He would force me to watch porn and would hold my head so I could not face away from the TV. 

I started to feel really down mentally, so he took me to the doctor who proceeded to give me a lecture about learning to 'break down the walls of the marriage' by crying all the time.

When our second daughter was born, Shane was very unwelcoming to everyone who visited us at the hospital. So after the first visit, no one came back. I cried a lot.

He would not let me see my family and would send his parents to check on me when I was alone with our babies at home, so they could tell him if I was phoning my parents or if my parents were visiting. I started to prepare myself to leave Shane with my girls. I needed to get in touch with my parents but I was being monitored and watched. My dad had been trying to get in touch with me. Shane had said I was 'not allowed' to call him.

One day I received the news that my dad had tragically passed. My heart was broken and I could not believe I had barely seen him in the last year, and I didn't know who could help me leave now. My mum and sisters were falling apart. I didn't say anything about what had been happening at home.


Shane was refusing to help around the house. He would say, "You're a mother now, this is your job." I was working and looking after the house and our girls. He would sometimes be in a bad mood, and I would tiptoe around him. He would call me an idiot out of nowhere. Other favourite insults of his were "fat slob" and "pig". He would berate me until I cried.

He would hold his fists up in the air, throw furniture at me, which I would dodge. He could be triggered by the most random things; such as the peaks of butter and vegemite on his toast were not to his liking, or the clothes he wanted to wear that day were not laid out. If a family member of his or mine, or friends said something that was not to his liking, he would scream at me for hours and poke me in the side of my head while he yelled that I think I'm "better than everyone" and how dare I not defend him. Most of the time, these insults were perceived and I thought he was becoming paranoid.

The worst part of his abuse was sexual. After our girls were born he became fixated on anal sex. He would ask me for it all the time. I did not want to do it. He would still try to I would either jump away, scream out or push him off me. He would sometimes lock me out of our bedroom and even out of the house. He would say that he got married to do whatever he wants to his wife. I was making him suffer.

By 2020, I was starting to stand up to him. He would lie to our friends about how helpful he was as a partner and I would call him out. He would try to force me to have anal sex each time this happened. Then berate me for hours at night and call me a "whore", "slut", "mole", "c**t". He could see that he was losing control.


One night in late 2020, he decided he was going to 'take' what he wanted from me. Over a period of about three hours he assaulted me sexually with multiple acts. I did not have the strength to push him off me this time. He held me down forcefully and told me to "shut the fuck up" while I cried and yelled no. He took photos of me which he would later threaten to send to people if I left him. I was in pain. I was sore. I felt like part of me died that night.

He finished with me and started singing and whistling happily. I was truly in shock. I did not sleep at all that night. I stayed up in the lounge room and wrote out what he had done to me in detail. I looked up online, "Can your husband rape you?" as it had just hit me that this is what he had done.

The next morning I went to the local police station. I was numb and couldn't speak. I wanted to give them my handwritten account. Yet the police officer was very impatient and unsympathetic while I struggled to get my words out. I ended up leaving the police station and taking my girls with me to keep them safe as I was afraid Shane was having some kind of breakdown and he may turn on them too.

I later found out that there were domestic violence officers at certain police stations. I went in and showed them my written account. They referred me to some detectives. The detectives asked me if I "liked it rough". They also told me I had no credibility as I had told them I hadn't disclosed my full account with that first police officer, after struggling to get my words out and not feeling safe to disclose my story. I didn't pursue pressing charges.


The last few years have been taken up with family court — lawyers, psychologists, court-appointed experts and constant legal letters and accusations between court hearings. 

I have spent $300,000 in legal costs. I am exhausted.

My ex-husband has denied he was abusive and has claimed that I fabricated all the allegations in order to take his children away. He is still able to see our children, comparatively more than parents who have done lesser things in terms of violence and abuse.

He has cried, he has pleaded, he has told his victim story of a man who loves his children. A man who has an ex-wife that has taken them away and was controlling during the relationship. He has gone as far as organising a police welfare check on our children while they were with me. Police ended up wiping this from their record, given it was completely unfounded and unnecessary. 

Shane continues to message me and email me, and use lawyers to threaten to take me back to court, and I feel there is nothing I can do. I take a breath, and reply to him when I am calm. I have to always do the right thing. I have to be a 'good girl'. I cannot scream, I cannot swear, I cannot tell people about the abuse.

I am disappointed at the legal system and the police for letting him drag me through court for so long. I have been retraumatised many times. I have had to defend my position for not wanting to be in the same room as him, I have had to explain it to the girls' school, doctors and dentists. I have had to tell him directly that I don't want him standing near me. I have also had the stress of him threatening, even through his lawyers, that he will release explicit images of me to the family court.


I have not felt supported or protected by the system.

There needs to be a drastic change in how we deal with domestic violence which doesn't retraumatise the victim. Even after many years of therapy, I still have PTSD after the many instances of abuse I experienced.

The system needs to change. Men need to change. And immediately. 

The author has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. Her identity is known to Mamamia. 

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

Mamamia is a charity partner of RizeUp Australia, a national organisation that helps women, children and families move on after the devastation of domestic and family violence. Their mission is to deliver life-changing and practical support to these families when they need it most. If you would like to support their mission you can donate here

Feature Image: Canva.