real life

'The death threats came after three dates. A policeman made everything worse.'

Content note: This post contains details of violence and emotional abuse and may be triggering for some readers.

*The author of this post is known to Mamamia, but has chosen to write only under her first name.

I was 26 at the time.

I was travelled, well-educated and financially responsible having bought my own home six years prior. I had a good job and I came – come – from a stable upbringing.

I mention these points specifically because I want you to know one thing: abuse does not discriminate.

I landed myself on the other end of an abuser after going on two dates with a guy. While organising our third date via text message, he turned nasty and manipulative. It only took two dates.

At first he was curious, chatty, confident and intelligent. We talked about what we both liked in a partner including physicality, morals, and shared interests. We laughed, shared a mix of light-hearted and deep conversations. The sexual chemistry was there, but at times I felt he wanted to rush things.

Having met guys previously via online dating, I felt comfortable with the process and didn’t notice any immediate red flags. This time I actually I felt a sense of safety in meeting him as the companies we both worked for did business together.

We had organised to meet at the pub, but he then asked me to pick him up on the way as his company car hadn’t arrived yet. The only odd cue was that he asked to be picked up in a nearby carpark, not outside his house. At the time I didn’t think this was too strange considering it was a first date and thought he was just being security conscious.

While organising our third date via text he became agitated that I wasn’t agreeing to meet him at a time and date that he chose. When I declined his offer the conversation took a turn.

A cycle began whereby he would lash out with offensive lies, I would assert myself, then he would back down and apologise, so I would then in turn soften. My answer did not change but my approach did as I thought he may have been mentally unstable, so I didn’t want to flare up the situation.

When this method didn’t work the abuse crept back into the conversation, and round two began, a little heavier than the time before it.

Some of the personal attacks included telling me I’m a slut, whore, fat, had “a smelly pussy”, no wonder I was single. It went on.

Some of the threats consisted of telling my employer that I was a liar and stole money from his wallet (for which he demanded I be sacked), telling me that he would report me to the police for stealing from him, that I gave him an STD, and even report me to the police for raping him – ALL of which was completely fabricated and not even possible.

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Contained within his apologies were admissions that the lies and threats were just a ploy to keep talking to me. In other words, it became a sick joke for him, and I was his pawn trying to escape with fear growing inside me with each call and message received.

Even though I knew the truth of what took place on our two dates – or what didn’t take place – the abusive and threatening episodes were unbalancing me.

I realised I wasn’t able to reason with him as the abuse became vile and excessive. In what I thought was a very clear message, I wrote to him. “You are being hurtful and I don’t wish to see you again. Please do not contact me again,” I said. It only set him off on another tirade.

Unfortunately this was before the days where you could block a number from calling your mobile. His threats and abuse came thick and fast. The tipping point was that he promised to end my life if I didn’t agree to see him again.

Listen: Rosie Batty on what Australia needs to do to combat domestic violence. (Post continues…)

I developed paranoia and couldn’t sleep at night even with prescribed sleeping pills. I was scared to leave my house in fear that he was going to jump me as I got into my car. I was a wreck. Even though I told my employer what was happening I lived with this fear knowing he knew where I worked, so I quit my job without another one to go to.

I had enough of being a powerless victim to emotional abuse. So I walked into my local police station advising them of the situation. They turned me away, telling me they couldn’t do anything unless I took out a Violence Restraining Order. I asked what that involved, and they disclosed afterwards that even then, they can only intervene if he’s proven to breach the order.

To make sure the police followed protocol, I checked with a friend who is related to a previous sergeant of that same police station.

Within minutes I received a call advising they should not have turned me away and requested I make my way to the station to make a statement and that they would be expecting me.

A male officer took my statement, viewed my call history and text messages which clearly displayed the threats and abuse. Then he asked, “Did you do anything to provoke this guy?”

I’m sorry, did I hear you correctly?!

Upon signing the statement, the officer advised that although a statement is made they can’t actually do anything within the confines of Australian law. Making a statement does not lead to a conviction.

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I can understand this, however, I asked if his name can be recorded on an unofficial register just in case someone else makes a similar statement and they can do something based on numbers.

The officer’s reply was, “No, that’s not how it works.”

He did however kindly offer an “unconventional favour” by calling my abusers mobile and leaving a voicemail to call him back.

I was present during this call. There was no follow up to let me know if they’d made contact.

Image: Getty.

So with no justice in sight, I was left with the decision to lodge a VRO. I feared this guy with every fibre of my being, so the thoughts and emotions surrounding a VRO against him made me more fearful in case he retaliated.

I did complete the forms. I just couldn't bring myself to lodge them at the courts because I had to retain the little sanity I had left.

I didn't have the emotional capacity to endure the VRO process - especially with no guarantees for my protection.

Years later I have often pondered the human psychology of abusers and if they deliberately breakdown their victims to a state of powerlessness so they're unable to fight their own fight. It is times like these I needed to draw on any strength in my emotional & spiritual ‘bank’ but it had been savagely depleted. I felt unsafe and unprotected - even by the law.

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We all have our own ways of dealing with trauma, some more effective than others. Having been newly exposed to this type of abuse I didn’t know what to call it and certainly didn’t know what kind of help existed. I was also unaware of any resources available to me, nor did the police recommend any means of support at that time.

I lived in a state of paranoia and fear for at least nine months as he continued to call and text from different mobile numbers pretending to be someone else. I would initially ignore them, then eventually I would reply telling him I knew it was him and request AGAIN that he not contact me.

Eventually, I worked up the courage to tell him I had VRO papers all filled out and if he contacted me once more I would lodge them. I was very fortunate that this seemed to work, which meant I was finally free from his torments.

But, I was not free from the effects. For over five years I didn’t trust men, couldn’t look them in the eye, was paranoid about my privacy and safety, had a need to control everything, I isolated myself, suffered from depression, had suicidal tendencies, and I put on 47 kilograms.

I want you to know this story has a deeper purpose than just retelling the events.

It’s important for me to share that I consciously chose a customised healing path for me, some of them from mainstream modalities and others not.

The easy path – or the path involving less work - would involve me telling the story and claiming “he stole six years of my life”. But he didn’t. I have allowed these events to propel me into a life much greater than one I lived before.

My message to those who can relate to this story is to reach out even if you have to do it a few times. Do not sit in silence. Stand up and find a healing modality that works for you. Find your balance - not anyone else’s version.

Lastly, for the purpose of encouraging greater awareness and discussion around emotional abuse, I pose the following:

We are encouraged to speak out as empowered women and tell people we trust, yet I approached the only people that could lawfully protect me and I was turned away with a half-baked promise that they could do anything.

How far does it get us when we speak out?

What change needs to happen for us to feel safe and protected?

If you or a loved one is in danger, or needs someone to speak to about family violence, Mamamia urges you to contact 1800 RESPECT.

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