Trigger warning: This post deals with domestic violence and may be distressing for some readers.
I have never thought of myself as a victim, I think of myself as a survivor.
The issue of domestic violence is one that is ever-present in the media, and recently it seems there has been an endless stream of stories, many ending in tragedy like Melbourne woman Fiona Warzywoda, who was allegedly stabbed to death by her de facto husband in broad daylight on a Victorian street.
This is an issue that needs to be talked about openly so that community awareness is heightened, attitudes are changed and victims feel more able to come forward and ask for help.
What I have found even more disturbing than the number of cases that are being brought to the public’s attention is the attitude of some people — who either blame the victim, or believe it’s as easy as walking out the door to get away.
If only it were as simple as walking away.
People need to realise that when you begin a relationship with someone who is violent, they don’t just hit you straight away. It’s a slow process of alienating you from the people in your life and destroying you emotionally before they ever lay a hand on you.
Essentially, you are groomed for what will eventually happen.
When I was younger and the issue of domestic violence came up, I too would say ‘if a man ever laid a hand on me, I would be out that door so quickly’.
How wrong I was.
After my marriage ended, I found myself a single adult for the first time ever. I had been with my husband since I was 15 and we eventually married.
It was a strange feeling being single, and just as I was finding my feet, I met someone. I wasn’t quite ready to be back in a relationship, but this man was amazing in every respect. He was funny, supportive, encouraging, open and loving. Even though I felt that I wanted to be single for a while longer, I just couldn’t let this amazing man go… he had swept me off my feet!
The first six months were truly special. We would sit up and talk late, laugh constantly and he seemed proud and supportive of my achievements. Things moved along very quickly, we were so comfortable together, so we moved in together.
However, the day we moved house was the day things started to change. It was subtle at the start. There were little things about certain friends that he didn’t like and one by one, without me even noticing, I was slowly being cut off from them.
This man that had once encouraged me to work on a difficult relationship with my family began to change his tune, and those ties were severed as well.
After he had successfully isolated me from my family and friends, he began listing all the things that were wrong with me as a person, both physically and emotionally.
Slowly my confidence disappeared and my modelling work dried up. Without even realising it, I was cut off from everyone in my life, I had no work, very little money and I was basically a prisoner and a servant in my own home.
The violence started with some pushing and shoving. At one point I was thrown through a wall.
After a couple of weeks, he finally hit me. It was an incredibly scary and violent night, where I was knocked unconscious. After hiding in the bathroom for the rest of the night and not getting any sleep, I had a modelling job booked. I was humiliated turning up with bruises in the shape of hand prints on my arms, skin missing off my body and a bright red hand print on my face. I looked at the make-up artist and just asked her to cover it all up before anyone else saw it.