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One brave Aussie TV star opens up about her experience with domestic violence.

“When women are leaving a domestic violence situation, they need to do so safely.”

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.

“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.”

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.

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I was a completely broken woman.

All I could do was cry, because it was at that moment that I realised I had no-one to turn to.

Natalie on The Bachelor.

Over the next 48 hours there wasn’t anymore physical abuse, just plenty of emotional and mental abuse and that was just too much for me.

After a particularly horrible phone call at 4am after he hadn’t come home, I curled up in bed with my dogs and took an overdose. There were no threats, no calls and no note, I just needed a way out and that was the only option I felt I had.

Luckily someone who had been close to me sensed something was wrong and after not being able to contact me for over 24 hours came around and found me. The man I lived with had come home and found me, but left again, leaving me as I was.

I started in therapy, yet even after all of this, I tried to make that relationship work for another four months. I made a promise to myself that I would never allow him to get me to such a low point again. I realised that he didn’t really want to be with me, but he made still made sure that I also couldn’t move on with my life. This type of person just wants complete control of the person they are abusing… they love the power kick!

Eventually I was strong enough to end the relationship, but we continued to live together for another 12 months. I used that time to get myself financially into a position where I would be able to move out and become independent again.

He constantly taunted and tried to control me with numerous threats but I was finally strong enough within myself to continue on my path.

I was petrified when the time came for me to finally move out, because he then threatened to hunt me down and kill me. This forced me to go to extraordinary measures to protect my location and privacy.

I never went to the police because I feared that I didn’t have enough evidence to make a case. Unfortunately, the reality is that even if I had, all he would have received would have been a slap on the wrist. When you already fear for your life, the last thing you want to do is anger that person even more, you just want to get away and be safe.

What I experienced, I wouldn’t wish upon anyone else. It was terrifying and difficult to break free from.

There are many women out there that are living in situations so much worse than mine. The helplessness you feel is overwhelming. To have someone say to you, ‘just leave’, is not helpful, it is plain ignorant.

When women are leaving a domestic violence situation, they need to do so safely. It often takes a lot of planning and when children are involved it becomes so much more difficult.

When I first summoned up the courage to share my story, I was amazed to hear how many women and men have been affected by domestic violence, but most will never tell anyone. We need to change community attitudes so that these women don’t feel alone and they can come and ask for help.

We should never judge another person until we have walked in their shoes.

If you are affected by abuse, you can receive help via Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277. For sexual assault, you can receive help by calling 1800 RESPECT – 1800 737 732. If you are in immediate danger please call the police on 000.

Natalie Sady is a successful Melbourne model and TV presenter.  She has worked in the entertainment industry since she was a child.  She has appeared in countless catalogues, television commercials and have always been popular on the catwalk. Natalie eventually made the move to television presenting. After being the most photographed woman at Flemington racecourse for a decade, it was a natural progression that she co-host Moonee Valley TV for the 2008-2009 Night Racing season. Most recently, Natalie was a contestant on Channel 10’s The Bachelor Australia. She may not have won Tim’s heart, but she did win over Australia with her frank and down-to-earth manner. Currently, Natalie is focusing on her television pursuits, along with being very active in the Palm Oil cause and speaking out against domestic violence.

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