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'I'm one of the lucky ones who survived an abusive husband. But the aftermath was almost worse.'

This post deals with domestic violence and might be triggering for some readers. 

For most of the 15 years I was married, I was abused in one way or another. 

Most often this meant I was called a “f**king fat c***”, “a worthless piece of sh*t”, a “spoilt bitch”, or simply, I had my body slammed against a wall, door or another hard surface. 

I was thrown downstairs, throttled (he claimed he was merely holding me up against the wall by my neck... apparently there’s a difference) or spat on – not in the usual way one would spit. 

No, my abuser would snort back all the mucus he could muster from the back of his nose and thrust it forward as forcefully as possible, directly into my face or onto my head – usually while holding me captive by my ponytail. These assaults were frequent and brutal, but while they may have left physical marks and emotional suffering, they never, NEVER broke me. 

Watch: Women and violence: the hidden numbers. Post continues after video.


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It was only once I’d finally found the courage to break free, and more than a year of being physically safe had passed, that it began to hit me. At first, I’d been consumed with the logistics of moving myself and my children to safety. Finding a place for us to live, a way to pay the bills, a way to help my children heal. 

Their needs, and keeping my head above water, were my priority. I discovered that my husband had taken out a credit card and a personal loan in my name – and the debt (many, many thousands) was now mine. This would take 16 months of my time and energy to fight and clear with the help of legal aid. All the while, even as the emotional and verbal abuse continued, albeit at a distance, the elation at being free and safe never subsided. 

Then, an insidious new force stealthily came creeping into my life. 

At first, it took the form of nightmares – the kind that give meaning to the term ‘blood running cold’. I’d never experienced that total body-consuming sensation before. 

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It was literally as if my blood had been left in the fridge, and then reinfused into my body all too fast. The nightmares had an after-effect. For days they would trigger horrific flashbacks, a stage two if you like, and an emotional wave would sweep over me. Tears were unstoppable, my fuse was short, my anxiety skyrocketed.

Later, even without the nightmares or flashbacks, my energy was drained, my emotional and physical safety felt weakened and vulnerable. This remains my state of being.

PTSD was the diagnosis I received from my amazing therapist who specialises in healing the multi-faceted fallout of domestic violence. I’m one of the lucky ones. I survived the violence and found help.

All the while, my ex has been in the background, doing all he can to keep up the abuse, the control. He cancelled my mobile phone plan as well as my oldest child’s, he took back my car, our means of transport, he sent abusive, threatening messages over and over and over again. He evades his meagre child support obligations and continues to meddle in our happiness.

Listen to The Quicky, Mamamia's daily news podcast. In this episode, we discuss how to support friends experiencing domestic violence. Post continues after audio.

He had always promised to make me feel what it was “really like to be a single mum” when I contemplated escaping. This, he truly did. 

He has followed through on every threat and more, in the two years and four months since I left him – except the one to kill himself and leave a suicide note blaming me for his death. 

Let me be clear, living with domestic violence is torture in its slowest, most perilous form. It drags you to the brink of madness, leaving even the sanest, dangerously close to the verge of insanity. It’s there when you wake up in the morning and when you go to sleep at night. And it can break you – in ways you didn’t even know were possible.

If this post brings up 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. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home. 

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

Feature image: Getty.