real life

'I finally escaped my abusive relationship. But for years afterwards, I couldn't leave my house.'

Content warning: This story includes descriptions of domestic violence that may be distressing to some readers.

The early days of Jane's* relationship with her now ex-partner were good. But then it all began to unravel. Only years later did she realise she had been a victim of domestic violence.

"We met at the end of 2015 and then three months into the relationship, I fell pregnant. Prior to that, there had been some serious love bombing and isolation, and then when he found out we were expecting a baby, the abusive cycle began," Jane said to Mamamia

After demanding she get an abortion, Jane's ex-partner eventually accepted the fact she wanted to keep the baby. But the abuse only worsened.

"There was verbal abuse to begin with. When he was drunk, he changed completely. When we would go out with friends for a night out, he would say in front of everyone to me 'you're just trash, you're disgusting'. I blamed it on the alcohol. But slowly he began to isolate me from my friends and family."

Jane vividly remembers him being furious with her because their unborn child was receiving "more attention" than he was. 

"He got off the phone from his dad angry, saying to me: 'It's so irritating that people ring me and ask about you and the baby. No one cares about me anymore'. Eventually, the abuse was no longer just psychological and emotional, but physical too," Jane said. 

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Throughout her pregnancy, Jane was walking on eggshells — tip-toeing around her partner, worried she would set him off. 

She said there were times that he would grab her, physically push her out of their house and lock the door, meaning she had to sleep on park benches. Behind closed doors, his nicknames for her were 'nut job' and 'fruitcake'.

Despite everything she was enduring, Jane said she didn't fully realise that she had become a victim of domestic violence. And her loved ones didn't realise either.

"I remember a few days after I gave birth to my daughter via an emergency C-section he said to me: 'Now that you've had the baby, better lose all that weight'. He then complained that we needed to start going for nights out again with his mates, urging me to leave the baby with my mum. He had no regard," Jane said.

10 days after Jane gave birth, things had finally escalated to the point where she'd had enough. She asked her partner to leave, and eventually, he did. 


"My parents realised around this time how bad things were, and how scary he was when he was drunk. What really was the breaking point was when I found him being sexually inappropriate to our daughter. It was terrifying. From that moment on, we were done."

It's been seven years since the split, and Jane has only seen her ex a handful of times since then. 

But in the early days, all the suppressed trauma hit Jane like a tonne of bricks — and she didn't feel safe or secure.

"I was still scared. He had friends that would drive past our house or my mum's house. He was still trying to intimidate me. I don't think I left the house for six months as I would immediately feel triggered in public spaces. I just became a real hermit and the total opposite of who I was before I met him," Jane said.

"While my daughter was sleeping in the bedroom, I would be in the lounge room looking out the window and facing the street — just to make sure no one was coming."

Jane did everything she could to stay in her home. She would order her shopping online and she focused on taking care of her baby. The first time she went to a shopping mall after the split, she asked her dad to go with her. 

But she still felt like she had to watch every single person around her to make sure she didn't recognise anyone associated with her ex. 

She was also afraid to open mail, scared there would be a legal letter or threatening note. For two years following the split, Jane decided to not have a social media account, fearing her ex-partner or his friends would stalk or harass her.


This severely impacted Jane's mental health — making her feel "crazy and unhinged". It's a feeling so many survivors of domestic violence endure, a result of the consistent gaslighting they fell victim to in the abusive relationship. 

"Eight months after having my daughter and ending the relationship with him, I decided I had to get back to work to financially support my daughter and I. So I started working in another city and we did eventually move as well," Jane said.

Rebuilding one's life can be an overwhelming feeling. Jane felt alone throughout much of the ordeal. She had a strong family network, but she said she sometimes felt like "a burden". 

Working full-time and with her daughter in daycare, Jane slowly began to feel independent again. On the outside, things were looking much better. But emotionally, there were still scars that needed to heal.

"With all the finances on me — rent, bills, utilities, daycare and more — seeking professional help felt a bit out of reach. It was at that point I knew I wanted to speak to people who I could relate to. I joined Facebook groups, and mother's groups and searched Reddit forums for answers. The support groups were really great," Jane said to Mamamia

But still, something was missing.


So Jane decided to create the space she wanted, starting an Instagram page for victim-survivors of domestic violence to come together and talk about how to start again. She called it 'Bright Light Forever', a reminder of the light at the end of the dark tunnel.

"We have thousands of followers now and it's been a great outlet, posting facts, resources and advice from women who have made it out the other side. I get a lot of DMs and it's a great thing for those who have just escaped an abusive situation and don't know what to do next," Jane said. 


From explainers on triggers, how to gain financial independence, and positive affirmations, Jane said it's been a cathartic project for her.

"It's sad to know I'm not the only one to have gone through it, but it's special to know that I can help other people now. I received a DM from one woman saying my conversations with her changed her whole life and helped her move on from an abusive relationship. That means everything," Jane said. 

Now instead of fearing for her future, Jane feels hopeful. And that's a powerful feeling.

"I'm not fine every day, but I have found my place again. From working on this support page on Instagram, to seeing a psychologist, and finding my new normal, I'm doing pretty good. Now after hearing from all of these incredible survivors and helping one another, I feel like the richest person in the world."

*Jane's name has been changed 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.

Feature Image: Getty.