“I’m not a woman basher, you don’t have bruises on your face.”
Those were the words my older, cooler 17-year-old boyfriend told me when I was just 15. This little gem was slotted right between a hard punch to my thigh and a pledge (more like a demand) to run away with me when I turned 16.
That little statement has stuck in my mind for a decade now, and as I get older and wiser, it gets more ridiculous, funny and scary.
I have never been more afraid as I was as a 15-year-old in a violent relationship. I have also never been more alone.
The older I get, the more I realise how scary my teenage relationship was, and how I thought it was the norm. When I imagine being in a similar relationship today, I am filled with absolute horror.
At a time where I was supposed to be living carefree, hanging out with friends and making beautiful memories, I was being subjected to emotional, verbal and physical attacks. I was constantly reminded that I was fat and useless and, to top it off, I was forbidden from seeing my friends.
You see, he was not in school and he lived alone. So, any time I wasn’t in school, I had to spend with him. And if I didn’t, oh boy, s**t would hit the fan.
Listen: It hasn’t been an easy road. But the Mamamia Out Loud team discuss everything that happened back in 2015 that meant we began to take Domestic Violence seriously. Post continues after audio.
I once worked a double-shift at my weekend job and this did not go down very well with him and sent him into a spiral of rage. He did burnouts in my yard (sorry about the grass, Dad) before coming into the supermarket I was working at.
He bought a packet of biscuits and a carton of flavoured milk. As he got to the checkout I was on, I served him while silently begging him not to make a scene. He heard my silent plea I think, and decided to go against it. He smashed the box of biscuits, which went flying all over the counter, and then threw his milk out into the street and left. And I stood crying, forced to keep serving customers. I remember hiding in the back of the store for the rest of my shift, watching him on the CCTV cameras. The next week, I quit my job.
Another time, he drove to my house drunk, broke into my house and snuck into my bedroom. I had to wake Mum to take him home in the wee hours of the morning before Dad got up for work.
Another time, we were at his house on a weekend. He had had too much rum to drink, and, as usual, got violent. He was always violent when he drank. I remember he picked up a table, filled with full drinks and plates of food, and threw it at me. I remember hiding in an empty block outside his unit all night, not able to go home because my parents thought I was at an innocent sleepover with the friends I no longer had.
I often think back on all of these sh**ty and pretty traumatic moments (I believe there are many more that I have simply blacked out of my mind) and wonder how I survived. I also wonder why I let it go on for so long when I lived in my home with the security of my parents.
I think I can explain why I stuck around so long… I vividly remember sitting in my room filled with stuffed animals and Harry Potter books, fighting with him via text. I would break up with him countless times. And he would threaten to kill himself if I went through with it. He would give details on how he would do it. He would tell me he was tying the noose. He would tell me it was my fault.
At the time, I didn’t know that this was a form of severe emotional and psychological manipulation and it was very likely he wouldn’t actually go through with it. At the time, however, I was frozen in fear. I didn’t want blood on my hands. I was only 15. So, I gave in, we made up, and he was given another chance to hurt me.
I also wonder why no one helped me. Weren’t there clear signs?
Did my parents not notice? Did they just think we were silly teenagers in love? That I would learn my own lessons in love? Did my employer not try and reach out when I was hiding in the storeroom, or when I quit my job? Did my friends not realise I truly did want to see them? Did they not see the fear in my once bright eyes?
I’ve put it down to a combination of all of those. As well as a lack of awareness.
Campaigns surrounding domestic violence are targeted at adult women and men, not young girls. We need to remember that these violent men were once violent schoolboys. Schoolboys that got away with it because we seemingly turned a blind eye and assumed it was just typical teenage lovers quarrelling.
Thankfully, I had one friend who really helped me through the situation. And when I finally dumped that a**hole, this friend and I started a beautiful relationship that went on for four years.
When this relationship ended, I found myself in the arms of yet another angry man. And at the age of 19, I was being emotionally and verbally abused again. One day, after a particularly savage fight, I was pinned up against a wall by my throat and punched several times in the jaw.
Another time that still gives me chills to this day, I was watching TV alone at night after kicking him out. He turned my power off at the meter, smashed my window and tried to attack me. My best friend came to the rescue, and he also smashed her car window. The next day she reported the damage on her car to the police. I waited with her for hours at the police station, ready to also report him. But the police officer dismissed me, told me to go home, and didn't bother to take my statement.
This guy’s family also knew the extent of his actions, as was the case in my first relationship, but they supported their beloved son in both instances.
So, once again, I was young, afraid and not taken seriously.
Now, as a 26-year-old, I believe if the situation arises again (and I pray it doesn't) I wouldn't have the same experience as I had as a teenager. I believe I would be taken seriously. But, at the same time, I am stronger and smarter now, and I reckon I could cope a lot better than I could when I was just a girl.
We need to support all women of all ages against violent relationships. We need to protect our young girls. As sisters, best friends, mothers and school friends, we need to realise that domestic violence can happen to any one, at any age.
It happened to me at an age where I didn't know if it was normal, I believed every nasty word this man told me, and I didn't know how to get out.
I was embarrassed to reach out, because I was “just a kid”.