*Brenda (name has been changed) wants to tell you about her story of domestic violence. If you need to talk to someone, please call the National DV Service Hotline 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). Thank you to all of our churches who participated in the No Place for Violence Here Campaign. For resources for your church, please visit: https://ajustcause.com.au/no-place-for-violence/
I met my ex-husband through a mutual friend and not long after we started working together. He showered me with gifts and attention, nights out, trips, etc. He opened up my world and was very intelligent and fun. I loved his children and all of our children were teens by this stage. After dating for some time, which was very up and down, he wanted to get married and have a life together. He was good with my children and I wanted to be a family and for my children to have a dad. He appeared like that at first. But after we were married I knew that my children now didn’t have their own father and they didn’t have a stepfather. They were also losing their mother as well. They were watching me suffer. I felt that I was constantly in a state of desperation.
There were red flags before we got married but I was so lonely, and I really wanted to be in a relationship. He met a lot of my needs even though there was a down side. Some of my friends and my parents mentioned a few things that they thought were not right but I rationalised them away so I could be in a relationship with him.
One of the things he did was make me feel like I had to be there all the time. There was this underlying message that if I wasn’t there, he had the right to reach out to someone else. I had to constantly be dressed up and show up all the time. There were times that I found out that he was looking for other women and when I confronted him, he laid the blame on me. “You’re not here. I’m lonely but I won’t follow through with it” he would say. I never had time for my own interests. He kept me so busy with him, his children and our business
There was a lot of pressure to be sexually available all the time. He wasn’t aggressive about it but it was an expectation. He bought all of my clothes. He liked me to dress a certain way to be out with him and would go crazy if I wore something that was different to that. We mostly hung around his friends. I couldn’t open up to them. On the outside I looked happy and dressed up but inside I was sad.
There was a cycle to his anger. He would be really attentive , generous, and loving and then this anger would roll in and he would become controlling and angry. There was no stable ground for me to be on. He would just scream at me often fuelled by alcohol. He never hit me but it started to escalate. The screaming turned into slamming doors and banging walls and things like that. I thought that the neighbours were going to start ringing the police.
I had to be careful about doing everything perfectly, even when things were great. When the cycle of anger came around again, he would just pick at everything I did. He was intimidating, and it was a power play. I didn’t know what brought the cycle around. I didn’t know the trigger. Sometimes in his anger he would not talk to me for a couple of days. He would just seethe at me. I just never knew what was ok and what wasn’t.
He would twist things out of proportion. If I cried, fought back or tried to calm him, it would aggravate him. He would stand over me screaming. I don’t remember what he was saying except that I felt ashamed, insignificant, scared for the children, wondering if he was going to hit me and that I was a complete failure at everything. I just wanted it to stop. It would go on for hours. He would follow me if I left the room. He always stood in the doorways. He wouldn’t let me pass and he would follow me. He would throw things. Fights started to escalate. Things that weren’t a problem became a problem. I moved my children out after a couple of years and I lived between places in an attempt to keep them out of harm’s way and yet to try to continue to restore our marriage.
One time I was trying to cook dinner and he was getting agitated with me. He just wanted to be angry and scream. He slapped the wall and blocked the door so I couldn’t get out of the kitchen. There were knives everywhere in the kitchen and I thought, this is escalating. I just bolted outside and he chased me up the street. He grabbed me and my phone so I couldn’t call the police. I did have to call the police on several occasions. I was locked in a bathroom at one point and he wouldn’t let me out. I look back now and I don’t know why I put up with it. There was an escalation. I thought at some point “he will hit me”.
We tried counselling but he didn’t respect the counsellors or pastors. He always knew better. We were in church but we were never really connected. He didn’t want to be with people at the church. We looked like we had it all together. We looked like we had it all going on.
I knew something had to change but I didn’t know how to change it. I started having thoughts like “I’m the worst mother”, “the worst wife”. “If I can’t do anything right, what am I here for?” I thought “maybe I’ll throw myself off the bridge”. I knew these thoughts weren’t me. At one particularly desperate point, I reached out to a pastor friend and sought her help.
I knew I had to get out even if I died trying. I knew he knew people who could harm me or my children but I thought I would die if I stayed. I just couldn’t live on the roller coaster anymore.
One day I just grabbed as much as I could and got out without him knowing. I packed up my things and hired a truck. It had to be done behind closed doors because he wouldn’t have let me go. I don’t really know what came over me. I think I got to a point where I knew that I would hurt myself if I stayed.
It helped having one friend who I could be open and honest with through it all. She never said, “you have to get out” but she would help me see the insanity of it all, and that it was just not a normal way for a man and woman to live. I think having a friend to confide in and turning to God to help me find a way out was what helped the most. God helped to put the right people in the right place. There were two women who I went to regularly. These two women encouraged me to write everything down in my journal so I could look at it with a clear head, especially in the times when I missed him I could be reminded of how toxic his behaviour towards me was. I noticed from my journaling how the anger had progressed.
A few people since leaving have said that he was very manipulative and controlling and he spoke over the top of me. I was just there to compliment his life and not really be a partner to him. It has been a slow healing process for me, however I am so grateful that I left. I have missed him a lot, but gradually seeing a future without him in it and God is renewing my heart and mind so that I will not only move on and be happy but never be overpowered by someone like that ever again.