DRAGGED by her hair down a hallway and treated like a dog, Elizabeth* did not see herself as an abused woman until she found the strength to walk out.
“If someone had said to me when I first met the charming, handsome, devil may care, future father of my two beautiful sons, that he would become a violent abuser – I would have been horrified,” she said.
“Fifteen years later this man was convicted of his final brutal assault on me.”
Speaking at the White Ribbon March that Matters in Midland yesterday , Elizabeth said domestic violence did not discriminate.
“I don’t look the part. I have a postgraduate degree, a respected academic job, I do charity work and I cook beautiful meals for my children.
“How could this happen to someone like me?
“Domestic violence affects all cultures, all levels of education, both men and women, and all sectors of society.”
Elizabeth said perpetrators did not start out as abusers on the first date.
“It is an insidious process that starts small and incrementally it grows and by the time you fully realise you are, in fact, an abused woman, it’s just normal life,” she said.
“By then you are cut off, depressed, and questioning your own sanity.”
Elizabeth said until the day she finally fled, she had not processed she was a victim of domestic violence.
“This was even though he had held me down on the floor with his foot on my head while he smashed my phone into a wall,” she said.
“He referred to me as a dog, barking at me as I walked past, and taught our kids to do the same and threatened to end my career and take my kids if I left him.
“He convinced me to move across the country to Perth for a new life, completing my isolation from family and friends.”
Elizabeth crisis managed her way through depression and financial ruin and told herself she could save the marriage.
“I have a vivid, shameful memory of crying in a doctor’s surgery where I’d gone after one severe beating and begged the doctor not to report my family to Department of Child Protection,” she said.
“I did leave eventually.
“That last day I received a heavy glass jar thrown into my cheekbone because I tried to talk to him as he watched morning TV.
“As I fled to the bathroom I remember thinking ‘is this awful injury bad enough? Will people believe me?’
“My kids were playing a computer game in the next room and my youngest son merely glanced up at me and said ‘mum, you got us killed in the game!’, so accustomed was he to hearing me cry.”
Elizabeth said the obvious question is why she did not leave sooner.
“All victims know the answer to this one. The answer is while it’s awful being in it, it can be very dangerous to leave,” she said.
“More women die after they leave. My abuser liked the life that I provided for him very much and he was furious at its loss.
“I feared his reprisals and I was right to fear him.”
Elizabeth praised WA Police officers who helped her to leave and keep her abuser away.
“Once I had the courage to voice what had happened to me police acted swiftly to arrest and prosecute him, and then to continue to intervene as he breached his violence restraining order multiple times and was finally convicted of my assault.”
Elizabeth urged victims not to stay silent.
“I urge you, please leave, leave now, because we cannot stay silent about this issue any longer and when you look for it there is so much help out there,” she said.
*Elizabeth’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
Where to get help
Relationships Australia Midland – 61640480
Midland Women’s Health Place – 9250 2221
North Metro Domestic Violence Services – 9374 0433
Midlas – 9250 2123
Women’s domestic violence helpline – 9223 1188
Men’s domestic violence helpline – 9223 1199