My Domestic Violence Story

January 11, 2009


Hi, I’m Taz. I’m an intelligent 23 year old university graduate. I’m a middle-class woman who comes from a supportive and loving family. I have a lot of good traits. I’m friendly, compassionate, loving, honest, courageous, determined, trustworthy, and loyal. I’m no wimp; I’m a strong character who has never been easily led. I have been a Taekwon-Do state champion and I can break 4 boards with a single kick. I am also a victim of domestic violence.

That took me a long time to admit, even to myself. As an equal opportunist/borderline feminist, I just didn’t think I fit the profile of a domestic violence victim. Movies like “Enough” and “Once Were Warriors” would have me seething with anger. I despised men who treated women that way. Nor did I have any tolerance for women in a violent relationship. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t just leave. When it happened to me, I realised just how difficult it was. The truth is, there is no ‘profile’ for a domestic violence victim. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, regardless of class, education, race, or even gender.

So, how did I become one of these women? That’s a very good question. If you have found this site, you are probably asking yourself the same thing. I want to share my answer to that question with you, but first I would like to tell you why.

I have built this site as a resource and support for women who are suffering in an abusive relationship. I want you to know that you are not alone. I have been where you are. I know how alone it can feel. I know what it’s like to be constantly on edge, permanently walking on eggshells to avoid the next conflict. I know this because I have suffered through physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse. The emotional abuse was the hardest to cope with. The gradual erosion of my self-esteem and confidence scarred me more deeply than the other forms ever could. What finally gave me the incentive to leave was learning of other women who had been through domestic violence and were courageous enough to share their stories.

I want to share what I’ve been through in the hopes of touching your heart and getting you to tap into your own inner strength. Know that there are others who have been through this. I hope by sharing my experience I can be a catalyst for a positive change for you. This is my story.

The Beginning

At 22 years of age, I thought life was pretty good. I had a wonderful relationship with Leon*, my partner of 4 years. We had a house together, were entering our final year at university, and doing very well.

During the holidays, Leon and I would get together regularly with my best friend Bridget* and her fiancé Anton* for dinner or a barbeque. We met Bridget and Anton’s new flatmate Brett* at one of our get-togethers. Bridget and I spent a lot of time together, so I would run into Brett regularly. He and I got on well. He was cute, friendly, shared my interests, and clearly had more than a casual interest in me.

Leon and I had a polyamorous relationship, so my reciprocal interest in Brett was hardly a blip on the radar. Leon was nonchalant when I told him. Brett was a smoker, had drinking problems, lost his license for drink driving, had a child to his former girlfriend who had a protection order against him, and $3000 worth of debt. Leon knew how much I loved him and that Brett wasn’t someone I would look at seriously in a million years. We discussed our open relationship with Brett, and he asked me out soon after.

Superficially Charming

Brett was so charming when we started going out. He did all the right things; took me to dinner, offered to pay, was polite, attentive, talked about his feelings, never pushed the boundaries, and once I got him talking I couldn’t shut him up. He was sweet, gentle, romantic, and we got along like a house on fire. He was always very conscious of my safety and insisted on walking me everywhere. Brett would get stressed and upset when I went to leave. “When will I see you again?” he would say. “I can’t wait a whole week to see you. I’ll take a day off work that you have off. I hate being at work when I know I could be spending time with you.” A tiny alarm bell rung in my head, but I quashed it. In comparison it seemed as though Leon didn’t seem to care whether I was around or not. I realised I had more than a fleeting physical attraction to Brett. I actually liked him!

I was confused. This guy had red flags all over him, but I liked him regardless of how many times my logical mind told me to stop being so ridiculous. Brett had an amazing ability to make me feel special and guilty at the same time. He would say things like how envious of Leon he was. How much it hurt him to meet someone so perfect in his eyes, but know he could never be with me. That he didn’t care that I was with Leon, just as long as he got to see me too. Brett’s intensity slotted perfectly into Leon’s deficit, and I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Loving one person and having a casual interest in another didn’t phase me, but caring about both meant my heart would be living a lie. Leon and I broke up and Brett and I got together.

The First Assault

One night I went to Brett’s to have a few drinks together, but he had started drinking well before I got there. That night I began to see the Brett behind the veneer of charm. He was argumentative and taunting. I wanted to leave, but I couldn’t drive. That night when we went to bed, Brett tried to touch me. In his stupor he was rough, uncaring, and he made my skin crawl. Not wanting to offend him, I gently pushed his hands away, but he was forceful and wouldn’t stop. This time I threw his hands off me and told him to leave me alone. I couldn’t understand how a person could change so completely. That night, I cried myself to sleep.

The next morning Brett woke up bright and cheerful. I gave him a wary look, unsure of whether he remembered what had happened or not. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I told him, expecting him to be shocked and apologetic. Instead, his face darkened. He said if that was what happened, there was no point in being together. The damage was done. No apology. No remorse. No concern if I was okay. After separating with Leon, I felt that Brett was all I had left to cling too. I stayed, trying to convince myself that it was a once-off. After all, the real Brett was sweet and caring, right? Wrong. Brett continued to sexually abuse me throughout our relationship. Usually, he was drunk. Other times he would claim he didn’t know he was doing it, because he was really asleep.

Over the next week, Bridget confided in me that she and Anton were having serious financial problems. They couldn’t keep up with their expenses, and Brett would be on the street if they had to move. He was in tears, she told me. I was worried, and spent most the night consoling him. The next week I moved in to help them out with rent and bills. Brett and I had been together two weeks.

His True Colours

After I moved in I saw more and more of Brett’s dark side. He would call me names, yell, swear, taunt, and try to intimidate me in front of our housemates. I was shocked. This wasn’t Brett! This monster was needy, clingy, paranoid, and abusive. Where was the sweet, gentle guy I had been seeing? I’d never met anyone with so much bottled-up anger.

The next four months became a blur of abuse. Brett drank regularly, and being with him was like waiting for a volcano to explode. I was forever walking on eggshells trying not to upset him. Like clockwork, every three days something would set Brett off. He took great pleasure in telling me how untrustworthy, unreliable, weird, indecisive, incompetent, and stupid I was. If I did better than him, I was cheating or taking cheap shots, because naturally he was smarter and better than me at everything. He was convinced I was ‘fucking somebody else’ and told me I was lucky to have him, because no one else could possibly put up with my shit. “How did Leon ever put up with you?” he’d taunt me. “He would be a complete moron to ever want you back.” Brett knew when he’d gone too far. He would always follow up a good round of abuse by begging for my forgiveness, doing things for me, making me dinner, telling me how sorry he was, that he knew that he was being an arsehole and yes, he had some issues, but he’d be okay if I would just be understanding and give him some time. He seemed so sincere that I would forgive him every time.

I had started back at uni and was working 36 hours a week. Despite only working 8 hours a week himself and being at home the rest of the time, Brett was convinced he didn’t see me enough. He expected to take priority over my uni and work. I couldn’t work on an assignment without him sulking. If I asked him to put headphones on while he was listening to music or a computer game as I was trying to work, I was being unreasonable. Sometimes I would even call work and tell them I was going to be late because I was sorting things out with Brett. He had absolutely no respect for me or my time. He would sit next to my bed when I was trying to sleep and interrogate me until the early hours of the morning. He demanded I call him if I was going to be late home from work. If I didn’t, he would accuse me of ‘fucking someone else’ again. He said it was because he was worried about me and wanted to know if I was alright. Really, it was because he wanted to know and control everything I did.

My Health Declines

Brett was gradually wearing me down. I wasn’t getting enough sleep. My job performance suffered and I was late every day. I would fall into micro sleeps at my desk constantly. On my lunch breaks, I didn’t have lunch. I would go and lie in my car for half an hour to catch up on the sleep I’d missed the night before. I was so tired I could barely get up in the morning, but at night I’d have insomnia. My memory was suffering. I couldn’t remember what assignments I had due and I couldn’t concentrate or learn. I had no energy or focus and I lost all motivation for my uni work. My stress levels soared and my health started to decline. I began experiencing crushing chest pains at work and my once perfect skin erupted into an inflamed mess. This gave him more self-esteem sabotage ammunition. “Most guys would think that your face is gross broken out, but I don’t care” he would say. He made himself out to be my knight in shining armour; the only one that would or could ever love someone like me.

Brett had no respect for my privacy. He would read my computer conversations and go through my phone if I left it around. “Who the fuck are all these guys on your phone/MSN?” he would say. “I don’t talk to any girls other than you! How many of them are you fucking?” He got angry and tried to guilt trip me if I didn’t want to have sex with him, saying as his partner I should regardless of whether I wanted to or not. I suggested he might like to rethink his viewpoint. Of course, that caused a big argument. Apparently, I had flat out called him a rapist.

The longer I was with Brett, the more withdrawn I became. I felt like a bird beating its wings against a cage that was too small. Brett’s abuse was crippling, and I started to believe that I wasn’t worth loving. He was killing me, but I was an exhausted swimmer battling the tide. I lost my will to fight him.

To keep myself sane, I would express my feelings through drawing, playing music, and writing. Drawing was safe. Brett couldn’t ‘read’ my sketches like he could my words. One night Brett saw me writing. He was furious when I wouldn’t let him read it. He let fly with his usual tirade of abuse, saying that he wouldn’t be home that night and he was going to find someone who appreciated him. Imagine my surprise to see him materialise at the bathroom door half an hour later as I was putting the finishing touches on my makeup. He went ballistic when he discovered I was going clubbing with a platonic male friend. He was still up waiting for me when I got home in the early hours of the morning. It was next to impossible to walk away from a fight with Brett; he’d just come with me. If I left the house, he’d follow me down the street. If I tried to get out of a room, he’d stand in my way. If I tried to lock myself in a room, he’d throw his weight against the door and wedge it open. There was nothing I could do. He was stronger than me.

Brett’s drinking made him a real-life Jekyll and Hyde. Most of the time I would get the hell out of there the second I saw him start. It didn’t matter where I went or what I had on the next day, anything was better than waiting around for him to pick a fight. Of course, me going out alone was reason enough to pick a fight, but if he was drinking there was going to be a fight anyway, so leaving didn’t make much difference.

He Hit Me

One particular night I went to bed while he was drinking. He knocked on my door, wanting to talk. What he meant was he wanted to reinforce yet again what a horrible person I was and it was amazing that he put up with me. I’d had enough. I sat up and screamed at him to get the fuck out of my room, now. He yelled and swore in my face before storming out. I slammed the door and locked it behind him. I lay in bed confused and upset, wondering for the millionth time why I was still in this relationship. Brett came stomping back down the hall, yelling his head off. Realising the door was locked, he started kicking it, screaming “Get your fucking shit out of my room before I break everything!” I opened the door and I saw Bridget peeking out of the doorway of her room…shocked, surprised, and a little scared. “If you fucking break anything of mine, it will be last thing you ever break” I said to him. He went mental, screaming at the top of his lungs that I was a fucking awful bitch, a slut, that I had pushed him to this, and that he hated me. Then he head-butted me. In the forehead, three times. I stood there in shock. “Y-you…you HIT me…” I whispered, the tears welling in my eyes and trickling down my cheeks. He walked out, still yelling. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. After the initial shock, I was blinded by fury. I could feel the blood rushing to my face in anger. Any fear I should have felt vanished like a puff of smoke. I clenched my fists and went after him, grabbing him by the front of the shirt. “You have no idea how close I am to punching you head in right now” I said. “Does that make you feel like a big man Brett? Hitting a woman like that? You’re a pathetic excuse for a man.” “Get out of my face,” he said, shoving me away from him. “I could kill you in two seconds flat.”

I confided the incident in my friend Sonja* the next day. She was shocked. “Taz, I hope you know you need to get out of that relationship,” she said. “What you had is not a fight. It’s crazy scary shit.” Sonja was my shoulder to cry on. She didn’t call him names, she didn’t ask my why I didn’t just leave him. Sonja just let me talk, and most importantly, she listened. She was my rock.

Following the Cycle

I got a call later that day. It was Brett. He said he loved me, begging me not to tell my family, and to come home so we could talk things through. He was very humble, getting me flowers, making me dinner, telling me how sorry he was, and that he was shocked and disappointed in himself. I didn’t know what to do. I was angry and hurt, but seeing him so obviously sorry threw me. I gave him another chance. I was still too proud to admit that I had been wrong about Brett.

Then suddenly, things improved markedly! Brett became sweet and gentle again. Our fights were much less frequent, but tension was building between us and the other housemates. Brett and I found a new place to rent, just the two of us.

Our house had lots of strange noises downstairs. It had been broken into the night before we moved in. Initially, I assumed it was the same person trying to get in again. Brett was convinced it was our male neighbour trying to get in and rape me. I was frightened to go outside at night if Brett wasn’t home, but he still expected me to leave the house alone and pick him up after dark.

Shortly after we moved, Brett lost his job. He didn’t even bother trying to find a new one, and would get annoyed when I asked him about it. He was perfectly content bumming off Centrelink and playing World of Warcraft while letting me field the bills.

Brett had been trying for a while to isolate me from my family. It became worse after he lost his job. He’d complain my Dad had been racist towards him. He began to stand me up a lot because he was embarrassed about his situation. If we had organised to go to my parents or for them to come over, he would pick a fight and use it as an excuse not to be there. If I needed to drop in and pick something up, he’d start a fight and jump out of the car so he didn’t have to be there. Fortunately, cutting me off from my family was the only area of my life he didn’t get his claws into. All he really succeeded in doing was pissing me off.

He Could Have Killed Us

Brett and I had a really bad fight while we were living together. We had gone clubbing and he had drunk way too much. He was rude, crude, and got angry when told him to leave me alone. He started yelling at me in the car on the way home. I reached over to turn up the radio, trying to drown him out. Furious, he broke my radio and grabbed my arm as I was driving. I tried to pull my arm away, screaming at him to let me go before he killed us both. “I DON’T CARE!” he yelled back at me. I got my arm free and pulled over, shaking. I told him to get out of the car. He wouldn’t move. “What are you going to do?” he taunted me. “Call the police? Your Dad?” he laughed in my face. What could I do? Brett was unpredictable drunk and he was too strong for me to move him. I drove home gritting my teeth as I listened to his taunts, unable to do anything about it. Closer to our house, Brett jumped out of the car of his own accord. That was the opportunity I needed. I sped home, grabbed some clothes, hustled my pets into the car, and fled to my parents house.

Explaining to my family why I was bringing my pets over at four in the morning was not particularly easy. Either was explaining three days later that I was back together with Brett. But he was so sweet and apologetic! He completely agreed that he was an arsehole and he was so sorry. He loved me and just couldn’t live without me. Him playing the victim tugged at my heart too much to refuse. I went back to him again.

The Fog Begins To Lift

I had actually begun to realise about a month prior that I didn’t deserve what he was putting me through. I had thought about leaving him plenty of times, but never had the conviction to stick with my choice. I knew I needed to make myself stronger. I booked myself into a naturopath and reflexologist to help steer my neglected body back onto a healthy course. I improved my diet and began to exercise. I experimented with meditation and affirmations. I would close my door at night and read about emotional healing, self-esteem, and unhealthy relationships. My tears would flow freely, my heart and body aching as I connected with my pain.

The final straw came when Brett and I arranged to go to an expo. I got free tickets through a colleague. “Why the fuck would I want to spend any time with you?” Brett said when the day arrived. I cringed at the thought of having to explain his absence yet again. It was one thing to pike on arrangements with the family, but quite another to purposely make me look unprofessional.

Brett didn’t come with me to the expo. I did a lot of thinking about my relationship that day. I was sick of Brett sitting on his arse and not looking for a job. I was sick of not being able to look people in the eye when I talked to them, because I was embarrassed about what was happening and the sort of person I was with. I was sick of being ignored. Most of all, I was sick of being abused. I made up my mind. I was leaving Brett.

I gave myself a break-up pep talk on the drive home. I knew how fights with Brett worked. There was a pattern. It didn’t seem to matter what he had done or how bad the fight had been, he could always get me to go back to him. How did he do it? He manipulated me. He would sit down and pretend to agree with everything I was angry with him for. He would concur that he was an arsehole, he was sorry, and commited to try harder. No matter how angry I was, if he agreed with everything I said, I eventually ran out of steam. I knew that if I wanted to break from him permanently, I couldn’t talk to him.

That day I told Brett I didn’t want to be with him anymore. He wanted to talk. Against my better judgment, I obliged. I reasoned that I at least owed him an explanation, but I knew what to do this time. I let him talk for an hour, then told him I was leaving. Brett cracked. He fell to his knees in front of me and begged me to stay, tears pouring down his face. “Taz! Don’t do this! Don’t leave me! I love you! How can you do this? Don’t you feel anything? I can’t live without you! I’d do anything for you!” His sobs and the look on his face tore at my heart. A wave of compassion flooded through me as I watched him crumpled in a heap, crying his heart out on the floor. I told myself to be strong, not to let him do this to me again. Then I turned and walked away.

I moved back to my parents place, broke the lease and moved my things out of the place I was renting with Brett. Within a few days, Brett and I were back together again. At this stage, I’m pretty sure my parents thought I was bordering on insanity. I had just broken a lease to get away from this person, and now I was going out with him again? Once Brett had me back, the abuse started again. He blamed me for walking out and leaving him in the lurch with nowhere to go but back to the housemates we had left a month earlier. He delighted in telling me nasty things that they and his mother would say about me. “They all say you’re no good for me, they don’t know why I bother with you.” The cycle was repeating. He had me again.

Questioning My Sanity

My moods were up and down like a yo-yo. Convinced there had to be something mentally wrong with me, I booked myself in to a psychologist. She immediately ruled mental illness out, but by the end of the session, she had a pretty good idea of my relationship situation. Suggesting I might like to look up the domestic violence cycle, she said “Taz. You don’t need to walk. You don’t need to run. You need to jump on the nearest jet-plane and high-tail it out of this relationship as fast as you can. How much of your precious life are you going to waste with someone like Brett? He has problems that often take a lifetime of therapy to overcome. Sometimes we feel sorry for people and stay with them out of pity. It’s like going to a pet shop and buying the runt because you feel sorry for it.” She lent forward as if to emphasise her point. “Don’t choose the runt of the litter for a partner.”

Seeing the Light

I looked up the domestic violence cycle that night. I understood it instantly. I felt angry, detached and sad all at the same time. The penny had finally dropped. I had a hard and fast label to stick to my experience now. The next day I jumped on my proverbial jet plane. I broke up with Brett for good.

I needed the conviction to stick to my decision. I read as many stories as I could about domestic violence. The more I read, the angrier at Brett I became. “That happened to me! Exactly that!” I’d think “She went through it too! Oh, and here! This person suffered like I did! This is what I went through!” It was like all of these women were writing about Brett.

I wanted to eliminate every trace of Brett from my life. I tore up every letter he had ever given me and threw it out. I got rid of all his presents, photos, emails and messages. I systematically blocked and deleted Brett and his acquaintances from every avenue of contact I could think of. I got my parents to screen all of my calls. I wanted to purge myself of the whole experience. I wanted to forget.

Creating Emotional Distance

He tried very hard to contact me over the next couple of days. He emailed me from an address I had forgotten about. He called my mobile. I turned my mobile off and gave it to Mum to hide for two weeks so there was no temptation to speak to him. He called the home phone. Mum wouldn’t let him speak to me. He made up aliases and tried to add himself to my social sites so he could keep tabs on me. I blocked them all. When Brett realised he had no other way to contact me, he waited for me in the bushes outside my work. My eyes widened in shock when I saw him and I turned to run. He stopped me, saying he just needed some closure. By then I’d had three days to become very, very angry over what he had done. I told him to get help.

Breaking up was emotionally taxing. The first two days of separating from Brett were terrible. Despite being so angry about what he did to me, I still missed him. The isolation from my friends affected me deeply at first. My social network had never been large, but after Brett’s isolation handiwork, it was practically non-existent. When we first broke up, I was incredibly lonely. Bit by bit I told my family what I had been through. It was a relief to finally be able to tell them. They were shocked. Furious at Brett for abusing me, and saddened that I hadn’t told them sooner.

Understanding What Happened

Brett’s face used to torment my thoughts. All I could see was the dark look that would cross his face when he was drunk and angry. He would glare at me with his head lowered, speaking through gritted teeth. I sought counseling over the next two months to help me through my pain. My counselor was very supportive and really helped me understand my experience. My family were a wonderful support throughout this time. Mum made sure I had a routine and always knew when I needed to talk. I called the Domestic Violence Women’s Line (Ph: 1800 811 811) between counseling sessions when I needed support through my times of distress and uncertainty. They listened to me without judgment and reinforced my self worth.

Counseling helped me understand why Brett had such a strong hold over me. He was insecure, suspicious, and thought everyone was out to get him. I came to recognise that there were many reasons I stayed with Brett as long as I did. I was scared of being alone. I had too much pride to admit I had made the wrong decision in being with Brett. I was his emotional punching bag, but he convinced me that I would be just another person who let him down if I left. I stayed with him out of pity.

The Future…

It’s been nearly three months now since I separated from Brett, and I’ve come a long way. I still carry the scars of my experience, and probably will for a long time to come. Right now though, I’m looking towards a much brighter, happier future. I’m rebuilding my life and trying to help other victims break the cycle. I’ve taken up classes I’m interested in and am actively trying to meet new friends. I look after my body. I eat well, exercise regularly and take care with my grooming. I take care of my spirit. I do a lot of reading on personal development and keep a journal to stop negative thoughts circulating and to track my emotional rebuilding process. I still think about what happened a lot, and sometimes feel pangs of anger towards him for what he did to me, but the thoughts are becoming less and less frequent. I’m single now, and planning to stay that way for quite a while. Sometimes I get lonely, but I’m not scared of being alone anymore. It’s given me the chance to pursue my own interests and find myself again. I consider myself one of the lucky ones, because I am free now. I view my experience as a life-changing catalyst, and as an opportunity to reach out and help change lives of other women for the better.

If you’ve read to the end of this story without much emotional response then you are an incredibly lucky person. I sincerely hope you never experience what I and many other women have gone through. If, however, you read this, felt your heart wrench and tears flow freely down your cheeks as you shared my pain, then I have succeeded. I’ve made you think. If you’re reacting that strongly, you aren’t crying for me. You’re crying for yourself. You’ve just tapped into your pain and realised that you are not alone. That’s good! Understanding what you’re going through is the first step to making a change. I hope that my story has helped give you the courage to escape your own situation. You have all the strength you need within you to leave and rebuild your life, no matter how difficult it may seem right now. You are a worthy, special and beautiful person who deserves the best that this world has to offer. Don’t accept abuse as part of your life. Spread your wings and set yourself free.

December 2007

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

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