My journey to hell and back began twelve years ago. I met him when he moved in next door to me. We became friends and later he moved in with me and we became an item. He had me hook, line and sinker, a real charmer. He was a rebel, and life became fast and exciting. Parties, dancing, drinking and then more drinking.

I didn’t see it coming. We out with some of his mates and he had been drinking all day, and then his old girlfriend arrived. I was upset because he sat on her knee and kissed her, so I went to sit in the car. He came bellowing over, so I locked the door. He put his fist through the passenger window then dragged me through it. After receiving a punch in the head, one of his friends drove me home. At home I tended to my sore head, scrapes and bruises, but what hurt most was that it happened at all. The next day when he arrived at the flat he was full of remorse – things would be different, he wouldn’t drink and he would never hurt me again.

I believed him; things did improve for a while. Soon I discovered I was pregnant, he seemed over the moon with the news. A few months later he came home drunk, and after arguing he punched me in the stomach. I ended up in hospital with a ruptured cyst on my ovary. The baby was all right. Returning home I gave him an ultimatum – his mates or me. He chose me.

However after our baby was born the drinking continued, and the abuse continued. I stayed, as I could not see a way out. Brief times when he was sober, things seemed pleasant. My way of life became moving from one house to another with him, as people became aware of my situation (the domestic abuse), although I had learnt to hide the bruises and he was good at not leaving them where they could be seen. Over the years I took out several Intervention Orders on him, which I then dropped when he made his promises and sometimes, even, threats against me.

On our child’s birthday he received a gaol sentence of several months for drink driving and assault on a police officer. I still didn’t leave. During his time in gaol I visited often – he made more promises: no more drinking, no more abuse. When he left gaol, things were great for a while, and I hoped that his time in gaol had changed him. I got pregnant again, this time with twins. When I was pregnant we moved again, this time to be closer to his family, as I was going to need help and support with twins on the way. This was a move I should never have made. His father also had a drinking problem; they were a bad influence on each other. During my pregnancy he abused me again and again. Another time I pulled a kitchen knife on him and he laughed, as he knew I would not use it, then he spat in my face. There were times when he was at the hotel with his parents, I would pray that someone would knock on my door and tell me he was dead, rather than face him coming home. I was trapped; the only people I knew were his family. I had no way out.

Once our new babies were born, things remained the same. I looked after the children; he went to the hotel or to smoke dope with a mate. Life was tough and often there was no money for food. I stopped eating so what we had would go further. As long as he had his beer he didn’t care. He would complain when the babies cried and tell me `to shut them up or else.’ Every day I lived in fear, never knowing what his mood would be.

One day I left him to care for the twins, so I could collect our eldest child from daycare. I returned home to find one of the twins was cold and shaking, I was horrified. It turned out they had a dirty nappy and he had put them in the bath with a cold shower running, in the middle of winter. A few weeks later when collect one of the twins from her cot I found she had a blanket was over her, and a shirt was wrapped around her head and shoved in her mouth. Quickly I removed it and she gasped for breath. I was shocked and angry. How could he do this to his own child? I confronted him and rang his parents for help. When his parents arrived, his father was drunk, saying `it’s alright son, I know she’s bullshitting’. He swung a few punches at me, then left to go to his parents for the night.

I was distraught, frightened, and knew I had to protect my children. I found the phone book and looked under ‘Domestic Violence’ in the front. I got several phone numbers; I started with the first. The first few refuges I rang were full and asked if I could wait. Finally I rang a Salvation Army refuge, and an elderly man answered; I don’t know how he understood me through my many sobs as I tried to tell my story. He said `not now, tell me when you get here, do you need help, how soon can you get here?’ my reply was` we are on our way.’ I grabbed my box of photo albums, a garbage bag of clothes for the children and myself, and took my dog, which had been a loyal friend for many years, and we left.

Driving early that morning, I was a little scared of the future, but not like I had been every day for the last five years. The eggshells I had been treading on were gone, my children could cry and I didn’t have to shush them. I was determined to turn my life around.

I spent a week at that refuge before moving interstate. I changed my name, and began to rebuild my life. A few months later, I moved into a housing commission house, got part time work, and had started making friends for the first time since leaving school. Life was great.

Fourteen months later, after I trusted the wrong person, he contacted me. He pleaded with me to believe that he had changed, he been to counseling, anger management etc. etc. He was real convincing – the old charm was back. I agreed to give it a trial, but said that things would have to go slowly. He could not live with me. And no more alcohol. He saw us once a month to begin with as he lived a long way away. Soon he moved to the town where I was living.

One weekend he was staying with us, he started drinking. We argued and I asked him to leave, he refused. I went to phone the police. He hit the phone out of my hands and pushed me to my knees. He put one hand around my throat and squeezed. I was able to break away and I ran out the front door. He caught up to me in the neighbour’s garden, pushed me to the ground and started punching and kicking me. I thought he was going to kill me. A female voice called out that she had called the police and he fled. I believe if it wasn’t for the intervention of a stranger, I’d not be here today!
How the situation changed

He was charged with assault but only received a good behavior bond. I was bitterly disappointed in the legal system. As the court had allowed him contact with children, I still had to face him every second weekend. I wanted nothing to do with him. He would not accept the relationship was over and one night returned to my house and started smashing the windows (the children were not there). I called the police and he was arrested.

I haven’t spoken to him since. I am still fighting him in court; he wants contact with the children. He’s been back in prison several times, for similar offences. It is long process and I am hoping it will soon come to an end.

We moved to a new house. Although I was advised to move towns, I decided to stay. I had built a network of friends and support in this community. He was not going to beat me again. The Salvation Army has given us so much support. I know there is always someone that I can talk to, who will listen and even pray for me at times that I need them to. I wanted to do something for myself and three years ago I joined a marital arts club, through the club I have made new friends. I am no longer afraid, have self-confidence, I have worked hard to get where I am and am proud of what I have achieved.

Last year I met the most beautiful man – he is kind and gentle, and we connected straight away. Best of all the children think he is wonderful, and he them. He always has time for them, he listens to them read, and makes their school lunches, fixes their bikes, and plays football with them. Most of all, he loves them as his own. We spend time camping, fishing and he always makes us feel safe. Our life is complete, and I am thankful everyday that I have him in my life. I will cherish what the future brings, and we’re planning for our wedding next year.
My advice to others

Many victims of domestic abuse feel they lack the appropriate support to enable them to positively alter their situation, but having finally taken steps to free myself and my three children from repeated ongoing abuse I know it is possible.

My advice to others is don’t be afraid ask for help, even if you have to swallow your pride. Believe in yourself, don’t give up and use the chance to change your destiny, although it may seem difficult. Everyone has the right to live in dignity in their own home, free from fear of violence or harm. I have felt angry, mystified and somewhat jilted by the justice system, but I haven’t given up. I am still fighting.

This verse inspired me, and may be of use to you or someone you know.

Too many `IFS’
Too many `WHENS’
Too many `SORRYS’
And `NEVER AGAINS’
Too many `PROMISES’
Too many `LIES’
Far too many `ONE MORE TRIES’
How many were there,
Before I knew
That `ACTIONS’ speak louder
Than `PROMISES’ do?