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Breaking Free from Domestic Violence – Part One

Australia is taking a stand against Domestic Violence. For a long time this topic has been seen as social taboo. Something not openly talked about and mistakenly made shameful of. With frightening statistics showing an increase in family violence in Australia, now is the time to make a serious statement about where we stand.

Written by Cherie Tilley

My daughter will not be a statistic and neither will my granddaughter. But let’s not be misleading here. My sons will not be perpetrators but they will not be victims themselves either. Domestic Violence affects both genders and all children involved. Together we can change the way we all treat each other, by no longer accepting such repulsive human behaviour.

One Woman shares her story, because it’s not just her story.  It could be yours.  What if it was your daughters’ secret shame?

This isn’t a pretty story, but it’s a story that has to be told, because if it wasn’t told, then it would be like it never happened at all, His mind has gone to dust now and eventually my body will too. My children will have a gap in their history if it is not. They will not know what was endured and had to be overcome; to finally be free of the life that was looking destined for us.

I want to teach them about respect; respect for themselves – not just the ones they claim to love but for all people. I want this tale to teach them about holding on, about letting go, about what Real Love is and should be. They must understand that change is possible even when others lose hope and I want them to truly appreciate every moment of their lives.This is a True Story of betrayal, so don’t expect a happy fairy-tale ending.

Ten Long Years Ago

I was only 19, working many hours as a waitress, juggling night study and pursuing my dreams of becoming a Journalist. The world was certainly my oyster. I loved my job, working with people and I was at a happy point in my life after ending a previous bad relationship.

He was 20 and had just been given the job of Head Chef at my restaurant. Within a few months, we were good friends and we hung out most days; having nights out with our joint friends from work and enjoying getting to know each other. He turned 21 and broke up with his girlfriend; they were heading in different directions in life, and he decided to head to Bali alone for a few weeks. When he returned we continued to talk. I mentioned I was looking at booking an overseas holiday myself and he suggested we explore Bali together as he was keen to return. Next thing you know, I paid for the tickets and we left for a month in Bali.

This was 2004. 

Bali was paradise. He talked to me about his future plans and how he had promised me the world; I laugh about it now thinking how naive I must’ve been back then. There were probably red flags about him I should’ve paid attention to. He wasn’t good enough for me.  I paid for most of the trip, even though we went as friends. I was extremely relaxed back then and didn’t care about the thousands of dollars of I spent from my savings.

He probably thought my mother was funding the trip as I didn’t realise then, that his mother had funded his previous trip. In reality, he had nothing to show for all his years of “hard work”. Regardless, we returned a happy couple and starting making plans for the future. He returned to his hometown on the coast of NSW and started to look for a place to live. We found a brand new unit to rent and moved from Sydney in September 2004. Things were great at first; we set up the place with some new furniture and I moved a lot of my things from home, I had a three bedroom townhouse in Sydney and everything to fill it. We were set up in luxury apartments walking distance to town. I had my Mitsubishi Mirage and life was looking exciting.

I loved the smaller coastal town life and was happy to make it my home. I felt bad leaving my family in Sydney, particularly because I was close with my brothers but at the same time, I was lavished by the opportunity to start fresh.

His behaviour began to change straight away. He would look out of the windows as if people were watching him. I don’t remember us fighting much, I just watched as he quickly changed and he soon became someone I couldn’t trust. I know I’m not a stupid person when it comes to being deceived; it’s a gift but a curse.

We didn’t have the same money as we used to because he stopped working. I was paying for everything and that’s when things didn’t feel right. I should have spoken to my mum more but I felt like I didn’t have the time to sit down and talk. I didn’t have any friends as I had left them behind, and the opportunity to make new ones wasn’t easy in a small town.

It was Christmas day where we had our first physical fight; it conjures up images of both parties equally contributing to an incident. I was cooking us breakfast in the kitchen. He started carrying on that his Christmas gifts weren’t good enough. He assumed I would be flashy and treat him to all sorts of things in his imagination. I had bought about seven gifts which I thought were perfect, but for him, they weren’t expensive enough. I don’t even remember what he bought me.

Standing in the kitchen cooking Eggs Benedict by myself, he comes into the kitchen still carrying on about the gifts. My hands were busy and I certainly wasn’t expecting it , I don’t know what exactly happened but next thing I was poked hard in the eye from behind and my left eye started to bleed. I covered my face to stop the blood running all over the new tiles and carpet and went to the bathroom to see what the hell happened. It was obvious that I was crying yet he still had the nerve to yell at me.

I went to the hospital that Christmas day alone; my eye black and blue, bleeding from the eyelid. I returned home that Christmas day alone and spent the day by myself with sunglasses on, trying to cover my face.

I was ashamed on what he had done to me. I had been in a bad relationship before and I didn’t want to admit I had begun another one. In retrospect, I should have realised and RUN.

I feel so stupid now looking back; I’ve had the same memories all this time and they seem so appalling now. I’m disgusted with my past self for making such a huge mistake, but that wasn’t the worst part.

In January, I found out I was pregnant.

This was shocking news as I was taking contraception. I had been feeling off for a few weeks but we were having problems so I thought that was taking a toll on my health. When I visited my mum, my mum forced me to take a pregnancy test just to reassure her. It was morning sickness and I didn’t even know it. Pregnant at 20.

I left her place in shock to drive home and talk to him. The trip home was a nightmare; all these thoughts were running through my head alone.

When I got home he went through my bag. I was accused of doing all sorts of deviated things whilst I was away and then I told him I was I was pregnant. He punched me in the lower back, right where my kidneys were. I’ll never forget the pain I felt when I went down on the floor. I tried getting back up after several moments of  excruciating pain. I just couldn’t stand straight. I walked in a hunch for about three weeks. I didn’t visit a chiropractor or a physiotherapist because I didn’t want to explain the cause of injury. I don’t know why I didn’t leave him but I felt like I couldn’t leave because I was now pregnant.

Over the next few weeks things, became terrible between us. We were constantly fighting over the pregnancy and what to do about it. I didn’t have a choice. I was having a termination.

Because he hadn’t been working for few months, I was struggling to pay the rent so I started packing up my things to move back home. I wasn’t going to stay in the apartment because I didn’t even know what the future was held between me and him.

My dad drove up from Sydney with a trailer to bring me home and I stayed at his place until I figured out my next move. He was never supposed to come with me but he acted like he had nowhere else to go and wanted to see out things with pregnancy. We decided to stay with dad for a few weeks until he attacked me again.

He then took off to the train station, leaving me alone.

I went through a rough time for a few weeks and ended up staying with my grandparents, I felt worthless that I had done such a thing and I didn’t know how to forgive myself.

I don’t know why I took him back after he left like that, but I did. I was lost at the time, becoming more depressed everyday; we agreed to start off fresh. He wanted us to move to Melbourne to be closer to his mum. Melbourne was a place I had visited often and I loved the arty hippy culture of the city and after a few trips, I decided that would do it.

We rented a vintage looking apartment in St Kilda; it was small but cute and I really liked how close it was to everything. We could cross the road to Coles and the pubs were on each corner, even though I’m not much of drinker myself. That was different; things in Melbourne were very different.

I was suffering from depression and I wasn’t getting help. I didn’t look for a job straight away; I didn’t feel like I could just jump back into life. I tried to process the last year and I wasn’t coping. He hardly noticed or cared and he’d take off on his own secret missions – sometimes for hours on end, leaving me sitting up at night wondering if he was okay.

He stole cans of paint from a well-known brand store across the road. He would use the paint for graffiti, only to get caught and arrested for vandalism by the Police. One time a Chef hog tied him to a milk crate until police arrived, to arrest him for the same thing. When he told me, I had to laugh. He had gone from being stupid to downright ridiculous. He would empty bank accounts at midnight within moments of getting paid and I didn’t even realise that his behaviour was mimicking someone who had an addiction problem. I had lived a very sheltered childhood so I didn’t know what to look for, but it was becoming more obvious to me. Something was terribly wrong.

One time I followed him on a tram down Chapel Street into Richmond until I saw what he was up to. I felt like I had no choice. He was taking all my money and I didn’t understand the situation. I didn’t understand what I was up against.I had never dealt with a problem like this in any social circle of mine before.

It became so bad that I had to go pick him up from the police station twice for shoplifting one week. I had to fight him off to hide my bank card as I wanted to be able to afford to pay our rent and eat. I should have just left him there with the lot of my possessions and moved back home. I’m not sure why I thought I deserved to be with someone like that. By then, I was sure I loved him and wanted to save us from the mess he created; that’s a weakness in me, always trying to save people.

I knew that I was pushing my luck.

He had a knife to my chest demanding his precious drugs back. I knew he was serious but I didn’t really consider that he would do it. Push a knife into the chest of the woman he professed to love.

But he did.

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