'I refuse to live my life as a victim of you'


Those were the final words that Jane* delivered to her tormentor in the South Australian District Court in a powerful statement about survival in the face of horrific domestic violence.

Jane has given the ABC permission to tell her story, but for legal reasons the ABC cannot publish her name, or her former partner's.

He was found guilty by a jury earlier this year of raping Jane, and is awaiting sentencing.

During a powerful victim impact statement, she told the court she met her abuser at 19 years of age and was completely charmed.

He was a big dreamer, happy and free.

But after six months, she started to see cracks.

It wasn't long before her world descended into a cycle of abuse that ended with him killing her 12-week-old puppy in front of her two sons.

"The children saw things they should never see," she said in her victim impact statement.
"Your son was so frightened of you, he would flinch in fear as you walked passed.
"I tried to protect them from the violence and the pain. But they did see the violence towards me and the animals and for this, I feel great shame."

 

It is estimated that as many as one in four Australian women — more than 2.1 million in total — have experienced at least one incident of violence from an intimate partner since the age of 15.

Support groups have repeatedly warned of the problem being passed down through generations, as children grow up to imitate their parents.

In Jane's case, she said she was "heartbroken" when one of her sons began verbally abusing her when he was just a toddler.

"Our eldest son saw you disrespect me, and women in general, with your actions and derogative words," she said.

"Our sons witnessed the regular torture and eventual death of our dog at your hands. And you blamed your three-year-old son for your actions."

Jane said over six years, her partner inflicted so many acts of violence that she could not "compress [them] into one statement".

He has denied domestic violence existed within the relationship.

Counsel, representing the man, told the court his client denied Jane's interpretation of their relationship.

"The phenomenon of couples separated, and thereafter having quite divergent views of what the relationship was and how it appeared, is something that is grappled with daily by the family courts — not often the criminal counts," he said.

Abuse was physical, sexual and financial

In hindsight, Jane said she could clearly see the "cycle of violence and control" that she was in but, at the time, had no idea how dangerous her life would become, and how much things would change.

"When we met, I had no idea that you already knew a lot about me, including that I was expecting a large inheritance," she said.

"An inheritance that you drained within nine short months, leaving me with nothing but debt."

A common tactic of domestic abusers is to emotionally manipulate their partners, resulting in feelings of isolation and entrapment.

A Personal Safety Survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that 80 per cent of women who had experienced violence from a current partner had never contacted the police.

Fear of revenge and further violence was the most common reason for remaining silent, according to a study conducted in NSW.

Jane said her partner isolated her from family and friends, ensuring he was her only support and described him as "coercive, manipulative and controlling".

"You physically, sexually, emotionally and financially abused me when I had nowhere to go," she said.

"Within 12 months of meeting you, I was sleeping in a car — I was no longer independent or able to return home as my parents didn't like you.

"I became completely dependent on you in every way and couldn't make the simplest of decisions without your approval. You put down steady roots of control long before you showed any signs of violence towards me.

"You did this so I would accept this as normal, so I wouldn't leave you when you explained that it was somehow my fault and somehow justified for you to harm me in this way."

'I was just so broken'

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one woman is killed every nine days — and one man every 29 days — by a partner.

Seventeen adults are hospitalised every day because of an assault by a partner or family member, recent data suggests.

Jane told the court that her former partner had two faces.

"You seemed to have complete control of your actions.

"A purposeful behaviour with a slow escalation of systematic abuse and by the time our relationship ended, it was so common I learnt not to react and simply accept it."

Jane said the other side of him exhibited complete coldness and lack of empathy "with eyes that turned black and emotionless".

"Your entire demeanour changed by putting me through your torturous routine until a level that terrified me," she said.

"It was then that you would take what you wanted from me.

"Sexual abuse which came at a point where I was just so broken — I had to be just the right amount of broken. I felt helpless and couldn't protect myself, I was barely able to protect my children. I couldn't protect my puppies.

"You made sure the only person in the world I could turn to was you. You were so convincing, you made me question my own mind — that I was crazy or being dramatic or that you had no choice but to harm me because I was being annoying.

"You abused me and that was my fault. And I believed you.

"It's hard to comprehend who I was back then, I wish I knew back then what I know now."

Leaving was the 'best thing'

She said the final decision to pack up and move herself and their two sons into a safehouse was "frightening, unfamiliar and scary".

"The emotional scars you left on our children are irreparable. They will carry the impact of your actions for the rest of their lives," she said.

"I felt helpless and great guilt that I was unable to find the strength to remove my children and pets from this toxic environment sooner than I did."

According to a recent study, a growing number of women are losing their children to child protection because of housing shortages that force them to stay in abusive relationships.

Other data shows that, across Australia, 26,500 children below the age of 10 required the assistance of homelessness services because of domestic violence during 2017-18.

In Jane's case, however, she said leaving was the "best thing" she ever did.

"I shudder to think what would have happened if the children had continued to grow up around your abusive behaviour, your violence and animal cruelty," she said.

"I am strong and independent and I have built a wonderful life for me and my children. They have a safe and stable home with friends and family supporting us, we finally have happiness and normality.

"I refuse to live my life as a victim of you — I have worked hard to rebuild myself and I am now, so far from the girl you broke.

"I give you my words here today, I give you my pain, I give you my flashbacks, panic attacks — they are yours now.

"I walk away from this courtroom, leaving the darkness with you. I am stronger than you will ever know and you can never take that from me."

(Source)


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