FORMATTING NOT COOPERATING. Apologies
A long winded account of Domestic violence and an open letter to an abusive ex husband.
You’re not as INVINCIBLE as I thought you were.
Occasionally I am asked why I speak out and if I worry about ‘poking the bear’. The answer is quite simple really. Speaking out on the horrific abuse my daughter and I experienced is integral to our healing process.
It reaffirms that what happened to us is a disgrace, that we are victims and share no part of the blame.
It reminds others that every action carried out in the dark will eventually come to light. No matter how charming or expert you might be at disguising your true inner self and behaviours.
It reminds them that it was wrong.
That you, the shameless abuser, are wrong.
Last week whilst moving house for the 11th time since E was born, I sat on my garage floor amongst a sea of boxes and poured over my numerous affidavits. The hundreds and hundreds of pages of undeniable evidence that helped to secure the invaluable freedom that Eva and I now enjoy.
As I examined each the pages I felt my chest tighten. I hadn’t read these pages since 2014. Each word felt like a blow to the chest. This is actually our life, I whispered as I held the worn, coffee and tear stained papers in my hands.
It WAS our life, I reminded myself out loud before continuing.
I poured over each page as if it were a long lost book that until now had guarded my deepest secrets. I touched each of the words as I read, re-examined the medical and psychological reports, the subpoenaed evidence, the independent children’s lawyers recommendations together with the Judge’s fierce condemnations of the abuse. I traced the word PTSD a few too many times.
I winced as I rapidly flicked past the pages and pages of text messages, whatsupp messages, pornographic images and Facebook screenshots that substantiated each and every claim my affidavit made.
I skipped past the messages detailing my ex husbands disgust at my post partum body. His graphic comparisons between me and what he described as an ‘old lady’.
The above is one of hundreds, most too graphic to share. It is abuse. It’s not a bad attitude, an accident or an act of immaturity. It is domestic violence.
I furiously tucked away the information pamphlet that I had kept all these years. Given to me by police after reporting the sexual assault. The one in which my then one year old little girl had used all of her tiny but fierce strength to bite and fight off her biological father in defence of her mama.
She was one. She could barely talk.
If I could erase just one of my life’s memories, it would be that of my baby fighting to defend me when it was my job to keep her safe. The only thought that helps ease this ferocious pain is knowing that it was his job too.
He was supposed to take care of the both of us and he failed willingly. So instead all I remember from that day, Sunday 10 November 2013, is punching, grabbing Eva and running…
No love, no mercy, no protection. Just crying and running.
I read over the words in my ex husbands first responding affidavit. The one in which he denied every accusation and claim. “This simply did not happen”. Over and over.
I then read over every word of his subsequent affidavit in which he now apologised for his “immature”, previously denied behaviour.
Apologies that were offered only as a result of the undeniable proof of his actions having been provided to the court discrediting his prior denials.
Thank god I kept the proof.
In this same box of affidavits, I found a CD containing our wedding photos. I recalled the very first assault. The one that occurred after having lived together for almost two years, after having bought a house, becoming engaged and having planned the wedding that I later cancelled as a result of the new but increasingly frequent violence.
I remembered the look on his face when he stormed into the bathroom as I was curling my hair. Wreaking of scotch and cigarettes. Furious.
The moment that he hit me for the first time. Belting me across the head so ferociously that I did not have time to remove the curling iron from my hair before falling to the floor, searing my face, ear and neck.
I recalled being dragged into the hall way, kicked repeatedly and having a bottle of cold water poured over me whilst I laid on the floor begging him to stop. I begged for just under two hours, but it felt like a lifetime.
I remembered the police arriving and asking if I was ok while I nodded from the other end of the hall still saturated. I remember every single moment and detail. I remember that it felt like I deserved it, although I wasn’t sure why.
I remember crying to his parents and detailing the attack only to be served with the explanation that if it had not happened before then it must have been something I’d done. I remembered being called stubborn and feeling hopeless as he fed them his excuses and accused me of being a liar.
I cancelled our wedding and with no family in Canberra at the time, I moved into the spare room of our home in an attempt to save enough money to leave.
I recalled the text messages I received at work saying that he had ‘cut up’ the wedding dress that I had just sold for $1000 and was due to post to the new bride the next day. I remembered leaving work hysterical only to arrive home and find the dress still hanging safely in the closet.
I remembered being physically and emotionally tortured.
I remembered later swallowing his explanation that I had pushed him too far and that I was responsible for the abuse. That if I improved, the situation would to. I remember at 20 years old, agreeing to marry him once more and the suffocation of reading those vows out loud in his parents living room. I remember feeling as though it was all too late and begging for a drink the moment the vows had ended.
I recalled falling pregnant with Eva eight or so weeks after our wedding and each act of abuse that followed. I remembered having been beaten so badly at 36 weeks pregnant that after fighting him off by repeatedly punching him with my car keys, I hid in the toilet in the middle of summer vomiting.
It was always with an open hand. No bruises, no proof, no hope.
I remember finding out after Eva’s birth that he was an alcoholic, cocaine addict, gambling addict and was in an insurmountable amount of debt as a result. I remember his father admitting this problem preceded me and finally taking his bags and walking him from the house. I remember finally feeling some support.
I remember feeling stupid for not knowing his was an addict.
I remember finally learning of poly substance abuse disorder.
I remember sitting in his parents driveway in the freezing cold with a sick baby that he had demanded to see on that date and time, only to be told via text message that he was now at the Gold Coast on holiday.
I remember hearing the gate open in the middle of the night, having our windows smashed on, his car speeding by at all hours. I remember looking out the kitchen window to find him unexpectedly in my backyard all while Eva and I cowered inside, calculating if I had time to make a run for my car.
I remembered being terrified as he sent messages threatening that he was outside my home in the dark or that he was coming over at midnight, knowing full well Eva and I were alone.
Or messages threatening to plaster photoshopped pornographic images of me around my workplace.
I remember never sleeping, keeping a kitchen knife in my bag, car and under my bed. I remember crying my heart out each time the police refused to pursue another breach of the restraining order.
I remember the public denigration, strangers hassling me in public and online. I remember being humiliated for my daughter at he disgusting posts she may one day find her father so frequently posted online.
But most of all, as I sat there on that garage floor I remember winning. I remember the judge, lawyers, GP’s, psychologists, police and DVCS workers who assured me that I was not a liar, that I was not overreacting, that I was finally going to be free.
I remember that most!
I must have written this letter 100 times. Not that I ever had any intention of sending it. I am grateful that the restraining order prevents contact of any kind.
I didn’t realise at the time that it would be the last time we interacted. We never did say goodbye. Thankfully once my courage took hold, the court system was swift and thankfully so was justice.
I no longer require any answers. But there have always been so many questions.
Why? Why did you do that to us? Could you not see the fear and heartbreak in our eyes? Could you not feel your daughters fear in your heart.
I don’t understand how her pain and trauma did not hurt you, because it almost completely broke me.
How could you be so vicious, so violent, so psychologically unbalanced and then just lie and explain it all away as though your actions were fiction in my imagination. How could you be so manipulative, dishonest and cruel.
I might still fear you. If I were to see you in the street, I would either panic and freeze or grab my little girl and run for our lives. I will probably always be scared. Not because you are worthy of my fear or because I am in any way in the wrong, but because you are a man who happens to be physically superior to me.
Because I have felt the full brunt of your force and I know that I am no match for it.
However, I do not fear you psychologically anymore. I am not scared to discuss my experiences or proudly affirm everything I have overcome. I am not scared to call you to account for the atrocities you performed.
I am not scared to tell the truth, no matter how many denigrating things are said about me.
Because you no longer matter. In our world you are nothing more than a bad memory, a nightmare, a traumatic experience which left scars so deep that we still feel them everyday.
You don’t own us. You never did.
Eva and I own our experiences. We own our PTSD. We own our victory over Domestic violence and I will continue to stand firm in our right to speak out about the proven depravities that we experienced. Because our abuse was depraved. It was horrific and entirely unacceptable.
If this is considered ‘poking the bear’ then so be it.
But just know that while I might remain frightened of the physical threat you pose to us, I no longer fear the psychological one. There is no length to which I will not go to ensure that we remain free. There is no limit to the fight in me.
I am the bear now.