CONTENT WARNING: This story contains details of sexual assault.
I was born In Tamworth and my family moved to Newcastle when I was four. My dad was a financial director and my mum stayed home to raise the kids. I know from photos and stories that I had a good upbringing; my parents were loving and I was close with my older brother and sister. I say ‘I know from photos’ because I have very few memories from before I was 12 years old.
When I was around 14 something changed in me and I started to recall events of my childhood that I had blocked out, and they were memories of being sexually abused by a family member and a neighbour.
I think my mind had been trying to protect itself by blocking out the trauma of the abuse, but as a teenager, memories started returning.
My first experience of domestic violence was when I was 21. I was able to escape the relationship but after six months he tracked me down, and beat and raped me.
It was a dark time, but when I was 25, I met a beautiful man, 10 years older than me, and we got married. After two years we started trying to fall pregnant and after a year of trying with no success, the strain on the relationship was so great we drifted apart and separated.
At this time, I met a charming musician who swept me off my feet. He almost seemed too good to be true. I was the centre of his attention and he told me everything I’d ever wanted to hear. I had bought a house and he and his two children moved in.
The abuse began with put-downs and little lies, and that soon turned into pushing and shoving, yelling and intimidation. By this stage I was pregnant. I knew I was going to have to find a way to get to safety; I was so terrified something would happen to the baby. This was the defining point – something had to change.
I sent him to spend some time at his mother’s but he was back by the December and my son was born in the following January.
The next two years was a deluge of emotional attacks, and psychological trickery, gaslighting, and turning family and friends against me.
I wish I could say that the justice system kept my son and I safe, but unfortunately that’s far from the case. The police were great at turning up to stop physical violence once initiated, and an AVO made it harder for my ex-partner to harm us, but there were two breaches that resulted in him just being issued a fine.
I’m now 38 years old. Trauma, unfortunately, has found me many times since I was a child but I have not let it stop me from providing my son with everything he needs. I am proud to say that after leaving his father I managed to purchase my own home.
The pandemic forced us into lockdown the week that I sold my house, but this didn’t stop me from finding a place to call home by the edge of a lake. It’s a two-bedroom home with a separate studio. I have re-established my career as a visual artist, focusing my art on bringing awareness to domestic violence and mental health stigma.
My son and I have found our sanctuary and enjoy listening to the birds sing, and finding mud crabs and shells on the shoreline of the lake. I am grateful every day for this life. When I see my son happy, surrounded by love and enjoying life, all the hardship, the nights without sleep, application after application hearing, it all feels worth it.