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I want to let you know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel: and it's not a train! It's a bright future. To have your bright future takes just one step at a time. I know because I have walked in your shoes and I have the privilege to share with you how wonderful life can be if you take the step to live a life free of the fear created by domestic and family violence.
When I was 26, I believed my future was so bright. I was a Speech Pathologist with a career that I loved and I was newly married to a man who loved me. He was an Elder in training in our Church. He led Bible study groups and we ran Youth Group together.
I commenced and led our children's playgroup and creche, hosted the weekly ladies Bible Study; and when my husband preached, I was a part of the worship team.
I maintained this image for the next decade of marriage.
Despite spiritual abuse, sexual assault, physical and psychological trauma, emotional abuse, social isolation, financial deprivation and the neglect that were my life, I had an image to maintain because it kept my husband happy.
Keeping him happy was all I was supposed to do, according to him. I was to be an obedient, submissive wife and to learn from the older church mothers on how to raise my children.
My husband wanted perfection, and I had to comply. Whatever he wanted me to give up in order to be the wife he desired, I had to do it without complaint.
Every time I complained my husband would say "If you were a less demanding woman with more realistic expectations of what it is to be a Christian wife, you'd be content with the way I treat you! There's nothing wrong with our marriage: it's all in your head."
I was trapped in a cycle of abuse, which went round and round, faster and faster, until suddenly I stopped it.
The cycle stopped in September 2006, not because my husband changed, but because I stopped being his wife.
Our Church Minister had noticed small problems that needed addressing and referred us to marriage counselling. But my husband decided that our Church Minister should help him change me.
After marriage counselling, my husband convinced me that I was crazy. So he committed me to a psychiatric institution, changed the locks on our house, used my hospitalisation to gain sole custody of our four young children, and thus changed my life.
In October 2006, he gave me the option of continuing as his wife if I lived by his conditions. But I no longer would allow him to use my greatest loves (my children and my faith) to dominate and control me.
I wanted a life free of domestic and family violence. He claimed there was nothing wrong with our marriage and that I could not divorce him because God hates divorce. I stopped his spiritual abuse by righting the imbalance between my zeal for Christ and my knowledge of God's word. I started studying the Bible every morning to improve my understanding of what I had been taught for the last 14 years.
I learnt the reason why God hates divorce - look it up in Malachi 2:14-16. Once I understood this, I knew that God would not hate me when I divorced.
I overcame the financial deprivation and the social isolation by renewing old friendships weakened by the years of no contact during my marriage. These old friends provided me with employment and helped me to adjust to a life where I made decisions for myself, with no need to justify what I did, nor worry and apologise after I did it.
My ex-husband took away my ability to live independently but I used my experience as a Speech Pathologist and access to free Community Centre Lawyers to stop the psychological and emotional abuse.
I gathered evidence to prove that my ex-husband had no good reason to hospitalise me.
He had been afraid I would share the secrets of our marriage with my old friend, a policeman experienced in domestic and family violence.
My ex-husband gained my family's support. They held to the image that I had maintained for over a decade and couldn't believe he was "that bad". They told me to think of my children who were missing me and to go back to my ex- husband. Instead, I dealt with the children's misery by using the evidence I had gathered.
In 2011, this evidence finally changed the Parenting Orders and helped my family to see my circumstances differently. I then focussed on repairing the damage and on giving my children and me a life that defied the predictions of the medical and legal experts.
It took time but with therapy and counselling, patience, compassion, determination, understanding, knowledge and love, we built a life that is better than what I had imagined possible. Walking by faith and never giving up.
If after reading my story, and you look at your marriage and want to change, remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It can still be a bright future for your family. You can make a life free from domestic and family violence one step at a time.
Below are family and domestic violence support services that you can refer to: