Surviving Domestic Abuse

9 Months on from leaving a situation of domestic abuse, how are things going for us now?

So it’s been nearly 9 months since I left a relationship full of abuse and violence… I am free!! The children and I are doing well. We are free from abuse, content of spirit and working through the little details to get back on our feet. We are safe and happiness has returned to our hearts and our faces.

I’ve been reading this week in the NZ Herald Focus that in NZ 1 in 3 women are abused and 80% of abuses aren’t reported. I was one of these people. I was abused… I didn’t report it. I was confirmed victim 4 of 1 abuser.  3 protection orders, 3 living without violence courses, multiple victims. Makes for sad reading… makes for an even sadder living environment. But I finally ‘walked away’ and have not looked back.

Last week I had the final court case.  It has taken this long to get to court, because there was a change in law, which meant the abusers history of violence and other domestic abuse could be taken into account within my own case for a Protection Order. This takes time to accumulate the information.  Also because I did not lay charges when the first assault happened, I wasn’t granted the final protection order immediately.
But I am grateful it is all over. I’m also grateful that the Lawyers and Judge saw the situation for what it was.  I was granted a final protection order for myself, my children and my family. The children also will be supervised by a court appointed supervisor during ‘contact’.

So what’s happened?

A couple times he breached the temporary Protection Order, via way of using a family member or Police to contact me on his behalf. I honestly think he was just pushing to see how far he could take it. I reported the breaches and in Tauranga they were taken seriously, but due to ‘lack of police funding’ in Rotorua they were unable to serve him the breaches as they were ‘unable to locate him’.

I’ve attended medical appointments.
I’ve attended counselling, provided by the Womens Refuge.
I’ve completed a ‘Living without Violence’ WISE course, provided by the court.
My children have undertaken a ‘safety’ course, which also is some child friendly counselling.
My children have been seeing their Father in a supervised access facility.
As well as all the Lawyer meetings, WINZ meetings, talks with IRD etc.

All of this takes time and money. It is draining emotionally, physically and financially. Because my children are over 3, there is also pressure to find a full time job. So if you know anyone going through this… don’t tell them to ‘get over it’, ‘stop talking about it’ etc. They need non-judgemental support. Everyone heals differently. Even now… this week, I’ve been totally exhausted.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence takes many forms, including:

  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • psychological abuse, including intimidation and harrassment
  • damage to property
  • financial abuse
  • threats to carry out any of these types of abuse
  • To be clear – check out the Justice NZ website: Domestic Violence

Just have a glance over these ‘wheels’ – they are pretty clear, once you are out of a situation. Even in a domestic situation of abuse, you know it. But often the tricky part is figuring out HOW to escape safely.

Wheels

More information about these wheels of Equality or Power and Control can be found here: http://www.theduluthmodel.org/training/wheels.html

 

I’m still coming to terms with some of the abuse and violence that occurred. In fact I will permanently live with a ‘clicking jaw’ from one of my assaults. I’ve lost nearly $50k in total from the relationship. Including damage to property, deception, and legal fees trying to protect myself, my children and my family.

So what have I learnt?

There is NO difference between Abuse and Violence. If someone violate a persons wellbeing and sense of safety – it is VIOLENCE.  The term is interchangeable.

Most abusers have enablers behind them… sometimes unwittingly… sometimes because they don’t have the courage to stand up to the abuser, because they are abused by them too.   These are people who support the abuser, with actions or statements. Good intentions etc, but the abuser needs these people to continue with the abuse.
* Telling the abuser that blood is thicker than water… I’m always here for you
* Telling the Victim: They really love you… they are a better person with you
* They cannot let a new victim know the history, either because they don’t know it or because they hope this time, it won’t be the same.
I can assure you… it will be the same. My abuser has confirmed abuse towards women and children or 19+ years. I am victim 4 (although there are other women I’ve always wondered how far their abuse went). There was also abuse toward animals as a child and they were a victim of childhood abuse themselves.

I mentioned in my last blog that I do believe Christian beliefs have a role to play in the abuse pattern. Forgiveness, Love etc… People seemed to use their beliefs to almost justify his actions, or at least hide his violence and abuse. I’m still not ok with that.

But the abuser can change?? Really?? I’m not so sure. My abuser has done 3 mandatory ‘Living without Violence’ courses, counseling, psychologist work… but the Judge said in summary, that she had no faith that it has had any effect on him. All the lines about ‘Doing this for me’, ‘I want to change’ etc I’ve heard before… countless times. And I’m guessing the Judge has as well, especially as she made it very clear, he can apply for a change in supervision of contact with the children, but she strongly discourages it.

There are techniques used by abusers (whether they know them officially or not is irrelevant).  One is called ‘lovebombing‘. This is often during the beginning of a relationship and/or after each violent interaction. They are SO attentive, So romantic, So intense and do EVERYTHING they can to ‘win you over’. It seems like a whirlwind… but there’s a hidden feeling of pressure. It’s constant communication from them… you barely get a moment to breath Check out google for some in depth information about it.
Another is ‘Gaslighting‘. Again the internet is flooded with information about this. But essentially it is a manipulation of circumstances that makes a person question their own sanity and perceptions. To the point a person no longer trusts themselves. Both of these techniques were used AVIDLY by my abuser.

Once the Police are involved… the victim sometimes has no control over their situation… again. They have to go along with the flow. Once I contacted the Police, they said that they were coming whether I wanted them to or not. Once it went to court, I no longer had say over how access would happen. I tried to set up contact immediately in fear of retribution… but I was reprimanded by the court, saying it was no longer ‘in my control’, that it is only the court that can make those decisions. This was actually good for me at the time. But was hard too. I had no control in the relationship and now out I didn’t either.

Court was an eye opener. To be ‘cross examined’ for 3 hours. Being called a lier or exaggerating. To hear how for him abuse is normal and I shouldn’t have been offended by it. To downplay his abuse. To even have him stand up and lie outright that he only threw 1 punch. I knew right then, how many lies he had told me previously.

He told me that his ex’s were the abusers toward him. That he had not abused them. It was all lies.  Thankfully, my lawyer warned me in advance that court would be hard emotionally. It was… but I am glad that I saw it through. I feel I have had some closure and that is healing.  I am grateful in court that he has admitted that the relationship is over and that he has ‘moved on’ with his life. It’s nice to know he isn’t obsessing about us.

In court you have to prove 3 things to get a Protection Order: Were you in a domestic relationship? Was there violence or abuse? Is the protection order necessary… are the victims deemed to still be ‘at risk’ from the abuser?  For me it was an obvious Yes, Yes and Yes. To the point that supervision of the children permanently was necessary, as he is ‘unable’ to stop abusing even with children present. In all documented cases of assault, children were either being held or within arms reach of the victim.

I should haves… Yep there are some.

  • Filed charges for assault when it happened!! I was scared! I believed him when he apologised! I just accepted that that was what I was worth! But I WASN’T… I was worth SO SO much more. But because I didn’t file assault charges, I didn’t automatically get granted the Final Protection order. Because of this I had to endure a long court process and it cost me a lot!!
  • I should have left early. I was waiting for a better time, for things to get better, for it to be safe enough to leave. I should have left at that first assault as things DID NOT get better. They never improved.

Did you know that a person can now check out a current partners domestic violence record?? New Legislation

I’m in a better place now… I will not be silenced again. NZ people should be shocked by the current statistics!!! We have to be #betterthanthis.