Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I hadn't really planned to post today. Yesterday, yes. Before the unexpected trip to Esperance to take my mum's dog to the vet as she's away. I walked in the door some 13hrs later, which included a 4hr round trip completely exhausted and sore. Today that sore feeling remains but it's intermingled with stiff too and to top it off I got sunburnt this afternoon which makes me grumpy. I'll tell you about Esperance another day.

Tonight I have read 2 different topics which have really gotten to me. One is the father of one of my friends anaphylactic/allergic daughters being so irresponsible and showing a complete disregard for his child's well being. That pissed me off and I feel so for the little girl. The other is about that topic. You know that one, which people think they must hide and be ashamed of, that's still used in association with the word taboo? Tonight, I read a horrific story of domestic violence. It was so well written, and not at all a "woe is me" tale. My heart aches for the family involved while at the same time breaking all over again. Reading that story reopened some wounds in me which never full heal.

I am a survivor of domestic violence.

At 19 I met a man who seemed so wonderful. He was kind, educated, he liked me??? I could hardly believe it. After leaving school the butt of every joke the boys in my class made and never having been on a date let alone kissed a boy, it was somewhat awe inspiring to me that someone liked me. This man and I met when he tagged along with one of his friends to the home of my dear friend Kristy. One night he called Kristy's house and wanted to talk to me. I didn't believe her, I was lazing about on her bed with her baby when he called and I honestly thought she was pulling my leg. She came in and gave me the phone and he asked me to come to his place. Again, I thought it was some elaborate joke. His friend was at Kristy's that night and she was urging the whole thing on, and Kristy was grinning from ear to ear. In the end I accepted a visit to his house, on the proviso his friend came with.

It was all so awkward. The friend jumped onto his (Sega) Dreamcast and started chatting online while he and I sat on the other side of the L-shaped couch. He did that whole "movie sequence" where is arm slowly stretched over my shoulders and he somehow ended up practically laying in my lap. I felt so uncomfy and so embarrassed. I don't really remember much more of what happened. Until writing this post I had forgotten the phone call to Kristy's house! I do remember when his friend and I left, him begging me to come back. I remember declining, yet I can't remember if I did go back alone. I don't *think* I did, but I could very well be wrong.

He lived in a small house with a flat mate whom I never met. From the time we met he was always running the bloke down and saying how bad it was living there. It all looked very neat and tidy so I gave little thought to his complaints. It was a few nights later I somehow ended up in the position of having a sleep over at his house. A really odd one it seems because he slept on a single bed mattress on the floor, and to enable a sleep over we had to put the mattress off my futon into the back of my Magna station wagon and take it to his place. It was all new and exciting and I was so happy to have someone to share it with.

The night I lost my virginity I was raped.

Yes, I was in a relationship. Yes, I did agree to sleep over. Yes, I was VERY naive. We went to bed fine. From what I recall we lay there talking for quite some time. I am sure (though I don't remember) there must have been some intimacy going on and I kept saying "No, I am not ready". He kept trying to persuade me and wouldn't give up. I really wanted to get out of there I was feeling so icky and wished I had never agreed to the sleep over. He wouldn't let up, I didn't want to ..  you know what? Writing this now I don't think it had anything to do with what I wanted, anymore than the fact I wanted to sleep. We had sex. It was awful and I cried and it hurt like hell. There was blood and I lay there afterward feeling so miserable. This wasn't at all what I had envisaged. It wasn't even about that romantic "candles and rose petals" ideals. It just felt so wrong. I didn't want to give something that was taken from me. Tears streamed down my face for hours after that. He didn't notice, he went to sleep.

This should have been a HUGE wake up call. I should probably have gone to the police then and there. Or at least had the guts to walk of that dingy little dwelling after I said no and he harassed me. But I didn't. Somehow within the first 2 weeks he'd moved himself out of that "hell hole" into my rental. He wasn't invited, he didn't ask. It just sort of was. He was a service station attendant who pumped fuel and checked oil. Within a month he'd quit the job. Well, he told me he quit. Truth is he was probably fired.

I don't remember how it started, what triggered it or when. The first memory I really have of it was me persuading him to put the garbage out for collection and locking the back door behind him, racing through the house to lock the front door and then into the side room to lock the last one (there were 4 external doors!). He met me at that side door, and he fought me from the other side of it. I pushed, he pushed. He was livid! Almost frothing at the mouth. And he was such a bear of a man, solid even at 19. Eventually he gave in and let me close the door and I went and huddled in a corner where he couldn't see me as all the blinds were open. He was screaming at me. I haven't the faintest idea now what he said, but I was scared and shaking and didn't know what to do. After a while he calmed down and he cried, begged, pleaded for me to forgive him. I couldn't take it, my heart was so torn and being the person I am, I let him back in. I remember sitting on a kitchen chair with him sitting at my feet, head in my lap, sobbing and sulking and repeating over and over again how sorry he was and how he'd never do it again.

Skip ahead and by 6mths into the relationship I was pregnant. We decided to move back to my home town to be closer to my family just prior to me finding out I was expecting. It's funny, I was only 2 weeks along when I found out. I don't track my cycle or anything, I hadn't skipped a monthly visitor. I just said I felt sick and "I need to do a pregnancy test". How odd, not see the doctor, but do a urine test. I did. He and I sat on the living room floor huddled over my mobile phone while the timer counted up ever so slowly. It said 5-8mins (I think) so after 6mins I went back to the bathroom. He waited at the door to the kitchen and I walked back sort of laughing, very breathless and crying. It was positive. He was happy. I felt like jelly. I was terrified of telling my mum. We went and told my ever loving, ever supportive nanna and she ignored me. I was mortified. My nanna is my rock, that one person I could count on always, and she wouldn't look at me. Sat stone cold in her armchair while I tried to get close and hug her. That about broke my spirit and only made the thought of telling mum so much worse! Mum didn't like my boyfriend, they didn't get on, and she was barely talking to me because of it. In the end I worked up the courage to tell mum and she was actually supportive and looking forward to being a grandmother for the first time.

Turns out he wasn't so happy. He didn't like the attention I was getting, he didn't like that I was so sick. Many of my friends had moved away from the town and others I simply never saw. He used to yell and scream a lot! One day we were about to go out and I managed to get outside the front door before I started being sick. He was screaming at me how dirty I was, and to go do that in the toilet. As someone who'd barely vomited in my entire life, I was feeling too miserable to do anything much and I certainly didn't want to be standing their spewing my guts up. But he didn't let up. He didn't care. He was working as a console attendant at a petrol station by then and they sell greasy, deep friend foods and burgers in the country roadhouse versions like he was at. He'd come home smelling of dim sim and cheese sausage and I'd be hanging my head out of the car window the entire time trying not to be sick. He didn't have a license.

He'd pick arguments about anything and everything. Most of them were about sex. I'd go to bed, having not eaten for a week (or having thrown it all up) and he'd start on me. "You need to eat, Michelle!" or whatever measly excuse he had to whine about. He slide the bedroom door open (I will never have a house with sliding doors EVER again) and start flicking the bedroom light on and off over and over and over. He'd come over and start grabbing my shoulders shaking me (especially if I pretended to be asleep) or get on the bed beside me and try to roll me over to face him. I'd swear at him and tell him to get lost, he'd only be getting angrier and angrier and switch reasons for being angry. It could last for hours. Once I went and sat behind the toilet door with my feet up on the wall opposite to help keep the door closed (there were no locks) and he kicked it so hard, and I was pregnant, that I got up in fear of him really hurting me or the baby.

By some point his routine was to take my keys, phone and purse from me and trap me in the house. He never hit me. I wouldn't have believed you if you said I was living in a domestic violence situation, that's when you get bashed. Isn't it? Once Jessica came along things only got worse. He didn't like having to share me with the baby. He'd make me wake her up to take him to and from work each day. Sometimes our yelling got so bad the neighbours 2doors down would come and get me out of there. Sometimes I'd end up in the park across the road. I recall sitting there one time, on a BMX jump that he couldn't see from the house, in the drizzling rain with a baby Jessi in my arms. My neighbour found me that day and took me back to her house. Another time I crept onto her verandah late at night (9 or 10pm) and sat there ever so quietly in the dark. She must have heard Jessi and came out and sat with me. She and her husband we so kind to me, beyond what any neighbour should be (they were in their 60s?). We sat there in the dark silently, and we watched him get in my car and drive around, we can only assume, looking for me. Another time I was walking barefoot down the centre of the road, stumbling along for I couldn't see though the tears. I got half way to nannas house with no nappybag, just me and Jess in my arms, when nanna drove up. She'd felt a need to check on me and there we were.. on our way to find her.

One time I was sitting in the window in the side room yelling out the name of my neighbour. He didn't hear me. Jessi's dad was taunting me that I could yell. Go on, yell. I had Jessi in my arms and there was little I could do. I'd often make it as far as the car. He'd come out and rock the car! Stand beside it and shake the living shit out of it. Or I'd just get the car to start and he'd come hurtling out of the house and I'd have to stop because I didn't want to run him over, so then he'd start shaking the car. Once I got as far as the side gate, was struggling with the latch because of carrying Jessica and he caught up to us. He clapped his hands over my ears. To this day I don't know how I didn't fall over let alone keep hold of that baby. Some of these events may even have occured on the same day. I really don't remember. Sometimes someone will say something about their own situation and it triggers something and I remember an incident I'd long since forgotten. I hate when those moments hit. He used to try take Jessi off me. Once he had me well and truly broken he'd say over and over "give me the baby Michelle. this is bad for the baby, you're crying to much. give her to me". By this point he's back to his calm self and I'd be the once hysterical telling him he wasn't getting her. No WAY! He'd pour water over us (yes, Jessi too) when we were sleeping, he launched himself at me one day and put his hands through the sheetrock on the living room wall, he'd throw things at me, he'd call me all sorts of names and tell me I was a hippo and no one would ever love me, he'd threaten to hurt Jessi. He'd abused all my friends and family to the point I saw no one.

People in the street, in my home town, used to tell me what a wonderful couple we were. How good we were together. Jessica was 6mths old when the neighbours 2 doors down called the police. They also called my mum. Mum found him sitting in the old Torana he'd bought and was "restoring". She was fuming, he refused to get out of the car. She  picked up a shovel that was in the shed and told him to get out of the car, or she'd get him out. He didn't budge. He'd met his match. My mum swung that shovel and stopped just shy of the window. He soon got out. To this day he tells people "Michelle's mum tried to kill me". Trust me, she wasn't trying. Had she been, he'd have died. I don't really remember what happened. I think this was the day he jumped on the hood of my car as I was reversing out the drive, when earlier he'd lifted both the windscreen wipers. As he jumped I stopped the car and he slid up the bonnet into the wipers. He had a massive bruise on his shoulder from it. Later, he had no idea where the bruise came from. Anyways, he told the police I tried to run him over. I don't know what story they got from elsewhere but the lady officer told me I needed to get a restraining order, or she would. The police in WA had been granted the power to apply for restraining orders only a few months before.

I went with the violence restraining order. I didn't want to. How does Jessi see her dad when I have an VRO? But an VRO will get him out of the house, a house my mum owned that we were living in. I'd told him to go many times but he never left. Finally he had to leave. I was worried about where he'd go. This was my home town, not his. I was an absolute wreck. It's just dawned on me all that stuff about my mum must have been from an earlier incident because my mum was away when he and I finally separated. I went to court and got the interim VRO and the Justice's of the Peace made me feel so small. The questions they asked, the fear they wouldn't grant approve the order.. it was almost worse than what I had just been through. But they did and mum was on her long service leave and away in Perth and she wanted to come home there and then. I wouldn't have that, she deserve a holiday. The only way I could placate her was to assure her my sister and I would go to Perth. We couldn't get on the train the following day and she was ready to come home, but my nanna assured her we'd be on the train the very next day. We met mum in Perth, stayed all over the place with relatives and mums friends. I was grieving and felt so isolated. If mum saw my crying she was so brusk in asking me what was wrong. She needed to ask? I wrote him letters (they weren't actually sent) where I said I missed him and I WAS SORRY etc etc. Did I have something to be sorry for?

When the restraining order finally went to court I didn't attend. I didn't want it. He'd moved out, that was all I needed. Right? Wrong. I thought if I got the VRO Jessi couldn't see her dad and that's not fair on her and blah blah blah. I tried not to be alone with him, but inevitably it happened from time to time and things were hell when they did. Just before her 1st birthday he left town. I had taken her to visit with him for an hour or so on xmas day. He was showing me photos of some half naked, skinny model type thing whom he'd met on Yahoo! Personals. He was sure to have her on his computer desktop and screen saver while I was there. He was moving to be with her. I was so hurt, how come he gets to move on? And with a chic like that? He left town, things didn't really improve. He'd phone me 100 times a day. Sometimes, that wasn't an exaggeration. He'd call and call until I answered, switching from house phone to mobile and back again. He'd abuse the crap out of me over the phone. Even when I met my partner Andrew he'd always be calling but then he had something else to bitch about. "I don't want Andrew near my daughter. I don't know him". He had people in town feeding him information.. "I don't want Jessica in the car with Andrew when he drives like that". He wouldn't pay child support, he changed both his middle name and surname "so you can't find me" he says.

He came to visit when Jessi was about 3.5yrs old. His biological father wanted to come meet his granddaughter and on his way here he collected the father and they came together. The night before, the father was on the phone cursing and saying he didn't want to come. "Good", I said. "I don't want you here!". He came. Day one was ok, we met in a park and they gave gifts to Jessi and they played. I tried not to follow them around, but just watch, as it was his time with her. Day 2 he arrived to collect her when I wasn't ready and on the phone. She'd been begging to go on the swing so I ushered her out the front door to him and told him she wanted a push on the swing, I'd just get the rest of her things and be out in a minute. When I got out there I was still on the phone and he and his dad were playing with her at her swingset so I sat on the step and went on with my phone call. That afternoon they were coming back to see her so we went out the front to wait. She was playing on the swing and I was sitting on the lawn talking on the phone when they arrived. I said hi and left them to it. As far as I was concerned they were there to see Jessica, not me. When my call finally ended, he was really annoyed. He started growling about how I was on the phone and how I pushed her out the door that morning etc. I repeated my sentiment that he was there for Jessi and I didn't need to hang up for him. So he switched to "and you wont even go inside, you're just sitting there to spy on us". All this while he was pushing Jess on the swing. He was started to snarl and spit in his anger, and had the swing raised ready to let her go. He didn't even notice her fall off. As soon as he did (you know, when she cried!) he picked her up and tried to cuddle her but she put her arms out to me. That pissed him off further. I tried to reassure her with words and he put her back on the swing. It was when she almost fell the second time that I had enough! She'd learnt from her first fall and was hanging by her little hands gripping the rope. I was so upset for her. I asked her to kiss her daddy and her grandpop goodbye because we were going inside. This sent him into a a tirade and he started slinging abuse something cruel. He was screaming and waving his arms and saying all kinds of nasty things. His dad was dragging him to the car while I was trying to comfort a VERY distraught little girl as I carried her inside.

I went and got a VRO. I asked them to make sure Jessica was covered, they fudged up the paper work and it didn't happen. Actually, at first the lady in the courthouse told me I didn't need one, as he didn't live here! I was furious, I'd called Legal Aid before going down there to see if a VRO was appropriate, how this affected Jessica etc. So I went back later when the other lady was on and filled out the paper work. They granted the interim order. Within DAYS he moved back to this town! He fought the VRO and I had to attend court before a magistrate and prove I needed it. That was horrible. Yet again i found myself feeling like the bad guy and I was sure they'd believe his sweet talking and decline it. They didn't and it was valid for 2hrs. He made steps towards court for custody and they made us go to mediation to work out an access agreement. That was HELL ON EARTH! They didn't care that I had a very current, rather new VRO against the guy. They actually wanted me to go into HIS home and TEACH him how to care for his daughter (asthma and eczema at that stage). I couldn't understand, nor feel at ease with the whole process. Once more I felt like I was being punished for his bad behaviour. It was a hard fight and something like 6hrs in the lawyers office on a teleconference with him and his lawyer, and a court appointed mediator, before we agreed he'd get access once every 2 weeks for 2hrs, supervised by my mum.

At some point he came to my place of work and started asking me what Jessica might like for Christmas and other useless stuff. I reminded him he wasn't supposed to be there and that I couldn't talk to him. More happened but it was hearing my mum's V8 come around the corner that had him hightail it out of there. I called the police and asked what would happen if I charged him from breaching the VRO, and their reply all seemed very extreme. In the ended I said to myself "He's terrorized you for 4yrs, and you have NOTHING to prove it". I had him charged. He was driven to the nearest regional lock up (gaol) and had to spend the night before his court appearance the following day. He was found guilty of breaching the VRO, was fined, and had to pay expenses. I must admit, from that moment onward his behaviour altered.

He's still not a good person. He still blames everybody and everything around him for the drama in his life. When Jessi was about 4.5yrs he moved away, 2000kms away! It's been so nice. He's never spent a birthday with Jessica, she's 8 in 2011. He's only ever had that one Christmas with her. After fighting for mediation he really only spent 4 or 5 weekends (every 2 weeks) with her before he started having to rush off early for "work" etc. He met a new girl and she moved out here to the sticks to be with him. It lasted about 3 weeks before my mum, on an access visit, ended up having to help her find somewhere to live and then continued to help by moving her furniture. Funnily enough, this was the very first day I met her (when mum's car wasnt at his house for access and I needed to give her a jacket for Jessi). I offered to take her 9yr old with me to mum's to watch dvds with Jessi. I could see how upset the poor girl was. Her mum drove past us a few hours later and informed me how I had split them up. Funny! He started the same shit with her, abusive, never ending phonecalls etc. She and I are actually good friends to this day, and we don't talk about him unless it's in relation to Jessica. Jessi hasn't seen him since he moved the last time, we haven't heard from him in about 5mths. He came to WA in May and had told Jessica well in advance he was coming to see her, then didn't. His dad and I are on great terms. I could/would never hold against Jessica's grandpop the actions of her dad. Her grandpop called the other night for a chat and slipped up that the father will be in WA again on Nov 4. Guess he isn't even planning on seeing her this time.

While I am still nervous around him I am more willing to stand my ground. My daughters safety comes first and foremost and I'd never leave him alone with her or let him take her even if he had company. His dad backs me up in this. When I saw him last my VRO was still current, so I'd not really like to have to see him. Jessica's started asking a lot of questions this last year and her crying because "I miss daddy" is sending me loopy. She doesn't know her "daddy", just a mental image of a generalisation of a daddy. He's still a complete arsehole and he still tries to pick fights, though I must admit he's been pretty good. He learnt a long time I ago I will simply put the phone down and walk away. He's paying to listen to his own ranting. The very last time we spoke, I hung up on him. He didn't call me right back like he once would have. He has no concept of his daughters needs or health and I always let him know if she gets admitted to hospital. When she needed her epipen last year, I called him. No matter what I do, he will always be her dad.

I saw firsthand what domestic violence can do when at 16 I was taken to the hospital where I saw my mum a bloodied, smashed up woman. I had to go into the house and find her glasses, see the holes in the walls and the blood all over her bedroom. I had to hear how he'd tried to break her neck and kicked her in the head with his steel-capped boots. I live with the memories of running to my nannas house in the middle of the night when I was 13 or 14. She didn't live a few doors down the street, it was blocks away. I remember when sleeping over nanns flying out of bed everytime the phone rang after 8pm in case it was mum in need. I will always remember the stories my mum has told me of how granddad treated her and my aunt, and worst of all, nanna. And I will maintain that I was not "seeking" that kind of relationship when I met him. I wasn't continuing the abusive cycle.  I will never put myself, or my daughter, in a situation like that again. I had a baby who I didn't want to grow up in a broken home like mine. I had no idea the home I was creating for her was broken beyond repair.

My mum is still with my step father. He's never laid a hand on her before or since that day although he's an alcoholic who doesn't succumb to the grog like he used to. My granddad died when I was 12. 

My story pales by comparison of that which I read this afternoon, but it's my story. As shattered and ill-remembered as it is. I don't mind the not remembering. It's when I read stories like that I did today and the feelings and some memories start to haunt me that I don't like. 

Domestic Violence isn't taboo! It's against the law.