A ‘very hidden’ thing

ACT woman Jess is sharing her experience with domestic violence as a part of the DVCS Voices for Change Project, to let others know “there are avenues to go, when you’re ready to leave”. Photo: Kerrie Brewer.

“When I left [people] were like ‘oh you guys were so happy!’ It’s a very hidden thing, it’s not something you put on your social media or your snapchat … you don’t put that you’ve just been abused.”

Jess was just 18 when she met her now ex-husband, and the father of her three children. They were together for 10 years.

“It kind of happened all really quickly. He was my first boyfriend … We had our first child quite young, 20, and I think from there it’s when it kind of started to escalate.”

She says there was always a lot of verbal abuse from her partner, which she put down to drinking and marijuana use.

“So for a long time I just kind of made excuses for the behaviour … and he was very good at manipulating the situation to make it feel like it was my fault anyway.”

Jess left the relationship in December two years ago, after contemplating it for around nine months after “major incidents” happened.

“In the last two weeks of [the relationship] there was lots of verbal abuse happening, and I said in my head one day ‘okay, the next time he calls me a name I’m leaving, I’m done’. And then three days later it happened, and so I literally got my stuff, got my kids and went to my parents – and that was it.”

“It was [a frightening experience] … it happened a lot quicker than what I had planned in my head of how it would happen,” she says.

“It was probably pretty rough for the first two months … still the whole mental abuse kind of thing, like ‘I’m sorry, I still love you, come back’ to then the next day being like ‘f*** you’, ‘[you took] my kids from me’.”

Jess says she is now “so much better”, and is expecting a baby with her new partner. She is using her story to raise awareness of domestic and family violence in the community, and to remind people that “it can happen to anybody”.

“Abuse isn’t just physical; it’s not just someone with a bruised lip or with a bruised eye … For me, mine was mostly emotional, verbal and mental … There was physical [abuse] in there but they were the main ones that happened to me.

“There are places like DVCS, there are places [people] can go if they don’t have support or they need extra support or professional help. There is somewhere that they can go or they can talk to anonymously. I think that’s really important for women to know.”

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence in Canberra, contact the Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS) on 6280 0900 or visit dvcs.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

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