Image for illustrative purposes only

By Steph McNicol

A SURVIVOR of family violence has spoken out about the ongoing effects of her past relationship on her mental well-being.

The Kilmore resident, who did not want to be named, said she had been victim to a physically violent relationship for 10 years.

“It’s been 16 and a half years since we left that environment. The thing that got me to leave was that my daughter would grow up thinking that was normal behaviour,” she said.

The woman said while the relationship was detrimental to her physical health, it also impacted her mental health, and continued to do so today.

“[Perpetrators] manipulate you and make you feel worthless, like this is what you deserve,” she said.

“People tell you to just leave, but it is impossible to leave. They have just taken everything from you, your confidence, self-worth – everything.

“They do that so they have the power over you and you’re just a shell. It takes so much courage to leave.”

The survivor said she felt helpless trying to get out of the relationship.

“Everyone was scared of him and just said ‘as long as it isn’t happening while I’m there’,” she said.

“The only way to escape the reality was substance abuse which became a full blown addiction.

“I think once you find that it actually helps you escape feeling anything, you just chase it more and more. You become disassociated like nothing is real.”

After enduring many years of turmoil, she decided to run away from her home in the Gold Coast to Melbourne, with no plan of action and her three children.

“I had about four days’ worth of clothes and no plan. I had a bad credit for renting so we had to skip from one place to another,” the survivor said.

“The only skillset I had was how to protect myself, I always had to know where all the exits were. I was constantly looking over my shoulder.”

She said upon receiving her pension money, she was able to spend $100 on groceries where previously it would’ve gone towards alcohol and drugs.

After having some time to adapt to her new living situation, the woman said she began feeling guilty.

“I was angry that I allowed him to do that to me, and now I had to raise my kids on my own,” she said.

“I didn’t know how to be a parent and I was so naïve.

“I was broken before I got into the relationship and I became addicted to the physical pain because it meant I didn’t have to feel the emotional pain.

“I look at my kids and think they are the real victims in all of that. I have two boys that are abusing substances and their schooling was impacted plus the way they process stuff.”

The woman said recovery was difficult but it was worth it.

“You get to a point where enough is enough, and leaving is absolutely worth it for your sanity and your kids. It’s a hard road ahead with recovery, but there is a lot of support out there,” she said.

“The trauma is not something you get over, it’s just something you learn to live with. I’ve done the best with what I had.”