Stronger than ever -

___Stronger than ever

Stronger than ever -
I was a victim of domestic violence.

I hate the word victim and ironically, hate the word hate but it best sums up my feelings toward the stigma of being a 'victim'. I'd grown up in a single-parent household with my older brother and my mum, who is physically disabled and suffers from brain damage following a motorbike accident when she was 25. Our relationship had always been strained, I was a child who was ignorant and had no explanation as to why my mum was the way she was. It was just our normal. When she and my dad broke up, the last thing I remember was him trying to get past her as she blocked the top of the stairs; she later called the police claiming he had pushed her, but I knew it was a lie.

The following years led me to believe that lies and arguments were something that every family went through, that storming out and disappearing for hours on end was the way to deal with emotions.

In a way, this normalised some incredibly dangerous behaviours in my world. And it undeniably played a part in my staying with my abuser for as long as I did.

I was 17 and pushing away from everyone and everything. I remember meeting him a few times through friends and he seemed like everything I wanted at that time. A bad boy, someone who didn't care, a cliché. The first red flag that should've made me come to my senses was him threatening me for money for cocaine and hurling a tirade of verbal abuse at me when I refused. I still had some dignity and some sense then. He apologised, I took him back with open arms and moved in with him in a place away from my friends, my family and everyone I knew.

We argued like cat and dog, emulating the household I'd always known. But I remember the first time he hurt me like it was yesterday. Something snapped inside him and he strangled me until I passed out on the floor. I remember running out of the flat, I couldn't see because my glasses had fallen off my face but I just kept running. When it got dark, I went back. Where else was I supposed to go? Home? My mum hadn't spoken to me in so long. I was alone.

What followed was three years of daily abuse. Something I accepted as my new normal, a life where I would be someone else's and never my own again. My abuser had taken my anti-anxiety pills - which I had been taking since I was 13 - and flushed them away along with my contraceptive pills when he decided he wanted to have a baby with me. I wasn't allowed to argue back.

As you can imagine, I got pregnant. I was still working as a nanny at this point and managed to take the test while at work. I confided in a close friend and immediately booked an abortion. I knew I would never want to bring a child up with that man.

I had my 'lightbulb' moment and worked up the courage to leave him after so many incidents but one of the main things was being hit in public. He punched me in the eye and ran as I was on the floor screaming for help. People passed me and completely ignored me, pleading for help. This is when I realised that people weren't willing to get involved. I felt like I was too broken for anyone to care.

Coming out of that relationship and finding the strength to grow and love myself was a difficult journey but most of all, I couldn't help feeling like it was my fault. My mistake. My failure as a woman not to protect myself.

With the love and care of some strong women, including my mother and my close friends, I slowly started to understand that what happened was not a failure or a fault. It never should've happened, but it did. And now I was strong enough to take hold of that part of my life and strip it down to the parts that made me stronger, to the parts that taught me how love should feel. I didn't fail, and ultimately, I have no regrets.

I managed to use my experience for good, raising money for domestic violence charities, enrolling myself in mental health coaching and teaching others about my story. I will no longer feel like I failed or am a victim. I am stronger than ever before; I know more and appreciate the growth that is to come but I will never allow myself to be taken advantage of for that growth to happen.