The other side of domestic violence

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A person is meant to feel.

Many people describe their home as a “private haven – a place where they can be content with themselves and feel safe”, yet for many women, home is the complete opposite.

For thousands of woman, ‘home’ is a place of pain and fear with more women in Australia being killed by domestic violence in their own homes compared to anyone else.

1 in 4 Australian women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner.

Among these women is my older sister, Linda.

Linda* has dated Colin* on and off since high school, but it wasn’t until 2012-2013 that the signs of aggression become clear to my family.

The signs were small to begin with and started off with constant texts and the need to control her.

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However, over time things just got worse. He became extremely obsessive and abusive and began experimenting with more drugs and ice became his new best friend.

An aggressive ice-addict brother-in-law, now that’s what hell is made up of.

Colin began stealing things from our home- money, iPod’s, my mum’s jewellery. When confronted he would cry and make up lies that almost made you question your suspicion.

He would talk his way out of everything, he was a compulsive liar and fooled us for too long.

No matter my families efforts, he always managed to make his way back into the picture, and not long after, Linda and Colin went on to have two baby boys.

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Things got worse from here.

Linda and her two sons lived at home with myself, my mum and younger sister at this stage, so for the next year our lives were consumed with fights, tears, threats and police visits.

Not a day would go by where they didn’t fight. The home that I once described as being filled with love was now poisoned with hate and anger.

I remember taking the boys from their room and playing with them outside- taking them away from that toxic environment. Wanting so badly to shield my nephews from all the horrible things surrounding them.

I was woken up in the middle of the night by crazed screams and belting at the door so many times I’ve lost count.

Colin would get high and pay a visit to our house almost every night. I remember sometimes being scared to go to sleep, afraid of what I’d wake up to. Afraid for my sister and my two beautiful nephews.

I never understood why Linda kept taking him back, it made me furious to begin with. Our families’ whole world had been turned upside down and we were still forced to allow him to step foot in our home.

Forced to be polite to a man who refused to consider my sister or my families’ feelings for so many years.

Linda then moved out of home, and Colin’s urge to control her and be with her became overwhelming.

My mother’s life was now spent protecting Linda from harm’s way.

We kept the news about Linda moving out a secret for a few months but of course, Colin found out. He created the most elaborate lie to get Linda to speak with him and invite him into her new home.

He told my family he was going to prison and I truly prayed every night he would go- that he would pay for what he had put our family through. Pay for the sleepless nights our family had endured, pay for the heart ache he had caused my sister. Pay for the worry he had permanently placed in my heart.

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But as fate would have it, it was all a lie to find out Linda’s address. I was hurt and angry at the lengths he had gone to to find out this information. The trust he had breached in the process.

By this stage, I was mentally and psychically exhausted. My mother was almost falling apart. Her whole life now revolved around protecting Linda. She spent every waking moment worrying.

We received constant calls in the middle of the night alerting us that he was at her house high threatening to kill himself if she didn’t let him in.

My mother spent most of her nights at Linda’s and even then, he would not leave. This went on for months.

I continued to pray that things would turn around- pray that Colin would get the help he required and would change his ways or leave.

It seemed my prayers were answered and he checked himself into Rehab. He stayed in there for six months before he discharged himself early.

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Linda and Colin are still together now and from the outside things seem fine. But I know too well how easy it is to keep a secret. My family were very good at hiding it from the outside.

I know Linda knows she will have the support of my family if she ever chooses to leave Colin.

The truth is, I have no control in this situation. All I can do is sit back, offer my sister support and be there for her when the cycle begins, yet again.

I hope rehab did change him and Linda never needs that help but I hope she knows that I will keep offering a helping hand until she takes it.

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Domestic Violence survivor Kaitlin* says the best advice she can give to anyone in a similar situation is that: “you and your children deserve better than that.”

“Get out before it shapes the rest of you and your children’s life to one full of misery,” Kaitlin said.

hand“Open your eyes and stop making excuses for his bad behaviour. Don’t blame yourself. You are worthy of happiness and you will eventually get it if you get out of that situation.”

“Domestic violence is not just your problem, it affects everyone that loves you, they will help you. You just have to want to be helped.”

*Names has been changed to protect the identity of the source.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic violence in any capacity you should reach out for support.

In an emergency dial 000

DV ConnectDVconnect : 1800 811 811

Mensline: 1800 600 636

Sexual Assault line 1800 010 120