CATHERINE'S STORY: My abuser killed my unborn child
I NEVER dreamed about a fairytale wedding. I never hoped for a house with a white picket fence or the husband and 2.5 kids.
My cycle of abuse started before I was born. I was trapped in my mother's web of abusive relationships and quickly followed in her footstep.
I grew up thinking and believing my body wasn't my own and my thoughts and feelings didn't matter. I had a mental breakdown at 17. At 18 I was gang raped.
I was a mess and didn't know where to turn. I ended up running away and joining the travelling show and carnival.
That's where I met him. I was 19. He told me he would protect me, that he would never let anyone else hurt or hit me again.
I knew something wasn't right very early in the relationship. He was jealous, overly jealous.
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I wanted out, we had only been together a few weeks and I already was scared and pregnant.
I felt trapped. He already had such a control over me. A power I couldn't understand. I put on a smiling mask and hoped things would change. I endured daily emotional and verbal abuse. I no longer had a say or a voice. I felt I could do nothing right. I was walking on egg shells and trying to believe everything would be alright when the baby came.
As soon as the baby was born he started hitting me, only in places where the bruises could be covered.
I wore long jumpers in summer, covered my legs with long pants, tied my hair up to hide the bald patches from chunks that had been ripped out. I bought make up to cover bruises that were visual only to be called a slut or a whore when I wore it.
I fell pregnant again. I didn't have the courage to tell him it was twins. Having a six-month-old and a baby on the way was putting financial pressure on his partying ways.
One day while waiting for a bus he lost it. He attacked me, punched me in the stomach. I crumbled in pain. I sat there crying and started to bleed. He took off with our child.
An elderly couple transported me to the hospital. I sat in the hospital alone waiting for a scan.
I had no one to hold my hand and be by my side as I was told that one of the babies had died and the others heart beat was weak, to be prepared to lose it. I grieved alone.
My other baby survived. He came to the hospital with cheap flowers, all apologies and lies. I never told him about the twin.
He didn't deserve to know. I hated him for what he had done.
I will always remember the fear in my children's eyes as they watched their father punching me in the face and smashing my head into the window as he was driving me to the bush to end my life. I will never forget their screams and pleas as I jumped from the moving car.
My eldest child who was nine said to me "Leave mum or he will kill you".
Those words awakened me, gave me a strength I knew was in me somewhere. I reached out to my family and we worked on an escape plan. In March 2011, he assaulted me for the last time. As he held me up by my throat and I could feel my life leaving me I knew I had to keep fighting. I hit him and I hit him hard. I could survive this. He left when he was done. I sent my mum our code word. We were gone.
I am now five years free. I have lived past domestic violence. I have outlasted that point in time when I was a victim.
I wanted to show my boys what life was meant to be and re-educate them on what living in a healthy environment was. I wanted to break the cycle for them as well.
I don't regret my past. I wouldn't be the person I am today if I had walked another path. I continue to share my experience with others so as I may help inspire others. I hope to give people hope that there is life after domestic violence and no matter how low you feel you do deserve better.
I hold my head high and proudly say I am no longer a victim. I am a survivor.
To read more stories from the Why I Stayed project visit www.facebook.com.au/TheREDHEARTCampaign