I was trapped in an abusive relationship. The rule of law didn't help.

I was trapped in an abusive relationship. The rule of law didn’t help me one bit.

family violence

In 2013 I was in an abusive relationship.

After months and months of gaslighting, isolation aggression and infidelity, I sat shaking on my couch with a positive pregnancy test in my hand. I didn’t cry but all I could think was, “he is going to be so angry”.

I had no consideration for myself at all. No thoughts on how I should be feeling or what I should do.  I walked into my abuser’s apartment, my head hung in shame and I whispered, “I’m just so sorry, please don’t angry at me, I’m pregnant”. He was angry.

I knew I would have no support from him. The back and forth between loving and hating me on top of my pregnancy hormones meant my head was a mess. My abuser declined to be part of the pregnancy at all, except to pressure me to book a quick abortion.

Despite his constant attempts to isolate me from my parents and friends, as soon as I called, they surrounded me with the love and kindness I had been missing for months.

The hardest day

The day I lost the baby was the hardest of my life.

I was at the doctor’s alone when they told me and my abuser texted from holiday to say, “that doesn’t sound good”. It wasn’t. I required emergency surgery and it took over two months with post-operative infections to be well again.

In the final phone conversation with my abuser there were threats aplenty. I felt unsafe in my home and informed the police. Their response was challenging. Apparently, as nothing was written down and there were no palpable signs of physical violence, they couldn’t help me. They told me to come back when I had something concrete.

Staggeringly, I was also told that I looked like someone who could “handle” themselves. I guess, to their mind, I was not a perfect victim. I was too tall, too big, and my evidence– whilst they agreed awful– did not fit the legislation to arrest my abuser. There were genuinely no protections they could offer under the rule of law.

My life as it was collapsed. I quit my job, I moved home to my parents where I began to heal but it wasn’t easy. My network provided the strongest glue as an entirely broken human pieced herself back together.

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A remarkably unremarkable story

My story is not remarkable. In fact that is the most remarkable thing about it. I’m one of the lucky ones.

In 2020, 55 Australian women were murdered due to intimate partner violence, with frontline services reporting a surge in serious injuries, and request for services during the pandemic. Sex discrimination commissioner, Kate Jenkins released her report with damning statistics that 3 in 5 women had experienced sexual harassment and 1 in 3 sexual assault.

Current legislation means seeking formal legal outcomes is complicated; lacking a nuanced understanding of the spectrum of abuse and its impact on survivors. Many services have been scrambling, with limited funds and/or resources to help everyone who comes to them. Today’s policy and funding does not reflect these unprecedented times and with recommendations still waiting to be actioned it would seem this is not high on the current government’s agenda.

It’s only March but already in 2021 our major headlines have seen an historical sexual assault allegation against Australia’s highest law officer; an alleged sexual assault taking place in the Nation’s Parliament, a principal of a girl’s school warning minors not to compromise their “male teachers employment” with their outfit choices; and a Sydney woman’s social media petition revealing over 2,000 alleged sexual assaults in Australian schools.

Where is the outrage in our parliament? Where is the policy and legislation to protect and educate young women? Who is actually deciding the ‘rule of law’ here?

I am not a victim, I am a survivor.  I am raging because I, like thousands of Australian women, will never see formal justice for the wrongs that have occurred and the damage done to my life.

A lot of us have had to make our peace with that to be able to move forward. To see the centre of our democracy dismiss our experience has unleashed a collective rage this country has never seen before. And I am here for it.

I will be Marching for Justice this month because I believe survivors. And we deserve better.

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