Life After Domestic Violence
This is the story, my story, showing how domestic violence impacts victims.
Growing up, everything in my life seemed perfect. I lived in a nice house, within a safe community. I had a mum, dad, sister and pet dog. I was a well-behaved student who would always radiate energy. From the outside, everything about my life seemed like something from a movie, but what nobody ever saw was the war inside my home.
For the first twelve years of my life, I was exposed to the darker side of humanity. I saw, and was victim to, the vile actions of someone I trusted, actions which I would never wish upon anybody. As a child, I was frequently neglected, starved, hit and emotionally manipulated by a person who was meant to keep me safe and protect me from the world.
I am now 16 and it has been 4 years since my abuser left. Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly grateful that I am no longer scared to go home or have to constantly walk on eggshells at said home, but just because I no longer sleep under the same roof as my abuser, it doesn’t mean I am completely free.
I remember when my abuser first left. The constant paranoia I experienced every time I saw a car similar to theirs or somebody on the street who looked similar to them. It drove me - a 12 year old- insane, so much so that sometimes I would have complete breakdowns. For two years after this, I managed to block everything out. I didn’t react to anything which would trigger me- I thought I was fine, that I had gotten over everything. But in 2018, I broke down during a PDHPE lesson where we had to draw our family, and from there I began to spiral. One of my biggest triggers would be when a teacher would yell. I knew that they would never hit me and yet my mind kept telling me that if I didn’t hide or run, I would get hurt. To this day I am momentarily paralysed with fear every single time a door shuts - simply because I associate it with anger, and anger with violence.
As a result of my situation growing up, I have also developed mental health problems. I have severe depressive episodes, I have, in the past, become suicidal and self harmed, I get panic attacks and have a very low self-esteem. I put a lot of blame on myself for whenever something goes bad, whether or not I had any involvement. Additionally, after receiving constant criticism about my body when I was younger, I began to have a very unhealthy relationship with food. There were times where I would intentionally deprive my body of food, which was then followed by binge eating periods.
Despite how difficult it can be to just get through the day, I can say life is getting better. I am now able to openly talk about my experiences, and I have slowly begun to gain control over my life again. To anybody who is reading this and is either experiencing or has experienced some sort of abuse- whether it is physical, emotional, financial and/ or sexual - it can get better. I know it sounds cliche, but it is true and it takes time.
*Help is available.
If you’d like to speak to someone about domestic violence, you can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 (for under 25s) or call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732.
If you require immediate assistance, please call 000
**The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Woke magazine.
***Cover image by Alexas_Photos from Pixabay