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Forms Of Abuseimages from the stories

Lynette

It’s not like he ever physically hit me. He didn’t have to. He’d only have to raise his voice and I’d be mentally cowering in the corner. I don’t know if women who haven’t experienced it can fully understand how debilitating that is. I’d hear his key in the door at 5:30pm on the dot and my skin would crawl. All my senses would be on alert just terrified to find out what sort of mood he was in. You can’t imagine how controlling that is. He’d come through the door and explode and I’d run around closing doors and windows, terrified that somebody would hear us and judge us.

I know, well... I can realise this now, in a way I was protecting him. I mean, I actually played a part in noone knowing by being so ashamed.

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But you’ve no idea how validated I felt when... It was a woman at Centrelink actually, after I’d left him... She made me understand that it was abuse. All the pictures and ads that I’d seen of domestic violence were about women who had been kicked and hit, you know, that sort of thing. But when I understood that the isolation and psychological abuse was just as real, I was overwhelmed.

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I remember getting all dressed up to go to my parent’s wedding anniversary and he said to me, ‘you’re not going looking like that are you?’ And it was so crushing in a subtle way and then not having enough time to change, I spent the whole party feeling self-conscious, aware of his disapproval; his repulsion.

We tried counselling but he had this way of appearing so charming to the outside world... The good worker... He worked in a bank... And a happy family man...So that I was the one who looked unbalanced. I’m sure he played on that in his working life, implying that I wasn’t at a work function because, ‘I was a bit fragile’. What was even more confusing was that in front of other people I could see the charming man that I’d fallen in love with, which only gave me more false hope that things might get better.

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All those fights about parenting were in the lounge room, which is where he watched those goddamn videos. He never actually watched them in front of the girls and I but he didn’t exactly hide them away either. It was like he wanted us to be aware of them. Like he was, I don’t know, asserting his manliness or something. It was so wearing. I’m sure he never interfered with my daughters but it was this constant presence of sex in the house that used to put me so on edge. I was terrified it would affect them. When they were still in primary school, he would let them stay up with him after I’d gone to bed and watch ‘M’ movies. Things with sex scenes in them; things that kids just shouldn’t see and when I’d accuse him of deliberately exposing them to things like that he’d say that I was uptight, but you know, I’m sure it affected them. My eldest daughter, she’s very uncomfortable with boys and the counsellor says that his behaviour is a form of child sexual abuse.

It was all so difficult to put your finger on it at the time. I mean, I felt like I was going mad. He’d say that I was over-sensitive, that I was imagining things and that I was the one who was traumatizing the kids by accusing him.

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I used to dread doing the accounts because all hell would break loose. To give you a bit of an example, I suppose, I used to buy most of my clothes from recycling shops and our house was certainly the shabbiest in the street because he wouldn’t spend any money on it. Even though he was supposed to be on a good income, you know. He made me feel extravagant for wanting to buy a new bra. At one point I was alternating the tattiest old bra with my maternity bra, which of course only made me feel more unattractive to him. I always seemed to feel so ugly and yet he’d go and buy sunglasses worth a couple of hundred dollars, saying he needed to keep up appearances at the bank. Somehow it was always my fault we’re in the red and he’d hit the roof and I’d be cowering again. He would imply that my deteriorating mental health - what did he used to say – ‘was affecting my ability to manage the household budget’. Which was just an excuse for him to whittle down the paltry amounts he was already giving me, you know. But then I’d start to think, ‘well, is he right? Have I lost track of what I’m spending? Am I going nuts?’

I’ve since learnt that he was siphoning off money into hidden accounts.

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I think what other women sometimes don’t understand is that until you’re ready to give up hope, you can’t leave. Since it wasn’t physical, I didn’t have any injuries to show that it was abuse. I was able to convince myself that things might get better.

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There certainly wasn’t much left to cling to... Certainly not much left of myself. I remember, maybe six months, less than a year after we split up and I was still a bit lost, you know, and I was standing in front of my wardrobe looking in there and I didn’t know who I was. I had a really strong feeling of not knowing who I was and I couldn’t put something on to pretend to be somebody... I didn’t know who I was.

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The car that I drove to the park with enough pills to suicide... I just slid into such a deep dark hole of depression, you know, but I kept thinking about my girls and, thankfully,I didn’t go through with it.