I was a victim of domestic violence. I was nearly killed on more than one occasion.
One would assume that something in my family history sculpted or warped my perception of what was acceptable behavior.
Quite the antithesis.
I was raised in a loving home. I never witnessed violence, degradation emotional or psychological abuse.
Two of my favorite people in the world are my brother and father and they are the kindest, gentlest men you will ever meet.’
I was, however raised in this culture…..this society.
As a young girl growing up in the seventies and eighties I battled it out with the best of them. I was a tomboy with little to no regard as to what my role was meant to be as a girl.
Nevertheless I was well aware of the disparity between boys and girls.
As much as I ran with the boys, there was a very different set of rules for them than me.
If there was an incident, I was always first to be asked what I had done to provoke the boy, never the other way around.
If their behavior was a bit out of hand, it was quickly followed up by the old, and incredibly dangerous statement, “boys will be boys”.
As a consequence, my early teachings sent me one very clear message. I was responsible for their behaviour and they didn’t need to be responsible for anything.
In a nutshell boys are taught to blame circumstances for their aggression and girls are left to contemplate how they provoked it. This may seem a little drastic but those early formative years are undeniably powerful.
What I am ultimately saying is that a pattern of thinking has already formulated in the mind of a young woman long before entering a violent relationship.
And the same goes for the many men committing these acts who have long gotten away with unacceptable behaviour. We just don’t see this pattern until it’s too late.
But the statistics and the rising epidemic are irrefutable. Hence why domestic violence is not privy to any socio economic or standing.
If you grow up in this society you are a potential victim or perpetrator because society grooms you to be that way.
I didn’t grow up thinking that at 22 I would be escaping in the middle of the night with a baby and a bag of clothes with choke marks on my neck.
Given being a strong independent, idealistic woman I was stunned to find myself exactly there.
How had this happened?
It happened because of the above. As we know, domestic violence is not just physical. It is a slow or fast progression of other forms of abuse that lead to the end result, being the act of physical violence.
In my experience, it starts with the subtle degradation of you as a person, the questioning of your every movement and action.
The sly comments that make you question your fabric. This combined with words of professed love creates a very complex situation.
By the time the physical violence began I had no idea who I was but I was sure of one thing. I had provoked it and I was responsible for it.
I walked on eggshells, doing my best not to be provocative but it was pointless.
I left, I came back and left again. This went on for a couple of years. All the time thinking things would change. All the time feeling guilty that I was not doing a better job at keeping my family together. All the time feeling responsible for my son not having the father he so needed.
To this day, with all that I now know rationally, I still feel an element of guilt, shame and responsibility.
One of the most common questions in society is why do woman stay? I can answer that without hesitation. It’s because it’s safer when you’re in it. You know that the moment you leave is when it becomes life threatening.
In my case, the most traumatic acts occurred in the years after I left. I was stalked, threatened and my son was kidnapped on several occasions and the federal police were called in to retrieve him.
On one occasion they couldn’t find him for six days. He had threatened to kill my son and himself.
These were, to this day, the most harrowing days I have ever lived. Naturally, the thought of having stayed with him were much more appealing at this point. I left because my son had witnessed an extreme assault and I had made the decision that I did not want him growing up thinking that was normal.
My efforts to protect him were tireless and at times, unsuccessful. I remember watching the news the night Luke Batty was killed. My brother turned to me and said, “that could be you”.
A chill went down my spine. He was right. There was nothing in it.
As some of you know I have fostered 31 children in my life and adopted three.
Every single one of those children had, in some way, been victims of domestic violence. In the early days I was unsure of whether that damage could be overcome.
I went about doing my best to heal these kids with love. I also remained very conscious of the above-mentioned patterns with boys and girls.
I was vigilant around raising strong girls and sensitive, responsible boys. To date I have been stunned at the results. In a relatively short amount of time these misguided kids were restored to health with a sense of what was acceptable and, with the right tools, were able to use their experiences as a template of what was not okay and should never be repeated.
We must recognise that the end to this epidemic lies in our children. We must stop failing our children. We need to quietly and constantly reflect upon the subtle messages we are sending them as it is the only hope that this epidemic is going to turn around.
The current approach of intervention after the act is clearly not working.
Like anything we need to go to the grass roots of human thinking and patterned behavior and that begins with our little ones.
[This is an edited extract below from Jules’ recent White Ribbon Day Speech. For another inspiring survivor story click here.]