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“A living nightmare”

“A living nightmare”

Theresa* would get texts constantly from John*. They said he loved and missed her, wondering what she was doing, and where she was. Theresa saw this as John being loving and caring, but he was actually monitoring her all the time. John started to isolate Theresa from her family and friends, making excuses like he didn’t like them or their influence on her. He also started to accuse her of having affairs. She had to justify and explain every phone call or visit to John.

When Theresa became pregnant with Logan, John’s behaviour grew more controlling. He questioned her constantly and wanted to see receipts for every expense. Theresa became expert at reading his moods and adjusted her responses accordingly. When Logan was born, the first time John slaps her is when she has been trying to manage a new baby and meet his unreasonable demands and is exhausted.

John presented as a good partner and father when out in public. For Theresa his behaviour became almost “normal” and she managed the best she could. She felt tired all the time and isolated. He had convinced her there was something wrong with her. Her levels of fear fluctuate depending on the situation.

Her son Logan often witnesses screaming. Both mother and child become anxious and hyper-vigilant. This abuse continues over the next few years, when Mandy is born it gets worse again with physical abuse every 2 to 3 months. John always apologizes and promises not to do it again but after a few weeks the cycle of abuse starts up all over again. Theresa has never called the police as she does not want John to get into trouble. Theresa is now beyond exhausted - she is completely overwhelmed and concerned for her children and their wellbeing. She would like to leave but feels fearful and trapped. Leaving the relationship is often the most dangerous time as violence and controlling behaviour will often increase and escalate.

It is a huge relief when Theresa can talk to a worker about the abuse. She does not feel judged, her experience is validated and she is treated with kindness and dignity. Theresa is referred her to the social worker, where she learns about abuse from an educative base, is given options, a safety plan and is fully informed about legal aspects. She now realises the abuse is not her fault and that it is about John’s need for power and control over her. Theresa is learning about the effects of domestic abuse on children and is supported to keep the children safe. She also is informed about parenting orders, protections orders and WINZ entitlements.

3 years on, Theresa has moved away from her abusive partner and we continue to support her. She was referred to the women’s programme “It’s All About Me” and eventually reconnected with family and friends. If you, or someone you know, could be experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk to someone about it, call the North Shore Women’s Centre on 09 444 4618.

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