Never in my wildest nightmares did I ever expect to end up in an abusive relationship. I thought that was something that happened to other women and it was awful hearing stories about but I was disconnected from it. It hadn’t happened to me. Or so I thought.
It started with a niggly feeling, something was off but I couldn’t put my finger on it. By the end of the relationship there was no question in my mind that I was experiencing domestic violence. From the research I have done since, I realise that by planning to leave and leaving the first time I am in the minority.
On average, a woman will leave an abusive relationship seven times before she leaves for good, according to The National Domestic Violence Hotline.
According to an article from the University of Illinois by Lyndal Khaw who performed a study with 25 abused women, there are five stages that have been identified in leaving an abusive relationship:
Stage 1 and 2: The first and second stage are starting to not care for your abuser anymore, and disconnecting emotionally from the abusive relationship.
Stage 3: The third stage includes noticing the effects of the abuse, and starting to make preparations to leave, as well as leaving itself.
Stage 4: The fourth stage is going back to the relationship. Jennifer Hardesty, a University of Illinois assistant professor of human and community development, said this stage includes a lot of back and forth. Survivors need clarity, but they also want to be physically and emotionally connected again, which leads to returning to the relationship.
Stage 5: The fifth stage is actually leaving an abusive relationship. Being gone for six months or more marks this last stage.
I actually skipped stage 4 completely. I was so broken down mentally at that stage that if I had returned, I hand on heart know that I would not be here today.
Professionals will tell you that the most dangerous time for victims is when they are leaving. I was fortunate that my psychologist saw the red flags and gave me a phone number that turned out to be my life line. DV Connect (QLD) 1800 811 811. I was referred into Brisbane DV Service and with their assistance I was able to plan my escape safely.
I’ve been free from the relationship for over four years now and I now have a life that I never in my wildest dreams expected to have. I literally have my own dream life.
It is possible, for me and for you. It will hurt. It will be scary but I’m telling you, DO IT ANYWAY! It will be the most powerful thing you ever do