‘I wasn’t bleeding, but I was broken’ My story of domestic abuse

‘I wasn’t bleeding, but I was broken’ My story of domestic abuse

Shine General Manager Jane Drumm in their domestic violence charity office in Kingsland, Auckland.

After she found out her employer IAG was taking meaningful steps to create a domestic violence free workplace with charity Shine, one woman decided to tell them how much that meant to her. This is the letter she wrote to the company’s bosses.

Dear IAG Executive,

It has taken me four attempts to write this letter to you.

I wanted to share with you some of my story, and my gratitude to IAG for your support. It was this support that truly made a difference for me and my family during the last 15 months.

I had no idea I was being abused until after the assault; through Shine, I learnt what domestic abuse was. All of the red flags were there, and they now are so obvious – but I did not have an education on what domestic abuse was to compare it with the reality I was living.

In the months leading up to the assault, I had started to realise he had a drinking problem. But I was still in a bubble, wondering if he was depressed and how else could I help him. That night, I found out there was another woman.

He attacked me, pinned me to the bed and punched me in the head repeatedly, yelling at me.

I wasn’t bleeding, but I was broken. I rang my sister and she told me to call the police. I needed her to convince me into dialling 111. I still didn’t see it as an emergency.

I explain domestic abuse to people as a storm. When you’re out at sea and you can’t see your hand in front of your face, all you can focus on is surviving the next wave. You miss the big picture because all you are doing is trying to keep your head above water.

You think you’re out of the storm because you called the cops and you’re leaving him and you told your sister, the one person in the world who won’t let you go back.

But you still can’t turn off love just like that, and you certainly can’t turn off what years of manipulation and control have done to your normal behaviour and self-worth. The abuse doesn’t stop just because you called the cops.

After the assault most of my thoughts and worries were for my children, for him, and for his family members.

Even now the relationship has been over for well over a year, I catch myself making allowances or thinking of his needs before mine. I am nowhere close to a full recovery and he physically assaulted me once. I can’t imagine how strong the victims must be who don’t leave after the first, second, seventh assault.

On average it takes seven acts of violence for a victim to leave their abuser.

It took me three weeks after the assault to decide I needed a lawyer. They had to convince me to file a protection order – which I got in a heartbeat, as the fact I was being abused was so clear to everyone around me, except me.

I had a severe concussion injury from the assault. I couldn’t be in the house with my children, I couldn’t be in a room with a laptop running or the jug boiling. I needed to be in complete darkness. I couldn’t concentrate or control my emotions and was very easily overwhelmed or frustrated.

The trauma and stress from leaving my abusive marriage was one thing but the concussion symptoms I was experiencing totally broke my world. My two weeks off work became a month, then two, then it was until the next year. My mother moved in with me and my children.

Shine wasn’t the only organisation I spoke to the day after the assault. IAG was there from the beginning.

I rang my manager. She was very beautiful and real as I told her what had happened.

She asked who I was comfortable for her to share this information with, and did all that she could to get support for me. She reassured me that I was valued and that she and the wider team were right behind me. With my blessing, she did everything she could to find out what IAG does for staff in domestic violence situations, as there were not yet the policies and procedures in place that IAG now has. Her senior manager was also extremely supportive.

My manager rang me a few days later. She said “no one really knows what the policies are” but she was digging everywhere to find practical support. She told me I could take leave, or whatever I wanted. She had a list of links for me, offered support from the IAG legal team if I needed advice on lawyers, and sent through a new contract for 12 months (my contract only had four left).

I was totally overwhelmed by this gesture. IAG provided me the security of knowing that I could provide for my children. The gesture did so much for my self-belief and truly helped me know that I would make it through.

I was allowed total control around who knew what and what messages were shared with the team. I wanted my story to ripple as far and wide as it could to make a difference. I was able to come into work in the first few weeks and talk to my team about it, and that really helped me. I was asked to draft an email message to the wider team. From that, messages of support, offers of food and lawn mowing and random flower deliveries reminded me that I was still in the team’s thoughts. These were such beautiful and powerful acts of support.

From of all the stories I have heard of domestic abuse – I’m the best case. I left him after the first hit, I called the cops, my kids and I have a protection order for the rest of our lives, he can have access to  the children but must have zero alcohol in his system. They will have a chance to rebuild a safe relationship with their father.

Domestic violence is all consuming. It ruins everything you have, stripping you right down to your core. It damages your children. It ripples through everyone who loves you and everyone who just knows you (if you tell people). It hurts everyone. I couldn’t have made it through the last 15 months without a huge umbrella of people helping me.

Thank you for getting involved with DVFREE. What you are doing will make so many differences – a lot of them you will never see or be able to measure because domestic abuse is still so hidden.

I promise you the differences will be there; victims will get a tiny boost of strength from something they read or a gesture the company makes, just as I did with each of the small kind things you did for me. You may help future abusers recognise behaviour patterns and take action.

I am moved to tears when I think of the size and momentum of an entire organisation signing up and saying “enough” to domestic violence.

Thank you, for all you have done for me and my family and will continue to do for others.