As domestic violence services expect a higher number of calls for help over Christmas, one woman speaks out so that others will know the suffering.
JO M, who works for a Catholic organisation, and her ex-husband were both senior professionals and married in 2011.
She described her ex-husband as “a very charming person, at first”.
“I was blinded by his charm,” Jo M said.
“Cracks started to show fairly soon. Five days after we were married he shattered my finger during an argument. He slammed it in a door.”
For Jo M it was the start of a cycle of abuse.
“The day before our first wedding anniversary he hit the side of my head so hard that it perforated my ear drum,” she said.
“I didn’t know what to do. Domestic violence wasn’t particularly well publicised at the time.
“I didn’t know until the end of last year when I finally had the courage to walk away that this was textbook case DV.”
Jo M and her husband had a child together – now three years old.
“That complicated matters. That means there is a tie and you can’t just walk away,” she said.
Jo M described how her husband called her foul names, often taunting her with insults – “at first only occasionally, then every day, and then always”.
“And he encouraged our child to call me by that foul name,” she said.
Jo M remembers the night she knew she had finally had enough.
“I was standing in the kitchen one Sunday night, just preparing dinner, minding my own business,” she said.
“He stormed into the kitchen ranting, picked up a knife and he slammed it so hard into the chopping board that (his hand slipped), he sliced the tendon on his little finger.
“I was holding our child who was frightened by the whole thing and my ex-husband threatened to punch me in the face.
“I phoned a friend who I had sought refuge with previously and she said ‘I can’t listen to this any more, I’m calling the police’.
“It was seeing the police on my doorstep talking about domestic violence orders when I said to myself, ‘This is real, it can’t be ignored any more, and I don’t want my child growing up in this environment’.”
Jo M said that, through counselling, she realised her ex-husband had a narcissistic personality disorder.
“They are incredibly charming at first, they win you over, they make you believe you are the only one they want to be with,” she said.
“But they can only uphold that façade for a brief time.”
Jo M said her narcissist ex-husband made himself the centre of family affairs – part of his need to maintain control and power over relationships.
“He had two children to a previous marriage and would alienate me within the household,” she said.
“He made sure there was a rift between me and my stepchildren.”
As well as physical, verbal and psychological abuse meted out, there were also financial controls.
“He was terrible with money. I remember we had a bit of reserve in a joint account. I went in and did some payments and I couldn’t make the payments,” Jo M said.
“And I realised he had been filtering out money for several months.
“I went home and highlighted the bank statements and all the payments that shouldn’t have gone out for his own personal stuff … and I got beaten up that night.”
Even after walking out and starting a new, separate life Jo M said domestic violence escalated. Her ex-husband is allowed access to their child.
“I sought legal advice and took out a Domestic Violence Order (DVO) to protect myself from his ongoing abuse,” she said.
“A year on, he still pursues me for a reconciliation, despite the DVO.
“He still refuses to acknowledge the abuse he inflicted – but the police and hospital records confirm exactly what he has done.”