"One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. That is way too many. The aim of this event is to bring awareness to the cause and encourage victims to speak out and seek help."
One in four women will be physically and/or emotionally abused by a partner - somebody they love or trust. I am a 'one in four'. But of the many 'one in four' women out there, I am one of the lucky ones because I was able to walk away.
I was 18 and in my first "real" relationship. I was in love, as most people aged 18 in a relationship are. We don't know what warning signs to look for and we don't really have a benchmark for what a healthy relationship looks like. As it turns out, nursing your boyfriend's hangover every Saturday morning after he left you, his underage girlfriend, at home is not a healthy relationship. But ignorance is bliss and I was blissfully happy.
But one night after an argument in a pub, I stormed off outside. I had only recently turned 18 so I was finally able to join in with the Friday night drinking sessions. But I didn't enjoy it. Drinking to get drunk every week is not my idea of fun. So I was happy to leave and walk the few blocks home. It was still daylight.
Well my boyfriend followed me. He called out and I stopped. Words were exchanged. I'm not one to call names as I know how much they can hurt. But he had already started drinking and he yelled names at me. Many names. I don't even remember what the fight was about. But I do remember him practically spitting these words at me: "You are scum." And he hit me. It was one of those half punch, half shove motions that forced me to the bitumen in the carpark. I hit the ground hard. I was too shocked to scream. Or cry. Or say anything for that matter. I just stumbled back to my feet and I ran.
I ran towards home. I could hear him yelling at me to come back. He yelled that he was sorry. He yelled lots of things. But I kept running. There was no force on Earth that was going to make me face him but since we lived next door to each other, I quickly realised I had no where to go. So as soon as he'd safely lost sight of me, I dashed into a random backyard. I sat against a stranger's house and that's when I was finally able to cry - sharp, racking sobs that I desperately tried to muffle. I heard his voice getting louder, and louder and then fainter, and fainter.
I don't know how long I sat in that backyard but eventually it got dark. I snuck out of the yard and made my way home. I peeked into his bedroom and saw it was empty. He'd gone back out drinking. I dashed into his house and grabbed everything I own and ran back to my own house. I locked myself in my bedroom and refused to come out. Late that night, he knocked on my door. He yelled for me to come out. He yelled that he was sorry. Again, he yelled many things. I hid under my pillow and I cried.
The next morning I did the bravest thing a girl in my situation can do. I called for help. I asked my Mum to come get me... and my stuff. I left uni. I left my friends. I left my boyfriend. It was one of the hardest things I'd had to do in my life so far. But it was also the easiest decision I've ever made. Because no girl should ever have to put up with domestic violence. And I Speak Out against domestic violence.
'Sorry' doesn't heal grazed hands.
'Come back' doesn't wipe away tears.
'Come back' doesn't wipe away tears.
And 'I love you' should never, ever, ever leave a bruise.
Miss SAMawdsley xx
PS: For the record, seven years later my ex-boyfriend contacted me. I felt enough time had passed that I could see him. My only justification was that if he needed the chance to say sorry, I would give it to him. I'd heard through mutual friends that he had changed a lot. And it's true, he had. Apparently his act of violence and my reaction had shocked him so much that he'd become the ultimate peace-loving hippy. He'd not had a relationship since and is now so anti-violent he is a vegan. I'm glad I gave him the chance to say sorry.
But I did not, and never will, forgive him.