Anj was an active 14-year-old when her boyfriend started abusing her. After she ended the relationship he assaulted her so badly she suffered a brain injury and was left in a coma. With strength and determination, Anj is gaining new skills and has plans for the future.
I wish to be seen as a strong, inspirational young woman who can help others so that no one experiences what happened to me.
When I was 16 years old, my boyfriend almost bashed me to death. He beat me so badly I suffered a severe brain injury and was in a coma for four months. Intensive care nursing staff told my father they had never seen injuries like mine before, injuries that medical staff normally associated with road trauma cases.
I was only 14 years old when I began my relationship with him. He was four years older than me. Initially everything was great. Soon into our relationship he became possessive and controlling and started abusing me. I thought it was my fault, so I made up excuses for the way he treated me.
Before my abusive relationship people described me as a very fit, healthy and beautiful young girl in control of her own life. I was very athletic, a strong netballer and a quick swimmer. I was living my life to the fullest.
There were many tell-tale signs that forewarned me about him. He often verbally and physically abused me. He introduced me to drugs and supplied them to me. After being abusive he would sometimes become very emotional and cry. Other times he threatened to kill himself if I left him or if I went on a holiday without him.
How my situation changed
Before the last attack my parents tried to get help from the police but I didn’t want him to get into trouble. He had already been in contact with the criminal justice system over the assault of another person. My parents also made contact with a local youth outreach program.
Eventually, a psychologist convinced me to break it off with my boyfriend. I had finally realised I would never be able to change him. I decided to focus on my studies and I was voted into the VCE leadership group as a leader. We were not in a relationship for the three months leading up to the assault although we continued to see each other. I still wanted to be his friend. During this time he rang me and said that he had had my name tattooed on his stomach and that we would be friends for life.
Regaining my sense of self
Despite the horrific injuries he inflicted on me, and the medical team’s belief that I wouldn’t be able to improve any further, with strength and determination I have proved them wrong. I am gaining new skills all the time and have plans for the future. I now communicate through a text-to-voice machine and use a wheelchair to get around. I always try to keep moving forward, and with the help of my family and friends I’ve been able to keep soldiering on, though it hasn’t been easy.
There has been no real connection made between my disability and the fact it was caused through relationship abuse. The social work department offered no support around the assault but there was a long delay in my family receiving written information about what to expect in relation to my brain injury.
My parents made contact with Headway who supported them in relation to my recovery. While speaking to Mum about the assault, a police officer responded to her distress by asking if the family had received any counselling. When he found out that they hadn’t received any support he said that he would make some inquiries. Very soon after that conversation, the Victoria Police Victims Advisory Unit contacted mum and dad. My parents said they could not have survived without this assistance. These services made a big difference to me. Victims of Crime provided some financial support although lack of finances limits my access to the range of therapies required for my full rehabilitation and recovery. Without the support of Headway and the Victims Advisory Unit at Victoria Police and the dedicated physiotherapists that have worked with me, my family and I would not have survived the first three years.
What the experience taught me
Through sheer determination and willpower I’m where I am today, gradually reclaiming my life. Though I was only 16 when he attacked me, I now hope to keep others away from violent and controlling relationships. I wish to be seen as a strong, inspirational young woman who can help others so that no one experiences what happened to me.
My advice to other young women is to take any threats or violence seriously. If he insults your friends, becomes obsessive or wants you to spend every second with him then see these as warning signs. These behaviours are not what a healthy relationship should look like. When you do decide to leave, make sure that you plan it safely with the support of someone you can trust.
About this story
While some names may have been changed, this story is true and was shared with consent for the purpose of raising awareness about the experience of family violence. Please do not republish or adapt this story without written permission. Contact us.
Telling your own story
Sharing your story of family violence and your journey to recovery can be powerful. It can raise awareness, challenge stereotypes and inspire others. There are many ways you can tell your story. This might include writing it down, expressing it through art, or sharing with a trusted person or support service.