Donna’s story

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Donna came to Australia at 21 and developed an intimate relationship with someone she thought she knew. The longer she stayed with him, the harder it was to leave. On leaving the relationship, Donna slowly regained her confidence, undertook study at university and gained secure work.

I learnt a lot of lessons the hardest possible way. If I had a friend who was going through a similar situation, this is what I would tell her.

I met him when I was 16 years old and I was living in Hong Kong. He was older than me and lived in Australia. We began very slowly, just writing letters and talking to one another by phone. I came to Australia to study when I was 21 years old. That’s when he asked me out. Because we had been communicating for years I thought I knew him but I didn’t.  

Early on in our relationship things were good. We did the usual things, like catching a movie, and going to the beach. Because I was new to Australia, he showed me around and gave me lots of little gifts and flowers.

But, looking back, there were lots of early tell-tale signs. Once he got really upset and screamed at me for misunderstanding where we were to meet. His outburst scared me so much but he explained his reaction by telling me “I love you so much, I worry about you so much. You’re a stranger here and if anything happened to you I would not forgive myself.”

Another time he threw an object at me. It cut my knee and I had to go to the emergency department. I told them that I’d fallen off my bike. He made another excuse, telling me that he was stressed because of his work and apologised. I ended up returning to my family in Hong Kong. Then, after some time, he called me and declared he loved me so much that he couldn’t live without me, and would I marry him.

I believed his promises and thought he would change. But, after we married, his behaviour got worse. He would come home from work and just snap. He said he would commit suicide if I ever left. The more I stayed with him the more it destroyed my self-esteem. I felt brainwashed by him, convincing myself that I was useless and wouldn’t survive without him. I was very dependent on him and didn’t have any real support because I was living away from my family in a new country. 


How my situation changed

I’d just given birth to our baby. He told me I was of no use sexually and that he didn’t love me. Then he came home one night and tried to strangle me as I was sleeping. My brother was staying with me at the time and heard my screaming. He saved my life. 

I didn’t call the police because I wasn’t sure if they’d take me seriously. Instead, I called the local community centre the next day to ask to see a marriage counsellor, but they told me “You don’t need a counsellor, you need to come in. Your life is in danger.”

It was the first time I got professional help. The community centre organised for me to stay in a refuge with the kids. No one knew where I was. He contacted my friends and people that I knew demanding to know where we were safe because no one knew where the refuge was.


Regaining my sense of self

Once I left the relationship, I slowly found myself again. I realised how capable I am. I went back to university and then got a stable job.

I recently met someone new. It took a long time. I didn’t trust that someone could be kind and loving to me and my children. I also wasn’t sure that I trusted my own judgement. But my new partner is great. He treats me with respect and as an equal, and I feel safe. 


What the experience taught me 

I learnt a lot of lessons the hardest possible way. If I had a friend who was going through a similar situation, this is what I would tell her.

Talk to someone you trust and feel safe with.  

Try to have some time apart from your partner. Think back to before you met him, and see how your life has changed since then. Has it changed for the better?

Write down or document what is happening to you and how it made you feel. It can be too easy to block out the abuse and just remember when he’s being nice to you.

Understand that there are many forms of abuse – physical, emotional, financial, sexual. All of them will hurt you in some way.

Don’t ignore his bad behaviour. If he really loves you he will not treat you like that.

Find professional help. It can literally save your life.

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.


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