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  • Writer's pictureI'm a Survivor

“One Day at a Time” by Annabelle P

I met my former partner when I was merely 16 years of age. Derek was 3 years older than I and my world was encompassed by him. I finally felt seen by someone and it was electrifying. Within 2 months I fell pregnant, and was terrified about how this would impact my life. However nothing would ever match the terror and horror that was to follow.

Being with him I never knew what to expect. One minute he’d be speaking to me about our hopes and dreams, and asking me what I wanted to do about the baby, the next he’d be throwing me against the wall and bashing my head with his fists.

The first time he hurt me I couldn’t believe what happened. I was totally shocked and shortly after he pinned me against the wall by my throat and walked out, he apologised and promised never to do it again. But in reality this was only the beginning.

Almost every single day I was bashed, raped, humiliated, tortured, blamed and isolated.

Days bled in to each other as I struggle to accurately put each puzzle piece of the past back together. However the larger picture is clear - he made my life hell.

Derek took over every aspect of my life. It started with isolating me from friends and family, taking control of my bank account and card; progressing to controlling my food intake and requiring his permission to shower. He’d let his violent outbursts out on my personal property and smashed my phone, and went on to control my social media accounts, punishing me for any content he didn’t approve of.

Once I was isolated and helpless, the torture continued. He locked me in a garage naked until I agreed to give him oral sex. He raped me often. He held a knife to my ribs and throat, and told me if I ever disobeyed him he would slit them. On many occasions he'd beat my head into the concrete floor until I lost blood and consciousness. He tied me up to a staircase and burnt me with cigarettes and hot lighters for hours.

I was a prisoner in my own home, only allowed out to do the food shop within a given timeframe.

3 years in to the nightmare I was thinking about a way out. Our daughter was 2 years old and I feared so much for her safety that I never let her out of my sight. Matters had become so hopeless that I believed suicide was my only option. I knew I couldn't leave my baby so for months I would try to convince myself I needed to kill her first and then myself so we could both be free. Every time I considered going through with it my mothering instincts kicked in and I realised I could never harm my baby. So I called the only person I knew who would hear my desperation - my Mother.

By this point she hadn’t seen or heard from me in 4 years and I was ashamed. The last few times we saw each other she barely recognised me as I stopped brushing my hair, wearing makeup or making any effort whatsoever. I had completely lost myself.

In July 2012, when he was out drinking with mates, I packed my Mum's car with whatever I could fit in, and we drove 3 hours away to a hotel. I went in to complete hiding, with not a soul aware of where we were. 2 weeks later, I thought the dust had settled and we’d finally be free. How wrong I was.

This is when the psychological terror took over.

Derek would stand outside Maya’s preschool, waiting me for come so he could abuse me. He created fake social media accounts and bought new cell phone numbers to constantly contact and abuse me with. It was exhausting.

I tried to start living a life again, and made some friends but my friendships would be marred by him. He’d stalk me and coerce my new friends into giving him my number to threaten me. Despite being physically away from him I continued to feel trapped and terrorised.

Our daughter Maya was his favourite pawn. He would continuously guilt me about not seeing her and when I finally agreed to bring her to meet him at a park he couldn’t care less about her and would use this as opportunities to spit on me or verbally abuse me.

Eventually the threats became a reality and one day he kidnapped Maya. That was the worst experiences of my life. For two days he would call me constantly, just playing her cries in to the phone and threaten doing unspeakable things to her. After 48 hours I promised to come back to him if he just let her go. We agreed to meet at a park so he could hand Maya to my Mother. I was planning to escape with my Mum and when I pretended to drop Maya off we all made for a quick getaway.

Following this ordeal I went to Court to get full custody of our daughter. This was easily granted to me as he didn’t once even bother showing up for any of the hearings. The next few years he kept lurking in the background, occasionally sending me messages from fake social media accounts, ‘reminding me I was a whore’ and other abuse. He was sure to tie this invisible noose around my neck which he could tighten at any time to shock me. I was never to feel free.

6 years after I first decided to escape, he messaged me out of the blue asking for forgiveness. He said he knew he had behaved poorly and knew he had to change. I told him my life was great and that I’d met someone else and quite frankly couldn’t care less about what he needed or felt. A month later a Detective contacted me and explained that he had been jailed on fraud charges, and while investigating his criminal life they were given my details by another one of his victims. The Police suspected abuse and wanted to build a case around it as he had abused several women.

In December 2018 Derek was officially charged, and the media picked up the story and suddenly my private life became a news story. It was very damaging to my mental health to see all my private details spilled all over the news and social media, with people being able to have access to such detail about me. A few months later I had to face him in Court for our first hearing. The moment he walked out in to the box and took one look at me and I had a full blown panic attack, screaming at my friends that I couldn’t do this.

He looked so different after all these years. He was wearing his green jail jumpsuit, and had grown a beard. But most of all he looked sickly and pale. In that moment i was so overrun with guilt that I asked to withdraw all the charges I had pressed. The Police denied my request as the crimes had definitely happened.

I ended up reading my 3 page Victim Impact Statement (VIS) straight to his face. I was sick to my stomach doing so. What I really wanted to do is fabricate some lies so he wouldn’t get in to trouble. Unless you've experienced a trauma bond first hand this will make no sense to you.

In the weeks following the court case my relationship with my fiancé suffered dramatically. The trauma bonding had gotten ahold of me again, and I struggled to cope. Every day I cried, wanting to go to the prison and visit him, obsessing about wanting to make sure he was okay.

In court they told he had been bashed in remand and needed stitches to his head. No one understood my guilt, or constant need to want to visit and console him. My fiancé felt pushed to the side and unloved. My 3 children suffered as their mother became a shadow of herself, depressed and unable to cope with what was happening. I was in the depth of my addictive trauma bond. I shut down for weeks, stopped talking to family and friends, becoming a social recluse.

After the darkest point, I decided to work on myself with the support of a therapist. It was a slow process which brought me back to myself and my family.

Derek was sentenced on October 12th 2020. There was a group of us, his victims, who decided to attend the sentencing via videolink.

It took 2 hours for a Judge to read out why he chose to sentence Derek this way. The Judge started with my charges and went into very explicit detail about my case.

The Judge’s words unravelled me, and I was reduced to tears during the sentencing. As the tears were streaming down my face, the Judge said to me:

"The one thing I can offer you today, if not justice, is the court’s blessing, to move on, to live your life, to raise tour children without fear. And thank your for your extremely emotional and well put victim impact statement”.

He followed this by reading each charge and for the abuse against me he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

When combined with the other girls involved he was sentenced to 20 years jail time with a non-parole period of 15 years 3 months. He is not eligible for parole until 2035.

My daughter Maya, to whom he only ever made a biological contribution, is now 10 years old. By the time her Father leaves prison she’ll be well and truly grown up so I no longer have to fear for her being kidnapped again.But again the emotions were bittersweet. There was still guilt and sadness, mixed in with the joy.

So I am taking it one day at a time.

And if this experience has taught me anything then it is this:

I'm now almost 28 years old and have 3 children. I have a fiancé and we’re looking to get married in 2021. I have a life full of friends, family and support. I have freedom. And above all I am safe.

You too can leave and create a life for yourself. One that you dreamed of. It might be scary and hard at times but you can do it. And I am hoping my story will inspire you ❤

To read find out more about trauma bonding please click here.

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