How I escaped domestic abuse and built a new life for my child and I

Read how one brave woman escaped an abusive relationship with her daughter – and built a happier new life for them both.

One topic that’s very close to our hearts is domestic abuse. We’ve experienced (and escaped it) it ourselves, and seen too many friends live through it.

There’s a misconception that only weak or vulnerable women (and men) find themselves, and remain in, in abusive relationships. But that’s not the case. It can happen to anyone.

Trethowans

There IS life beyond abuse

That’s why we believe it’s so important to educate people about what domestic abuse IS, and what to do if you suspect your relationship is abusive. We also think it’s important to reassure people that you CAN get away from an abusive relationship, and thrive. (As we have.)

So we are very happy to share the story of Amanda Ray – a brave woman who, with her child escaped an abusive relationship, and built a new, happier life for them both. Here it is.

My survivor instincts took over

When I believe in something, I fight like hell for it! – Steve McQueen

When I was asked to write an article on how I coped with domestic violence, my first thought was, ‘I don’t know, I just did’. My survivor and fighting instincts took over and I just got on with it.

In some ways I believe I was luckier than most, as I had my parents to support to me. When I drove into their driveway in Brisbane all I had was my car, handbag and the clothes on my back. My daughter was on a plane from Adelaide to Brisbane, with a suitcase of her valuables.  All of our worldly possessions were thousands of miles away in our home city, Adelaide.

So there we were, strangers to Brisbane with no clothes, no money, no job and homeless. As I said, I was lucky, my parents lived in Brisbane and they took us in.

I wrote a list of priorities

My parents told me to focus on priorities, so I wrote a list in order of what needed to be done. First thing, I needed to do was settle my daughter and give her a stable home life.

I enrolled her into the local high school; she was confused and upset as she had left all her childhood friends behind, her dad and his family. It was a difficult time for her and she withdrew within herself.

I spoke to the school principal and informed him of our situation, and the school arranged a buddy to help her adjust. Then I organised counselling for her.

My aim and goal at that time was focused on my daughter. I knew she was at a vulnerable age, where she could go one of two ways. I was determined that she wouldn’t make the same mistakes I did.

I knew that as her parent it was up to me to ensure that she had the best possible upbringing despite the last 10 years of living in a domestic abusive relationship. He never hurt my daughter directly, but she saw the hurt done to me. (This was my first relationship after my marriage broke up, he was not her father, who was and is a good man).

The next things on my priority list were finding a house of our own, getting a job. The last was to get our belongings back from Adelaide. I knew we could sleep on the floor (which I did for three years) and make do with little clothing, as long as we had a place to call our own.

I had horrible flashbacks

At night I would have horrible flashbacks that would linger all day, but I couldn’t let them drag me down. I had a daughter that needed me to be strong and provide for her. So I stuffed the feelings down and got on with the task of getting a home and job.

Within one month I had a job, and for the next two months I saved hard to get the bond for our own place. During this time my parents were a wonderful stabilising factor in my daughter’s life for which I am eternally grateful for, as emotionally I was still a mess.

After three months in our new city, we finally got our own house, little furniture and what we did have was given to us. Even my clothes were hand-me-downs.

My main focus was my daughter

Now it was fully up to me to provide a stable home life for my daughter, stand on my own two feet without my parent’s emotional support.

I was the one responsible for encouraging, supporting and motivating my daughter through the emotional nightmare. Between, working and fighting in the South Australian family courts to have our belongings returned my main focus was still my daughter.

When you feel like you can’t go any further, just know that the strength which carried you this far will take you the rest of the way.

I put my life on hold so I could spend as much time as I could with her to provide a stable home life. Bit by bit she slowly came out of her shell.

I encouraged her to get a part time job to teach her the value of working and saving. I didn’t want her to depend on anyone for money, or rely on government payments; I was determined that she would be an independent young lady who was capable of working and providing for herself.

As an only child, I enrolled her in sport lessons, to teach her about mateship and working in a team, and after trying several different sports she settled on running. I got a tutor to help with subjects that she was failing in and used a reward system for every small success she achieved.

Once I paid for all these things, there wasn’t much left over for luxuries but we were happy. We had money to pay for bills and put food on the table. What more did we need?

Every opportunity I got, I told my daughter that she was loved, that she could be anything she wanted to be in life AND not to let anyone stop her from reaching her goals.

How did I do it?

I believe in fake it till you believe it. It wasn’t easy for either of us, we made mistakes along the way but it was our unconditional love for each other that got us through.

So, in answer to the question, ‘How did I do it?’: I put my daughter’s emotional wellbeing first, and I put all my energy and strength into guiding her along the right path.

In doing this I had something other than myself to fight for and at the same time, I knew that she was depending on me as her parent, for support, protection and love. I had to dig deep within me to find the strength to continue. I had no time to feel sorry for myself – that would come later when I was alone at night.

At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents – Jane D. Hull

Believe in something

The one thing I would advise others going through a similarly tough experience, is to believe in something whether it be God, Buddha, the universe or your children.

It doesn’t matter, as long as you believe in something other than yourself. Your belief will give you the faith and strength you need to continue.

Research has proven over the years that caring for a pet can also get you outside of yourself and give you a sense of being needed – both powerful antidotes to depression. My focus was my daughter and in the same sense, this gave me purpose to focus on someone outside myself.

Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle – Christian D Larson

Are you in an abusive relationship?

If you’re worried about yourself or someone else, please read these articles:

Postscript – My daughter is now 30 years old and a paramedic, and is living her life to the fullest. She still enjoys running and does marathons for charity.