When I was 16 years old, my boyfriend bashed me almost to death. He beat me so badly I suffered a severe brain injury and was in a coma for four months. That evening when he bashed me he repeatedly stomped on and kicked my head.
While lying in my hospital bed my family and nursing staff could see the imprint of his shoe in my very swollen face. 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 14 years old when I began my relationship with my moody, abusive, violent boyfriend – he was four years older than me and was controlling and possessive. I was a young stupid 14-year-old girl who thought she was in love. I thought everything was great at first ‘til he started the abuse. I thought it was my fault, so I made up excuses for his actions, but no-one deserves to be treated the way he treated me. I think I really thought he loved me.
Before my abusive relationship many people describe me as a very fit and healthy beautiful young girl in control of my own life, very athletic, a very strong netballer and a quick swimmer. I was pretty smart although I couldn’t see that staying in the relationship could put me in a wheel chair with a brain injury. I thought I was just living life to the fullest – not to know that really I lived it almost to the end.
Seeking Help to End the Relationship
Before the last attack my parents tried to get help from the police but the police explained their assistance required me charging my boyfriend with assault. The only other way was to have him charged with having sex with a minor but I wouldn’t cooperate. I didn’t want him to get into trouble with the police. He had already been in contact with the criminal justice system over the assault of another person. He had been to court and ordered to attend anger management classes. I didn’t want him to get into any more trouble.
My parents also made contact with a local youth outreach program who recommended a couple of things, one was to have a look at the DVRCV When Love Hurts website (www.dvrcv.org.au/whenlove) which they found most helpful. That’s what my boyfriend used to tell me when he was in the right mood – that he loved me and that I was the only important person in his life.
After the assault
Nine months after the assault, at age 17, I found myself living in a nursing home for years.
My ex-boyfriend was charged with assault and on us appealing his sentence, received a 10 year gaol sentence with a minimum of 7 ½ years.
What has helped me
Despite the horrific injuries he inflicted on me, and all the medical team’s belief that I wouldn’t be able to improve any further, with a bit of 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 by any means.
A disability like mine, acquired as a result of domestic violence, is not covered by insurance. Victims of Crime provides some financial support however this falls very short of the personal injury compensation awarded to car accident victims. 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 I would say to others?
Do not live your life in fear because it will consume if not kill you. The biggest thing about my relationship with my boyfriend was I wasn’t a woman with any knowledge or wisdom. I was a child. People – young and old – should be aware, in control, and comfortable with their own lives and relationships, and not be afraid to get out of a relationship where you don’t feel comfortable.
Girls really need to open their eyes, accept information, and direction from all who love, respect and care for them. When you are in a relationship, no matter what your partner says, always remember you are number one. Without respect in a relationship it just won’t ever work happily for you both.
Through sheer determination and willpower I’m where I am today, gradually reclaiming my life. Though I was only 16 when I was bashed, I now hope to keep others away from violent and controlling relationships. So you all need to begin to enjoy your lives. Stop taking it for granted. Be sure that you’re the one in control of your life.
Excerpted from Getting Free From Abuse: A Guide for Women with Disabilities.