FORCED to kneel on the verandah by her machete-wielding partner, Samantha*’s heart was pounding.
“He was ready to decapitate me,” she said.
“I kept thinking ‘Just get out and survive’. His sister started to call the police and he turned around to say ‘What are you doing?’
“I ran as fast as I could – and felt like spewing the whole way – to where my baby was, grabbed them and ran through the bush.”
The attack came at the end of a violent five year relationship, through which Samantha said she felt numb.
“I hated living like that, but after all I went through with my other abusive relationship, I felt I did not deserve anything,” she said.
“My self esteem was so low.
“Then I had my miracle [third] baby. If I did not get pregnant I would still be there - I knew that baby deserved more than that.”
Samantha spoke to the Newcastle Herald from a refuge, where she has been living with her newborn fourth child.
“I’m educated and all I ever wanted was a stable and healthy relationship,” she said.“The last thing I ever expected was to be here, with three kids removed.”
Samantha was abused by her parents and saw her father be violent towards her mother. She was then placed into out of home care, where the abuse continued.
She was 17 when she started dating an older man who had seen his own father abuse his mother and had a “really bad attitude”.
“It started with verbal abuse as a warm up to pushes and slaps,” she said.
“I thought every man was supposed to be like that. I did not have a family to go to – he was the only one I had.”
She thought once she had the first of their two children, the violence would subside.
“But he did not hold the baby or show any attachment to the baby – it just got worse.
“He thought being a woman was about being chained to the kitchen sink. It was like ownership, it wasn’t normal.
“He’d sharpen knives in front of me to torment me.”
Samantha tried to move away.
“But he had control of me – I had no money and when I got a job it brought even more tension into our relationship.”
She told him one night she was going to leave him, but he didn’t believe it.
The next day when she went home with a colleague to collect her belongings, he arrived too.
“When I was inside he pushed me back, locked the door and I was stuck,” she said.
“He broke a statue and stabbed me in the guts, then kicked me in the ribs with his steel capped boots.”
His parents claimed she was mentally unstable and FACS gave them care over one of her children, but she said keeping the siblings apart was too traumatising.
Samantha’s next partner was also an older man, who had watched her grow up.
“He hunted me down and pursued me,” she said.
When short on money one week, she agreed to stay at his house until payday.
“When I tried to leave he pulled my hair from behind me and said ‘Where do you think you’re going?’
“I was hitting him back and trying to fight him off but he dragged me into a room and flogged me.
“His whole family sat there and let him do it.
“They were later physical with me too.
“I went into my shell then. I shut down, I went numb.
“I didn’t understand why I did not have the balls to get up and go, but I felt I had nothing and nowhere to go.”
Samantha was five months pregnant with their first child - her third - when she tried to leave.
“It took me until then to get my strength up,” she said.
“Just after I had the baby he put a rifle in my mouth and said ‘Why should I not pull the trigger right now?
“His family would use the child as leeway and lock them in other rooms while he was away so I did not leave.
“But I was adamant my baby was not going to grow up on that mission.”
The night they escaped, he had smashed her face onto a bench in front of 15 family members.
As she got up to run away, he stabbed her in the neck and followed her to the verandah.
After she collected the baby from a nearby house she ran through the bush to a petrol station and asked staff to call the police.
The man went to jail after being charged with an unrelated crime a few days later.
Samantha was setting up for the child’s first birthday when FACS arrived.
She had failed a drug test.
Samantha shared her grief with her next partner, who she said was the first she truly loved.
“For the first six to eight months everything was great, he was the first person I opened up to and I told him things I’d never told anyone,” she said.
“He always said ‘I’d never do that to you’. I saw so much good in him that I didn’t want to see the bad.”
Samantha said things soured when she started to find out about parts of his life he wanted to keep secret.
“It started with little comments, but I never thought he would raise a hand to me.
“If I didn’t do what he wanted me to do he’d smack me upside on the head.
“He’d say ‘Do you see why I did that now?’
She walked to the police station and reported him the day he dragged her out of the house and stomped on her head and neck.
The next day, she found out she was seven weeks pregnant.
“I did not feel good because I was always told ‘You're a dog if you dob’, but it had to be done,” she said.
“Enough was enough – there’s only so much one person can take.”
Samantha said she has refused to let the violence break her. She is now rebuilding her life.
“Women need to know they don’t need to stay, it’s not healthy and it’s unfair on your children,” she said.
“Even if they don’t see anything, they hear the way you talk to each other and can feel the tension.”
Samantha said she previously did not feel comfortable asking for assistance.
“But know that when you ask for help it will not get thrown back in your face.
“You are strong enough and you will not be judged on your past.
“Give yourself time to recover.
“It’s not going to happen overnight because it does not work like that. It’s day by day.
“But there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732. Lifeline: 13 11 14. Relationships Australia: 1300 364 277. Kids Help Line: 1800 551 800.