WHENEVER Natasha* used to hear about domestic violence, she’d respond in a way she now describes as naive. “I’d think ‘Why are girls so stupid, why doesn’t she just leave?’” Natasha said.
“I’d say ‘Why would you be with someone like that?”
Raised in a close family in a wealthy area and a student at a private school, she could never have imagined she’d soon fall into a relationship with a man who would introduce her to ice, drug her and leave her with his cronies in exchange for more substances, as well as regularly threaten to kill her.
A chance call from a cousin led to her escaping with a box of documentation but without any other belongings, which her former partner had incinerated.
“The whole time I was going through it I was thinking ‘This isn’t real, this is the kind of stuff that happens in the movies’.”
Natasha met her former partner soon after he moved to her hometown.
Kimmy’s* story: “He was slowly breaking me, but he never broke me fully. I’m out and I’m going to make it.” (June 14, 2018)
“I had a gut feeling it was not the right thing, but because he was so persistent I let my guard down and we started hanging out more,” she said.
“We talked a lot and he found out things I liked and the person I wanted to be with and he started playing that role. He was saying the right things and doing the right things.”
She soon found out he had cheated on her with a woman who told Natasha the man was a drug user.
“He said he’d moved because he was getting off ice, but said ‘I have not touched it since, I hope you don’t judge me for that’,” she said.
“I told him if he didn’t want to be clean it was over.
“He then told me he’d tried it again and wanted to stop, but he needed my help.
“He told me I should try it once because then I will know what he is going through.”
Natasha relented. He locked her in a room when she started coming down.
She told him she never wanted to see ice again, but he nagged her and they soon started using together.
“I was so naive, I could be pressured into anything so easily back then,” she said.
“He had a way with words and was able to talk me into anything, he had me wrapped around his finger.
“He built up my trust and I was mesmerised. It happened so gradually I didn’t realise I was so deep in it.”
Natasha was working full time, but found a way to use multiple times a day.
As she became more addicted, he became more abusive.
Samantha’s* story: “He thought being a woman was about being chained to the kitchen sink. It was like ownership, it wasn’t normal.” (June 17, 2018)
“He would be angry all the time,” she said.
“He started holding knives to my throat, choking me, hitting me, tell me I had demons in me.
“I was not allowed to have my own opinion.
“He’d drop me off on the side of the road in the country for a few hours as punishment.
“I was so scared and petrified but would be so grateful when he came back to get me.”
Natasha told her friends not to contact her anymore.
The couple stopped socialising because he would get jealous if anyone looked at her.
He soon took control of her phone, social media account and bank account.
“I’d tell him ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’ and he’d say sorry and fake cry, or make out like I was in the wrong and it was all my fault,” she said.
“If you hear something long enough you start to believe it.
“I felt I could not go to the police because I was using drugs too.
“I did not have friends, I did not have money. I felt there was no other option.”
They started frequenting and then living in a drug house with three other men.
The men would offer Natasha drugs for free, but she was adamant she did not want to owe them anything.
“When we did not have money to buy more he said I had to borrow money from friends, or he’d sell me to them [the other men],” she said.
“One day they even told me ‘You know he’ll sell you to us for drugs’.”
Natasha said she would lose track of time in between blackouts and sleepless nights, but remembered waking up unable to move and having a pipe forced into her mouth.
At other times the men would make her drinks “with ice cubes that are special, just for you”, or give her pipes with different coloured liquid to theirs.
She believes they sexually assaulted her.
“One day I was in the shower and noticed handprints all over my body, my legs and arms,” she said.
“Sometimes I would wake up with no pants on. I later found photos of myself passed out.”
One day the police picked Natasha up, disoriented, barely dressed and with lacerations, on the side of the road.
A sexual assault investigation kit found traces of semen and injuries consistent with assault.
Eventually, the couple lived in their car.
“I thought ‘I don’t want to do this anymore, I just want to die’. I felt it was the only way out,” she said.
“I had a feeling it was coming but I did not care.
“I’d tell him, ‘Go on and hit me’ and say ‘You’re going to kill me’.
“You don’t feel pain as much and if you do, you get high again and it goes away.”
Natasha woke up one day with swollen eyes and convinced the man to take her to the doctor and stop along the way to buy sunglasses from a chemist.
“When I was inside my cousin called me and said ‘I want to see you again and I don’t want it to be at your funeral’.”
Her sister-in-law was waiting at the doctor’s office.
Together they drove eight hours to a rural property, where for two weeks she slept and ate and had to be showered and dressed.
“I would have horrific nightmares and wake up screaming and crying,” she said.
“I’d have dreams I was back there. I’d be paranoid and barricade all the doors in the house.
“I slept with a knife next to me. I felt weak and stupid and was disgusted in myself for a long time.”
Natasha has since moved and started studying. She has found new friends, a job and hobbies.
“You’re not going to hurt for the rest of your life. It’s something that happened to me, but it’s not me.”
She’s called her alma mater, asking it to do more.
“I wish in high school they let young kids know about the signs, what a negative relationship is and about boundaries,” she said.
“I had no idea about what to do or where to turn.
“For women, be aware, play it safe and be on the lookout for your friends.
“If you have a feeling something isn’t right, ask them if everything is okay.
“I was putting on a front saying ‘He’s so amazing’, putting up this false image so that no-one could see through it.”
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