Woman, kids abused but too afraid to walk out
EVERY morning for four years Mary* woke up to a 3am alarm.
It was an alarm set by the man she was living with at the time.
Every morning he raped her while her children slept.
While he was on top of her he would yell at her to stop crying - and he covered her face with a porn magazine.
She lived with this man not because she loved him, but because she was too afraid to leave.
Mary, who now lives in Gladstone, said she was aware other people had often phoned the police to report the abuse, but she had only ever called them herself once, and that was shortly before she plucked up the courage to leave for good.
When her son was eight, she noticed he was walking with a limp.
"There were bruises all over his upper thighs and groin area."
The man had made Mary's son bend over, and he had kicked him repeatedly.
But still, Mary was too afraid to leave.
It wasn't until the man almost drowned her that she realised it was only a matter of time before he killed her, leaving her children at his mercy.
"This time he came in through the window and pushed my head down into the water between my legs," she said.
"I thought I was going to die, but for some reason he let me go. "I left for my children.
"He slapped my daughter when she was only three and even though I defended my son, I couldn't start a fight.
"I was afraid - afraid of what would happen if I did try to leave. But I had to leave because I was going to kill him for hurting my kids, or be killed by him.
"I left three weeks later."
From the moment Mary met the man he didn't work a single day.
They were living in Sydney and she was working at a service station 40 hours a week.
They met at a barbecue Mary held at her house. The man had been invited by a friend. She was 24 at the time.
That night they slept together and she fell pregnant.
He never left her house again, not even to go home and get clothes.
And so began four years of torture and abuse.
"I was timid, ready to settle down and a little desperate," Mary said.
"I think he picked up on that. I never loved him, but I was too afraid to leave."
She never told her friends and family what was happening to her and her children.
But when after a disagreement at a friend's party she couldn't hide it anymore.
"He headbutted me and broke my nose so badly the bone was protruding.
"It cut his forehead and later that night when I was crying he said 'I don't know why you are crying, look at what you did to my head.'
"He was a monster and I became more isolated."
Being at home was a nightmare, she said. She spent most of her life on the bus, taking her son with her whenever she could.
But every morning she was expected to wake the man with a cup of coffee and his drugs - he was addicted to marijuana.
Six years ago Mary walked away from everything she owned. She had nothing but a bag of clothes for her children and the clothes on her back.
"The only photo I could take was a tiny one on my key ring. I left everything behind.
"I was terrified. I didn't know what was going to happen or what to expect."
Mary said her first phone call was to DV Connect.
That call not only gave her comfort, but confidence that she could start a new life away from him.
"They were great. They just listened and I cried for hours. It was the first time I had cried since I left."
They told her she needed to go into hiding and planned to move her to Rockhampton.
She was moved to Gladstone shortly after arriving there.
Despite everyone's efforts to hide including paying for a silent phone number - three years ago the man found her again.
"The house phone rang one day. It was him and all he said was 'Glad-stone'.
"I packed that day and we moved to a new house."
Mary has never filed charges.
She says the NSW police told her to file for an AVO (what is known as a DVO in Queensland) but "how would that have helped me?"
"He would have been out four hours and later then come straight for me.
"What was I supposed to do, wave a piece of paper in his face and expect that to stop him from killing me?"
Mary is also concerned at the effect the situation has had on her son.
"He is never abusive to his sister, but I hear him sometimes telling her she is doing everything wrong, acting controlling.
"I talk to my son about it, about how he should treat people. We have a good relationship and all I can do is keep talking to him."
She says one of the hardest parts about dealing with what happened to her is feeling as though no one understands the post traumatic stress that comes with being a victim of domestic violence.
"People don't understand how you hate yourself for what you feel you put your children through," she said.
"I have tried to get my story out there, but it seems someone has to die for people to pay attention."
* Name has been changed.