‘Could have been me’: DV victim shares abuse horror
“DO you like your face?” James* asked Jess’s* seven-year-old daughter as he held a jug of boiling water over her head before he punched Jess in the face while her children sat on her lap.
That was moment the Gladstone woman knew she had to get out, her children had become targets of domestic and family violence.
Jess is sharing her story after Rockhampton woman Karen Gilliland was killed last Tuesday, allegedly by her estranged husband, in hopes of showing victims of domestic violence there is a way out.
“That could have been me,” Jess said.
So far this year in Australia 33 women, 17 children and 75 men have lost their lives to murder and manslaughter, at least 41 alleged to be due to domestic violence.
Jess met James at an education centre her daughter was attending in 2014. Outside he was a kind person, great with kids and a good friend.
But behind closed doors it was a different story.
“Every day I was told I was worthless and useless and not a good mum, I didn’t do anything right,” Jess said.
“He would pick on everything I wore and put me down.
“I got slapped across the face for backchatting … I didn’t cook the right dinner.
“It was to the point I was too nervous to do stuff and he would be looking over my shoulder all the time.”
While pregnant with his twins, James would stress Jess out to the point it induced an early labour.
Although she feared for herself, the fear of what could happen to her four children was what kept her in the relationship.
“You think ‘what is he going to be like when I’m not there?’” Jess said.
“The kids are going to get hurt, there are threats of taking the kids – I know that keeps many people there.”
Once the children became the target enough was enough and Jess called the police.
James was charged with assault, sentenced in court and a domestic violence order was put out.
James has breached the order a number of times landing himself back in court as recently as last month, however Jess said it could be frustrating trying to prove the breaches.
“He’s turned up to my house and I called the cops, they said ‘did you take a photo?’ and without it said ‘there’s nothing we can do’,” Jess said.
However in the year and a half since Jess and her family have been away from James their lives have changed dramatically and for the better.
“We are all so much happier, there’s no tension at home,” she said.
“There’s not ‘what am I going to do wrong today?’
“That’s what it was like for the kids too, my eldest son had terrible anxiety and now it’s completely under control.
“The kids have gone leaps and bounds, I’m dealing with anxiety from it but that’s a small price to pay and it can only get better.”
Her advice to other people in domestic violence situations, especially with children: “get out.”
“The kids who are exposed to it they think it’s normal,” she said.
“Break the cycle.”
Anyone seeking help in a domestic violence situation should contact:
1800-Respect: 1800 737 732
Gladstone Women’s Health: 1800 749 222
DV Connect Womensline: 1800 811 811
DV Connect Mensline: 1800 600 636
Policelink 131 444 or 000 in an emergency.
- Names have been changed to protect the identity of the victims.