TERRIFIED: 'He said he would find me and finish off the job'
WHEN a Warwick woman found out the man who broke bones in her body and threatened to torture her mother had been released from jail, she cried for three days.
More than a year after escaping the violent relationship that almost killed her, Katie (not her real name) has revealed the horror she lived through in the hope it will help others see the "red flags" she missed.
"I didn't actually think it was domestic violence, I was accustomed to it," she said.
At the height of the abuse, Katie had not slept for three days straight, was being watched constantly by her partner on CCTV and suffered broken ribs from regular physical assaults.
But instead of telling her friends and family, Katie hid the bruises and made up lies to cover the signs of trauma.
"I tried breaking up with him but it made the whole situation worse," she said.
"He wouldn't let me leave.
"I had to pay to fix my car multiple times when he smashed the windows to stop me from leaving."
As her partner became more possessive, Katie found herself isolated from the people she loved and trusted, including her mother who was her "best friend".
"He told me he would torture my family and make me watch, and would describe it to me in detail," she said.
"It still makes me want to spew thinking about it."
Since escaping the relationship and moving towns for her safety, Katie has given talks to police recruits, other DV survivors and become an advocate for multiple organisations such as White Ribbon, DV Connect and Beyond DV.
But finding out that her former partner has been released from jail on parole means she still lives in a constant state of fear.
"He said he would find me and finish the job," she said.
"My anxiety is through the roof and even the smallest thing can set me off like someone yelling or the sound of sirens."
Despite her ongoing trauma, Katie said speaking up about domestic violence was invaluable.
"A lot of people still don't know about the support networks out there and how much they can help in the moment when you're going through it," she said.
Katie's story comes as Warwick joins a 16-day campaign against gender-based violence with residents encouraged to take positive steps to help end violence against women and girls each day.
"Violence against women and girls happens in every community, in every country around the world and it happens on the Southern Downs," Southern Downs deputy major Jo McNally said.
"There is many ways the community can get involved," Cr McNally said.
"Speak up and share your story if you've been a victim of violence or speak out against it."
Having suffered 20 years of emotional, mental and financial abuse that left her with complex PTSD, Warwick woman Andrea (not her real name) said it was important to break the myth that gender-based violence was purely physical.
"There are no physical marks you can take to the police to say this is happening to me, but the affects are just as bad," she said.
Trapped with a husband who would follow her around the house, insult her, undermine her confidence and control her money, Andrea said if she hadn't been able to escape the relationship, she might have ended her own life.
"You need to seek professional help," she said.
"Sometimes the (perpetrator) can isolate you from your family, he turned all my friends and family against me. You need someone you can trust."
DVAC Toowoomba service manager Kathleen Turley said her organisation provides counselling and legal support for women in the Southern Downs with domestic violence and sexual assault-related issues.
Ms Turley said a professional counsellor would make weekly visits to the Southern Downs to assist women.
"In all communities violence against women is never ok, never justified and should not be tolerated," she said.
"If there are people who read this who are experiencing domestic violence of any kind we would be encouraging them to seek support.
"We would also be encouraging men who are using violence to identify they are doing that and seek support around their behaviour as well."
If you or someone you know needs support with domestic or gender-based violence get immediate help from DV Connect at 1800811811 or 1800 RESPECT (1800737732). You can contact DVAC Toowoomba on 0746421354 during business hours.