I met him when I was 16 years old and I was living in Hong Kong. We didn’t start a relationship straight away, because he just came to Hong Kong for a visit. He was seven years older than me. I thought: ‘he is handsome, he is tall, he is very attractive’. He was from Australia, which was somewhere unknown to me, so that was fascinating. We started off just writing letters or communicating to each other by phone call.
Then my parents sent me to Australia to study when I was 21. He asked me out. And after a few years of communicating with him I thought that I knew him, but actually I didn’t. When you are not living with the person, you don’t really know. I hadn’t have any experience of a serious relationship.
In the early days things were quite good. We did the usual things, like going out, catching a movie, going to the beach. Because I was new here, he showed me around and gave me lots of little gifts and flowers.
There were lots of early tell tale signs actually. One time we were supposed to meet. For some reason he thought that we were going to meet somewhere else. So I waited and waited and eventually I walked away. I just so happened to walk into the street where he was waiting. He got really, really upset and basically grabbed my school bag, chucked it down on the ground and was yelling ‘you’re so stupid, where were you, I was waiting for you for so long!’ I was so scared that I just didn’t know what to do. He just thought that he was right and I was wrong. He explained his reaction by saying ‘I love you so much, I worry about you so much, you are a stranger here in this city, if anything happened to you I would not forgive myself’.
… One day while I was staying with him, he came home and said suddenly for no reason said I was making a mess in his room. He picked up some object and threw it at me. It cut my knee and I actually had to go into the Emergency Department. I gave an excuse that I fell off my bike and hurt my knee. The excuse he gave me for his anger was that he’s overseas working and he’s not adjusting and me coming to see him was causing emotional upheaval. So he apologised. He actually took me for a holiday because he said that he was so under stress that he needed a break. Then I went back to Hong Kong.
After a few months he called me and declared he loved me so much that he couldn’t live without me, and would I marry him. So that’s how I got married quite young.
He took everything out on us…
I fell for his promises that he would change, and I thought I could rescue him. We had our good times. I hoped he will change if I loved him enough and show him my compassion. I believed that he had some mental issue, like he was depressed or stressed, and he needed me to be there for him. He said he would commit suicide if I ever left.
What I’ve I found, is that we tend to want to glorify things and look at the good side – we try to block all the bad things. It’s easier not to think about the hardship, the pain, being hurt. You get so comfortable with this person and outside is such an unknown. And living away from home, I didn’t have that support network where I could go back and talk to my siblings, my parents, my best friends about things. I couldn’t say ‘this is what happened, do you think this is normal?’ I pretended everything was lovey-dovey and fantastic .
… The more I stayed with him the more it destroyed my self esteem. I convinced myself that I was useless, I was dumb, I was a bitch, whatever he had been calling me. With that sort of brainwashing I became very dependent on him, thinking that there’s no way I would survive without him. I thought that only he would take me because I am such a horrible person.
… He took everything out on us. Sometimes it could be that he had been told off at work or he had done something stupid in front of his mates. The tension was building up and he wanted to get that sense of being in control, having power. Then he would come home and just snap. It could be an simple thing like me asking him, ‘Would you like a cup of coffee?’ Anything could trigger an abusive episode, but he would have an excuse, like ‘What do you think stupid, of course I want a cup of coffee,’ and then I’d just cop it.
Your life is in danger
I’d just given birth to our baby. I was tired, and he thought I was not so good in the bedroom any more, and he just didn’t love me. He came home one night and I was asleep. Suddenly he just jumped up and said ‘I am going to kill you. I don’t want to divorce you because I don’t want to give you all my money’. He tried to strangle me. It just so happened that at the time my brother was staying with us and he heard the screaming and he just dashed into the room. He witnessed what he was doing. I had already passed out. I couldn’t remember my brother coming in or the lights coming on or whatever, I was shivering. I was so lucky my brother was there.
I didn’t call the police because I was thinking ‘what would they do?’ and they will probably say ‘you guys just had an argument’ or whatever . Plus I was worried that if he was charged it would ruin his career. He had told me he wanted to get rid of me because I’d ruined his personal life, and I thought if I ruined his career as well he would try to kill me. So instead, I called the local community centre the next day. I was going ask to see a marriage counsellor, but they said ‘You don’t need a marriage counsellor, you need to come in. Your life is in danger and so are your kids’. So that is when I realised, because a professional person was telling me my life is in danger. So I left with a suitcase. I was so frightened I kept looking over my shoulder, worried that he would come back from work.
It was the first time I got professional help…
The community centre organised me to stay in a refuge with the kids. The refuge had a secret address, so my friends didn’t know where I was. He contacted my friends and people that I knew and threatened them if they didn’t say where I was. He also impersonated a police officer and demanded to know where we were.