Millie* said she never thought she would end up in a violent relationship, but a lifelong friendship which turned into something more, deteriorated almost instantly.
“From start to end, the relationship was not even six months, but the verbal abuse and control was there from the start,” Millie said.
“Before it happened, I couldn’t understand women who stayed in abusive relationships, but it happened to me and it wasn’t until then, that I got it - women become petrified and trapped.
“You see it on the news or on 60 Minutes, but you never, ever, think it will happen to you, or someone you know.”
Millie’s story does have the beginnings of a positive ending, as she was able to seek help with the strong support of her family.
“People aren’t aware of the services out there to help, because like me, you don’t want to know about them until you have to,” Millie said.
“When it happened, I found it really hard to accept help because I thought I didn’t deserve help or that there would be women in worse situations than me.
“In violent situations men have so much control, and in my situation I didn’t know who to ask for help, and he had control of my phone, email and all my social media accounts.
“I could see and recognise the abuse while it was happening but when an incident was over I’d second guess myself and question what I did wrong.”
Millie said the thing that was most striking was many of the men in her life couldn’t see it happening, but when it became public a number of women came up to her and said they were too scared to say anything.
“Family and domestic violence is becoming so common, and I think more violent, and it needs to stop.” Millie said.
I could see and recognise the abuse while it was happening but when an incident was over i’d second guess myself and question what I did wrongMillie
Ahlia Westaway-Griffiths, program and community education officer for the Domestic and Family Violence Specialist Service, said support services in the Hastings can help women in a range of different areas from safety and immediate emergency housing, to counselling, financial services; whatever a woman needs to get away.
“We take a holistic approach. Our top priority is safety but beyond that, each case is different and we work with women to get them all the services they need,” Ms Westaway-Griffiths said.
Millie said in one moment, everything in her life changed.
“But these days there are little bits of light in the darkness and that is thanks to Liberty Cottage,” she said.
Family and domestic violence results in the death of more than one women every week, with one in four children in Australia exposed to domestic violence each year.
One in five women over 18 have been stalked in their lifetime, and one in five women experience harassment within the workplace.
Millie said the fear that someone won’t believe your story if you do seek help is real.
“The potential the person you ask for help doesn’t believe you or will laugh at you, really does stop victims seeking that initial help. I think the Coastal Walk is a valuable way for those in a violent situation to know people in the community want to help and to listen,” Millie said.
The 2017 White Ribbon Coastal Walk is on Sunday, November 26 with walkers raising awareness for White Ribbon Day – the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
The free community event consists of a coastal walk from either Lighthouse Beach starting at 8am, 9am from Flynns Beach or 10am from Town Beach Kiosk to conclude at Town Green in Port Macquarie.
Registration forms are essential and can found at Liberty Cottage, 155 Gordon Street or at SNAP, 110 William Street or online here with applications closing on November 24.
* Name changed to protect individuals.