SUSIE* considers herself one of the lucky ones.
Because she survived domestic violence.
Left broken, bruised and bloodied at the hands of her husband of 26 years, Susie managed to escape — fleeing to Echuca to start a new life with her young daughter.
‘‘My daughter and I are safe now and Echuca has allowed us to heal,’’ she said.
‘‘Not knowing anyone allowed me to meet people and not be ashamed of what happened to us and not having to recount the horror we’ve been through.’’
An 11-year horror story that left Susie with a torn hamstring, fractured arm, constant bruising and a complete lack of self worth due to the ongoing mental abuse.
That was the hardest part she says.
‘‘First he would say things like ‘you’re ugly’, ‘you have no friends’, ‘your family hate you’, ‘you’re fat’,’’ she said.
‘‘As the years went on, it progressively increased to physical violence.’’
On two occasions, Susie reported him to police, who told her to stay with a family member or friend.
‘‘I’m the one with a bloodied face, torn ligament and he’s telling me I have to leave?’’ she said.
‘‘I left the police station with my then three-year-old in my arms crying, we drove to a supermarket carpark and I sat there crying for two hours.
‘‘I eventually went home, bruised and bloodied, not knowing what to do, I snuck into my own home and had a shower and went to bed cradling my daughter.
‘‘The next day he looked at me and said ‘why did you do that to yourself’?’’
Numb with fear, Susie was brave enough to say ‘‘You did this to me’’.
‘‘He said to my daughter, ‘mummy is lying’. I went to work, in pain, trying to cover my scars with my hair and put on a brave face and pretend nothing happened,’’ she said.
The fact her husband was well liked in the community and his family and friends adored him stopped Susie from telling anyone close to her.
And tragically, domestic violence was taboo — a behind closed doors issue.
‘‘My neighbours would hear my screams, his family knew of the beatings, but no-one would help me,’’ she said.
‘‘I often wondered why, I was too numb to speak, too scared to talk to anyone. All I wanted was for someone to help me.’’
As his abuse increased over the years, Susie said his lies and mental illness spiralled out of control.
‘‘I had him hospitalised once (for bipolar) and he was in hospital for a few months. Those months were the best days of my life,’’ she said.
‘‘Upon his release, he was told to not visit me or have any contact with me. He didn’t stay away though, he was worse, more controlling, more abusive and more violent.’’
Susie will never forget the day she decided to leave him.
‘‘He was in a mood, so my daughter and I tiptoed around him,’’ she said.
‘‘He asked me why was I home and that I had to leave, I said no, but he said he had friends coming over and I needed to leave.
‘‘When I replied no, he punched me in the head. I remember falling to the ground, hearing him but not being able to see him.
‘‘I heard my daughter crying saying ‘you killed mummy’. He replied ‘you can’t kill a pig’, he then went on to kick me in the stomach repeatedly. The door slammed and he left.
‘‘I picked myself up and said to my daughter ‘mummy’s okay, but she said ‘don’t argue with Daddy, he will kill you’.’’
That was a defining moment for Susie and she started to write an action plan.
‘‘Over the months, I put money aside, I resigned from work, I enrolled my daughter into a new school and I didn’t tell anyone except for family,’’ she said.
When she finally left — in January 2015 — Susie’s husband spent weeks trying to find her and continually threatened her.
‘‘I moved to a town where I knew no-one, which was hard at first, leaving my friends and family behind,’’ she said.
After a year-long battle, she sold the marital home and bought her own house in Echuca.
‘‘Now my daughter and I live a happy life, I’ve made some wonderful friends and very few people know of my past,’’ she said.
The message Susie wants to get across is that domestic violence can happen to anyone.
‘‘I’m in professional employment, I’m smart and strong and to the outside world I had it all. Nice home, nice car, holidays,’’ she said.
However, she does not want people to feel sorry for her, or let domestic violence define her.
‘‘I am one of the lucky ones, I survived,’’ she said.
‘‘The pain and the hurt never leave you, it’s hard to explain that the person you once loved turned into the person you now most hate. It’s confusing and it saddens me to know the person who said ‘I do’ is the person who tried to kill me, numb my soul and destroy my worth.’’
She urged other victims to seek help.
‘‘Don’t be ashamed. Be strong and remember it’s not your fault.’’
■Anyone experiencing domestic violence can call the Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service on 1800015188, National Sexual Assault, Family and Domestic Violence Counselling Line on 1800737732 and the Centre for Non-Violence in Bendigo on 1800884038.