Dad solemnly handed me a three page, hand written letter outlining his rationale for me not moving out of home. They were valid grounds, but I read them with an air of annoyance and tossed the note away (I wish I had kept it). I do remember some of the list, which included:

  • Needing the financial support of my parents to complete my degree.
  • Living in an environment conducive to study
  • Looking after my health with my recent diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis
  • That my Irish boyfriend (yet another Peter) was not the best choice of people to support me in the above…..and the list went on.

They were all genuine concerns, coming from a place of love, and Dad could not have been more right; but as I mentioned¸ the letter ended up in the bin and I moved out.

I think that part of the reason for my belligerence was that I had reached an age where I didn’t want to be accountable for every night out or every sleep over a friend’s house. What my parents didn’t realise was that compared to many of my friends, I was a late bloomer and hadn’t experimented nearly as much, or as early with some of the things that went on at school. Also, coming from a household of three brothers, I felt there was a definite imbalance when it came to the freedom given to my brothers and the freedom given to me.

Dad was right though and perhaps he saw through the happy-go-lucky character that Peter made himself out to be. Having been in the merchant navy in Ireland before he came to Australia, he was a big drinker and it wasn’t long before I discovered the many down sides of this. We enjoyed parties and pubs like most of our friends, however, it was about 3 months into our shared living arrangement that I was subjected to his alcohol induced schizophrenia.

One evening on our walk home from a night at a pub called “The Geebung Polo Club”, our happy banter suddenly turned to jealous accusations. I have always been the type of person to talk with someone if they speak to me. Isn’t that manners? But due to my generally friendly and vivacious nature, several boyfriends have chosen to misconstrue this as flirting. I say “chosen” because it has always been a choice.

In an unexpected onslaught, I found myself slammed up against a parked car with allegations and fists flying. His posture was that of pure rage and his face red from the strain of his vehement and cutting bullets of abuse. He left me in the dark street and walked home on his own. With nowhere else to go at that time of night, my only choice was to dust myself off and drag my bruised body and bewildered mind back home. What the hell had just happened? Early that morning, he woke in a drunken daze, opened my closet door and pissed on all my clothes.

Now most emotionally intelligent women would have packed their bags and left the next day…surely. Conversely, after his profuse apologies and assurances that it would never happen again, I tucked the incident away and went on with life.

Everything was fine for a while. I had believed him when he had told me it was a “one off incident”, “totally out of character”. When it happened again, I was just as surprised as the first time. This time we were at home and some neighbourhood friends had popped in for pizza and a few drinks. As the night progressed, he became more obnoxious by the minute. I can’t even remember what set him off but I can clearly recall him shoving me up against the wall and holding the carving knife to my throat. My dog Pepe, although small, was as loyal and ferocious as any trained attack canine could be. He flew at Peter (well his ankles) in an attempt to save me from his wrath. The distraction worked, but Peter kicked my dog so hard in the ribs that he bounced off the opposite wall, but Pepe just shook his head and went in for the second round.

It was about 3am and I knew I couldn’t stay a moment longer. Peter went to have a cigarette and I took this opportunity to make a call to my friends, Lynda and Shane. This couple had been my friends since high school and they had always been generous of heart. Without a second thought, Shane jumped on his motorbike and made the half hour trip to come and rescue me. With my helmet on and my dog bundled up between myself and Shane’s back, we sped home to the familiarity of their safe and happy home.

Dad’s dim predictions had become a reality.  My studies had suffered along with my health. My University results were pathetic and my life in a shambles.

One of my reader, a father of daughters, asked me how he could help to protect his daughters from such a horrible and dangerous situation. I think the first step is being aware, as a parent, that this can happen. Just like child sexual abuse needs to be discussed openly with your children at a young age, boyfriend abuse needs to also be on your list of awkward topics when it becomes relevant. Knowledge is power, and your daughters are more likely to recognize it for what it is should it rear it’s ugly head. 

The only qualifications I have for giving this advice is that I have obviously been in this situation; so these are solely my own opinions. However, there is a lot of great information on the internet and I have added a couple of links including a really informative blog for both parents and daughters, should you wish to know more. Good on you Sean for asking the question, your daughters are already streets ahead.