Domestic violence red flags: a Hunter survivor shares the warning signs of abuse

'Anyone can be manipulated': domestic violence survivor's red flag warning

OLIVIA* says it took only a few months for the whirlwind romance to descend into a chaotic nightmare of coercive control and emotional and financial abuse.

The NSW Hunter Valley woman, who now lives with post traumatic stress disorder and is on a "journey of recovery", said she wanted to share her story to help others identify red flags that indicate they are - or are at risk of - being mistreated.

"I had no clue it was domestic violence until I finally got rid of him and ended up at the Hunter Women's Centre and was told it was classic financial and emotional abuse and all these phrases I'd never heard of," she said.

"There was a lot of anger as well that I had allowed that to happen to me.

"I had made calls to 1800 RESPECT in absolute desperation because there was a lot of shame and embarrassment tied up with it, I didn't know who I could confide in, and then you'd go through the honeymoon period and you'd think 'If I discuss this with somebody they're never going to forget that and what if it does all work out?'

"I did have a benchmark to be able to say 'This is not acceptable behaviour', but then was constantly told it was and it was okay and how great we were together."

Olivia said she connected with her former partner when they lived in different time zones.

"He messaged and called constantly and I was flattered by that, but it got to the point where I thought 'When does this guy sleep?" she said.

"Especially during the day if I was having time to myself the phone would be constantly ringing and I'd be thinking 'Oh for God's sake, just give me a few hours'.

"He'd go to sleep and obviously wake up every two or three hours and would call me and expect a conversation, it was quite pushy. If I was to say 'I'm going to do this now' he'd get upset."

She said when they did meet in the same time zone he seemed exciting and generous, inundating her with expensive meals and presents.

He insisted on and paid for them to take regular trips away together, which she couldn't afford and meant she had to rely on him for spending money. He complained she didn't pack his bags.

"It was a massive issue to him and showed his complete expectations of a woman in a relationship role," she said. "I wasn't compliant, but the scene was being set."

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Olivia said she soon realised he had a drinking problem, often becoming so intoxicated he would urinate in bed or in the bedroom.

He also became abusive, telling her people didn't like her, throwing tantrums if he didn't get his way and taking her phone away as punishment.

"He'd mock me with it, wave it in my face, put it in his pocket and I would have to pretend that I wasn't bothered about it, but you're powerless without a phone," she said.

"I'd be having a glass of wine and he'd sit and drink out of my glass - nothing was mine."

He told her she didn't tell him often enough that she loved him.

"I found that needy and desperate, but after criticism took it on board," she said. "I told him 33 times one day that I loved him, but he never responded or acknowledged it."

Olivia said he didn't want her to work, but later agreed they should open a business together.

She said it was the "worst thing that happened" and meant they were financially entangled.

"One of my staff members said to me 'When do you get time to yourself?' and I said 'What do you mean?' because he was driving me crazy," she said.

"She said 'When do you get time away from him?' and I said 'Never', he was with me all the time, 24/7.

"She just went 'Oh my God'."

Olivia said he even insisted on accompanying her on her daily walks.

"I stopped walking, the weight started piling on, I started feeling low self esteem about myself," she said.

"He'd be verbally abusing me, calling me fat and ugly.

"There were constant sorry dinners, after the abuse I copped he would say the next morning he didn't remember. He'd be all apologetic and say it would never happen again."

She said he would often buy her clothes and shoes he wanted her to wear.

"I had a couple of dresses with zips up the front and I felt good in those dresses, but he forbid me to wear them," she said.

"He told me I looked like a slut in them and his attitude was that if a man saw me in a dress with a zip, that they couldn't possibly help themselves and they would want to pull the zip down."

Olivia said he also called her a golddigger, while living in her home and pestering her to sell it.

"He always led me to believe he had more than I did - and he didn't," she said.

"He never allowed me to be privy to what was in his bank account, that was a big secret, but he was always abusing me because I had a personal account and he said he wanted to know what was in that, saying 'I pay for everything, I should know what you've got'. I just dug my heels in."

She told him the relationship was over and started sleeping in another room, but he refused to leave. She put her house up for rent.

She said he later assaulted her and also made a successful claim for property settlement.

There is an ADVO in place.

"Don't have anyone move in until you know exactly what you're dealing with, everybody puts on their best face for the first 12 months," she said.

Olivia said while she feels like a survivor, the experience has eroded her confidence, friendships and ability to trust.

"I can't see myself ever having another relationship, let alone ever having an intimate relationship with anyone ever again."

She said she is doing a course to help other survivors.

"Too many people just think this happens to low socio economic people or unintelligent people, but anyone can be manipulated.

"I absolutely was, just for being an empath and a kind person who wanted to be in love and have a happy life and share it with someone."

Help: 1800 RESPECT

This story 'Anyone can be manipulated': domestic violence survivor's red flag warning first appeared on Newcastle Herald.