real life

"I walked into my home, and there was a naked woman on my couch. Next to my husband."

On a Saturday afternoon at exactly 3pm, I parked my car out the front of my house after dropping my daughter to my parent’s place and attending an appointment with my psychologist. I walked in my front door, down the hallway into my lounge room, and in that moment my marriage and my life as I knew it exploded.

The scene that faced me was not a scene I ever expected to see through my own eyes. There was a naked woman laying on my couch, my husband was seated next to her fully clothed, with the blankest of looks on his face. The room stunk of alcohol and there was a bottle of red wine open on the coffee table.

I can’t remember exactly my question; the shock was pulsing through me and I thought I was going to be sick. My husband muttered “oh yeah I like …. now” with no feeling, no emotion, just a strange statement, as if affections can so easily be switched, it was clinical and cold.
I asked the naked woman, who was known to me, to leave my home. She was high, her behaviour was disturbing as she just lay there sighing loudly. When she refused to get up or get dressed, I picked up her handbag and I threw it down the hallway.

That was the moment that everything became terrifying, she lunged at me, chased me down my hallway hitting and screaming at me. I screamed for my husband to help, he did nothing, still just sitting in the same spot on the couch staring blankly. She then locked herself in my daughter’s bedroom, and I screamed for her to get out and tried to force the door open. When I was able to get the door open the attack continued spilling into my dining room, then through to my kitchen. I remember standing in front of my fridge and getting slapped straight across the face, hit, pushed and screamed at by this deranged person.

I yelled for my neighbours to help, to call the police. I was very aware of the knife block sitting to the right of my shoulder, I was terrified, and I fought back in fear of my life.

Within seconds my neighbour came running into the chaos that was ensuing. My husband was still seated on the couch, doing nothing, but when a man came running to my rescue, he finally came to life springing up from the couch and started to attack my neighbour. Abuse and threats were yelled, I became entangled under the two men as it spilled out into the street. Neighbours were watching, people were  screaming, and then my husband lunged to attack me with a look of hate in his eyes, but my neighbour stood in his way and protected me from his attack.

My husband and his “friend” walk off down the street. The police are called, and they arrive with sirens blaring within minutes.

I was running on adrenaline and was terrified as the police took my statement. They asked me a question that no one had ever asked me before: Has your husband ever been violent to you in the past?

I had two choices in this moment, I could lie and keep pushing it down as I had for the past 10 years. I could keep pushing down that first time he came running at me through a door and started punching me, I could keep pushing down how it felt to be laying on the ground pretending to play dead while he kicked me over and over wishing for the attack to be over. I could keep pushing down the time he threw his bike at me, the time he punched me because a man spoke to me, the time he hit me straight across the face as I walked past him to go to bed, the time he threw a bottle of red wine at me or the many other times an attack like this happened when he was blind drunk and he decided that I had wronged him in some way.

In that moment when the police officer asked me if my husband had ever been violent before, instead of saying no, as I had told myself for years and years, I said yes.

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I decided to tell the truth. Yes, my husband had been violent to me in the past, many times and I wasn’t going to push it down any longer.

I was going to tell the truth, to the police, to my parents, to my sisters, the rest of my family and to my friends. I wasn’t going to protect him anymore; I knew in that moment that I needed to protect myself and that meant by telling the ugly truth.

Saying yes was the hardest thing I have ever done. I had to watch my parents’ heart break, I felt my sisters’ pain, I felt my friends’ helplessness. I felt guilty and ashamed.

Thankfully I never had to feel any kind of doubt from them, thankfully they all knew with some sad certainty that it was exactly what had been going on the whole time, the last puzzle piece fell into place.

Why hadn’t I said anything? Why had I protected him? How had I forgiven him time and time again? I am not sure I will ever know the answer, I know that the emotional abuse was almost worse than the physical and I know that the emotional abuse chipped away at me slowly and insidiously.

There was never any accountability, the times I had the strength to ask him why he had done the things he did or said the things he said, I was made to feel as if I was unkind for even bringing it up, for making him relive it, for making him face it. He didn’t remember, he was so ashamed, it was his mental health, it would never happen again. But it did happen again, over and over and over.

There was never any responsibility or acceptance of the fact that he was an alcoholic and an abuser. He wasn’t capable of even facing this side of himself, he couldn’t admit to doctors or psychologists or friends what his drunken binges really entailed.

One day, after months and months of scary binges and life spiralling rapidly out of control, I had the realisation this situation was never ever going to get better. My family and friends even started to say: “How much longer can you do this?”.

Then the unbelievable happened, he made a decision to make a change, something I never thought he would. He decided he was going to go to rehab. He gave me hope at a time when I had almost given up supporting him. Maybe the moment had finally come, the man that I so desperately craved as my husband was finally going to appear?

It seemed that way for just over two months, I had a glimpse of what life could be like. He was sober and he seemed happy and maybe just maybe after all this time life was going to get better.

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A relapse happened, he ended up back in rehab, I went through the process all over again, I was fed false hope once again and I was promised this time he was going to focus on recovery, as if the first time had just been a fun social experiment.

That promise never eventuated either, instead his focus was with the woman at the start of this story. He met her in rehab the first time, he said they bonded over their shared experiences with addiction, he assured me I had nothing to worry about, that there was no way he was going to have an affair with someone who was so troubled themselves and had done so many terrible things because of her addiction. I still had my doubts and when I approached her myself, she also told me I had nothing to worry about. They were purely “friends in recovery” nothing more.

They both lied, they both deceived me, and they both caused me a pain that I don’t know if I will ever get over.

Mia Freedman interviews Nicole Lee, who was abused by her husband and primary carer. Post continues below. 

I am still in the eye of the storm, the pain of betrayal, the pain of my family being ripped apart, the pain of my daughter and I losing our home. It feels insurmountable right now, will I ever be OK again?

I know deep down I will, I know this too will pass, I know that I will feel freedom and start to see the woman who existed 10 years ago. I know I am going to be a better mother, daughter, sister, boss and friend.

I won’t ever lose my compassion, my empathy or my hope but right now I feel like those are the very things about me which caused me to end up here. Had I not been so compassionate to his mental health, had I not had so much empathy for his horrible upbringing, had I not had so much hope for that glimpse of a happy family he gave me then maybe I would have walked a different path.

I often find myself thinking, if only I could turn back time undo all the pain caused by someone who was supposed to love me.

Instead I remind myself when I think this, that I wouldn’t have the greatest gift he ever gave me. A beautiful shining light, a gorgeous, happy, smart, talented, hilariously funny and witty little girl. I would go through it all again to be her mother. I will never stop trying to create magic in her life and I will teach her to be strong like her mum and to always have compassion, empathy and hope. I was told for 10 years I was weak; I wasn’t enough, I was worthless. I am learning slowly that it was my strength that kept me going, not my weakness. He didn’t break me, his actions released me from the pain and now I get to show my little girl what freedom feels like instead of living a life walking on eggshells.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

The author of this article has chosen to use a pseudonym to protect her privacy. She is known to Mamamia. The feature image used is a stock image.

Feature Image: Getty. 

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