How I escaped an abusive relationship’

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Ahead of White Ribbon Day tomorrow, Celia Williams tells one Queenstown woman’s tale of terrorWhen a long-time Queenstown woman was hospitalised after years of emotional abuse by her husband, it was the final straw. 

Claire (not her real name) escaped the harmful 10-year relationship and was put into a safe house by Wakatipu Abuse Prevention Network in January 2009. 

She’s sharing her story in the lead-up to tomorrow’s international anti-violence-towards-women White Ribbon Day. 

Claire is urging women who are victims of emotional abuse to make sure they “keep their identity” and have copies of all important documents before they escape their destructive relationship. 

“An emotionally-abusive man may promise you everything in the world but will never deliver. They are very manipulative and controlling even when you separate – that’s why it’s important to keep your identity.” 

It’s vital women have a professional, impartial support person when seeing a divorce lawyer, she says. 

“An abusive man has a hold over you and he will try to get everything. He’ll use his power to get more than his half share.” 

Claire married her partner of seven years in 2006 – despite a rocky relationship before tying the knot. 

She says the emotional torment started by her then-partner making comments about her not looking good in certain colours or clothing and making disparaging comments about her in front of mutual friends. 

“It gradually got worse and in the end I couldn’t do anything right.” 

She claims he occasionally got physically violent after drinking and often kicked her out of their home. 

“When I told him what he was doing to me he’d say, ‘Stop being such a drama queen’.” 

Claire didn’t realise she was a victim till her health became so bad she was taken to hospital. She’d been seeing a counsellor who called on WAPN, now known as Jigsaw. 

She’s happily remarried and is re-building her life after being left with nothing from her previous marriage. 

Claire credits the ongoing support of counsellors, doctors and Jigsaw – she’s now a Jigsaw volunteer – and urges others who think they could be victims of abuse to seek help. 

“I find that Queenstown has got a real problem. Most people here want to keep up with the Joneses. But it’s not just money that triggers it – it’s also unemployment, alcohol and men with no self-esteem.” 

Seek help: Call Jigsaw on 441 0009 if you think you – or someone you know – are affected by physical or emotional abuse