By Elise Broke
I remember screaming these words as he threw me on the bed his hands tightly gripped round my neck. My partner of eight years wanted me dead!
“Half of all homicides in New Zealand are committed by an offender who identifies as family.” “One women is killed every month by her partner or ex.” (www.areyouok.org.nz)
I meet Alister 16 years ago at a vulnerable time in my life, Alister was a student attending the same computing course I was on. He was very romantic and sweet at first, writing me poems and love bombing me.
The name calling started after our son was born. Alister’s drinking increased rapidly and he turned to hard drugs.
He reached the bottom of his box this afternoon, and wanted more fast. I refused to go to the bottle shop nor give him money for more alcohol. This set him off, he shouted and yelled, throwing things around.
I needed to get away from him fast I was scared. He caught onto my plan as I tried to leave. Alister jumped on top of the car pounding his fists into the hood, and wind shield I could not drive out the drive way with him on top. His face was frightening, he looked like a demon from hell! Suddenly he rolled off the hood, grabbed the driver’s side car door where I was sitting, took hold of my arm and yanked me out the door. It all happened so fast, I didn’t have time to think, he flung me onto the concrete like his strength was super human!
I’ll never forget the look on his face, it was pure rage! He picked up a huge rock from the garden, holding it above his head he held it over me, spitting as he cursed me more, I screamed as loud as I could,
He lost his balance, the rock hurled out his grasp, flying through the air, I thought this is it, he’s going to kill me!! I tucked up in a ball in the nick of time as the bolder pounded to the dirt inches away from my head!
Everything slowed, like a slow motion video, deathly silence filled the air, he had stopped yelling, all I could hear was the sound of birds chirping in the sky above, my breathing sounded louder than the birds now, my head was ringing, my heart pounding hard. I slowly sat up and looked around, Alister lay face down on the concrete, he must have passed out!
I needed to call the police and get this monster off my property fast. The kids and I snuck down the drive as quickly as my aching body would let me. I was desperately searching for someone who could help me, I needed to use a phone. Many people would have heard the yelling, they would have heard me scream, but no one helped me, they all disappeared, hiding away in their safe little worlds.
I approached a house where a large, jolly, Maori lady let me use her telephone. I rang the police and explained the incident to them, casually they replied we will send a car your way within the next ten minutes. Ten minutes slowly crept past, we walked back to the house. The policemen stood around the deck area, wondering around aimlessly like they were lost.
“There is no one here.” They informed me.
I told them the whole story, and they took my statement before leaving. I ensured the house was locked in case he returned.
I began to hear a scratching noise coming from the roof, looking up at the ceiling, the scratching continued, small holes were in the ceiling from an old air conditioning system. My eyes opened wide, my heart thumped hard, I could see a foot over one of the holes! I grabbed the phone to ring the police once again.
“Please, please, don’t ring the cops.” Alister begged.
“I’ve calmed, I won’t hurt you, I’m sorry please!”
How the police missed he was hiding in the roof I’ll never know! Alister apologised profusely, nonstop for the next hour. He proceeded to blame anything and everything he could for his behaviour. His past, his upbringing, his brothers, hurts, alcohol, even the heat. He claimed to be sincerely sorry, and vowed to get the help he needs?
Alister did get some counselling which he quit after a few weeks, he saw a doctor who prescribed anti-depressants which he took for less than a month. Many more incidents happened, I tried to leave time and time again, I even left town. Somehow he would worm his way back into my home.
I’d have to ring the police when he refused to leave, locking myself in the bedroom till the police arrived, at times this took hours. The police would take notes of the events in their little note books, patronising me with off the cuff comments such as,
“You two need to calm down, sit together and have a cup of coffee.”
I was not inform of how I could protect myself, or given me any helpful information, I was left in the dark.
The abuse continued for eight years, I got very sick diagnosed with a chronic pain condition and blood clots in my legs this left me bed ridden for months. Alister’s mother was at my home to help us with the children. A argument broke out both Alister and his mother began insulting me, calling me names and putting down my dead mother. I kept on telling them to leave they refused, I grabbed the telephone.
“Get out or I’ll call the police!” I screamed at them.
Alister sped towards me, I dragged myself down the hall as fast as I could. I collapsed on my bed, my legs giving out with the intense pain. Like a flash he was on me, holding me down, he dug his knee into my legs pushing all his weight against me. I was alarmed and aware this could encourage the blood clots to move, I was in critical danger! He was still screaming at me, his mother was in the room watching him, egging him on yelling abuse at me.
I tried with all my strength to push Alister off me, to get free. The pain increased, tears streamed down my face blinding my vision. He grabbed my throat with both hands, squeezing the life out of me. Holy shit! He is going to kill me! This was my defining moment. I wriggled under his weight, he held my arms above my head pinning me with one arm while he continued to squeeze my neck, harder and harder. Fear filled me, the air in my lungs left my body, my eyes rolled back into my head, all I could hear now was a sharp ringing noise in my head.
He was not about to stop until I was done, I stopped moving became still, with the little air I had left in my lungs I held my breath and closed my eyes. Yes, thank God it worked, he thought I was dead, he stopped, took his hands off my neck, and stood.
As soon as he did I gathered all the strength I could muster, and booted him hard in the knee, this threw him off balance, he stumbled backwards. I screamed as loud as I could wanting the neighbours to call the police! I leapt to my feet, kneed him in the groan and scrambled out of the room. Grabbing my son along the way I stumbled outside to the letter box. Here under the street lights, in front of the whole street I knew he would not follow, anyone could be watching. I used the cordless telephone I’d snatched on the way out and rang the police.
The police arrived soon after, they took statements, they did not ask me if I wanted to press charges, nor were they forth coming with any information again as to how I could protect myself from Alister. They took Alister and his mother away in the police car, not too the police station to lock them away where they belonged, but a free ride back to his mother’s house.
“50% of intimate partner violent deaths occurred at the time of an actual or intended separation.” (www.familyviolenceclearinghouse.com June 2017 snapshot).
I organised my son to go and stay with my brother. The bills piling up, I had no way to pay them and the stress grew heavier and heavier. I felt trapped, alone, isolated and wanted to give up, I desperately needed help. I was to be taken to court and the house was to be sold under me, I had no choice but to sell! This was the most difficult decision I had to make to take back charge of my life. I had invested my mother’s inheritance, my heart and soul, hours and years of hard work, I had sacrificed, fought and fought. I wanted security, a solid future for my children by holding on I had neglected myself. This was the lesson that took me the longest to learn.
My healing journey began as I began to realize I was lost I did not even know who I was anymore. It felt like I was in a deep dark pit, I would wake with a fright, shaking, panting, sweating and scared out of my mind. All I remember seeing were big huge hands gripping my neck. I could smell his filthy bourbon breath and feel his heavy weight bearing on my chest, the insults screaming in my ears. I’d close my eyes and it would start all over again. This continued relentlessly, drowning me. The doctor had a name for it, Chronic post Dramatic Stress, CPDS.
Although I have not always walked the straight and narrow path in life, my belief and faith in God gave me hope. I slowly rebuilt my goals, I turned again to poetry, I visualised my happiness. I learnt what self-care was and mindfulness. I started eating right to fuel my body, I exercised as my body was able, I used music as my therapy. I learnt in order to receive love I must put out love and love myself first. It has been six years from leaving.
I want to encourage anyone who is afraid to be alone to take the courage to start again. Once I learnt to love myself and be happy being by myself, I discovered I was much stronger than I thought. You can do it too. With support and education from organisations such as Women’s refuge you are not alone.
The number to call in New Zealand is 0800456450, Women’s refuge.
f you want to read more such experiences by Elise Brooke you can buy her book The New Zealand Dream here.