Twenty-two years on the run from abuse



For many women and children domestic violence doesn't end after you've run away. That is only the beginning. I'm 33 and I've been running away from my dad ever since I was 11.

Line drawing of abused womanWe packed our bags in the black of an early morning. We ran from a house on the beach in Aspendale to a house in Frankston. Me, my mum, and my younger brother. He had four intervention orders to his name, a law degree and all the bravado and lack of empathy typical of a perpetrator of domestic violence.

He left us with nothing after the property settlement, despite mum working full time over their lives together. 

If you've never personally experienced domestic violence, psychological abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, it's difficult to understand what it can be like. But imagine this.

Imagine that almost every birthday or Christmas, everything that ever mattered to you was intentionally ruined, laughed at or diminished. Imagine that every time your father made you cry, he laughed at you; that he denies anything ever happened, insists he was never violent, and has never been a violent man.

Imagine that this man uses his mother to manipulate his 11 year old daughter to fill out a competition in her favourite magazine so that he can get her address and begin stalking her again. Imagine then, that this man builds a house off the very same road you live on.

Also imagine this girl at 14, with newly short hair, discovering her identity, and him asking her 'are you butch or the other one?' with a loud snigger, and her having no idea what that meant but knowing it was meant to maim her. Imagine that every term he refuses to pay her school fees, in a power play designed purely to injure with his constant claim that he doesn't have any money, despite being a successful lawyer with his own practice.

Imagine this same daughter, her brother and her mum have memories of fist marks in walls, a dead fox in the driveway, the swimming pool slashed and emptied of water, of no rooms upstairs having doors because he ripped them all off their hinges.


"This is my history on repeat."


Imagine that this man uses his son, who now lives with him, as a pawn, to threaten my mum if she goes to the police, saying that he will put him in a home if she does; that he has always used my brother and I to hurt my mum by making us cry, by trying to destroy us.

Imagine that this man announces to everyone who will listen that he is a great dad, and that to this day he answers the phone with the quip, 'legend speaking'.

This daughter's experience is that of many daughters everywhere.

Only recently, after two decades of constant harassment, my mum applied for an interim intervention order and was granted it.

My dad got his office manager to email me offering me a new mobile phone if I called the number. Innocent enough right? No. He doesn't have my phone number, I won't give it to him, so he coerces work mates to try and get it. I say no thanks, and he calls my mum and says, as always, 'You brainwashed her against me'. He tells her that everyone hates her, and scares her.

This is my history on repeat.

But for the first time in two decades, because I'm now working as part of the gendered violence network, I feel emboldened and informed. My mum has finally had enough, all of this is an almost monthly cycle for her. I say the words she needs to hear, he belittles you, he tries to coerce you to give up my personal details, he threatens to not let you see your own son, he doesn't let you see your own son. This is the face of a domestic violence perpetrator. This is at least one dad in your street.

This is 22 years later. I'm still scared. When my mum calls to tell me the magistrate granted her an order, that this kind of constant harassment happens in the more serious cases, that he acknowledges that it is unjust for my dad to have access to the court proceedings because he is a lawyer, I leave my desk and cry heavy tears that rip from my chest in moans of relief, of being heard, seen and recognised. Of being believed, being heard, being seen. This is speaking back to power. This is the healing.


Elise Power is a sociologist and writer who lives in Melbourne.

Image by Jane Fox via Flickr

Topic tags: Elise Power, family violence



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Existing comments

Heartbreaking. Can I highlight a single aspect of the story: he is a lawyer. And lawyers are by training, bullies. Is this something they learn in university or only later in their polite drinking clubs? We saw it at the Royal Commission when they badgered and hectored and browbeat innocent witnesses - "Why didn't you ... shouldn't you have ... " Sorry, Elise, that you and your mother have had to put up with this.
Frank | 17 January 2017

I am sorry and thank you are so inadequate a response to this powerful piece, yet I mean them both sincerely. I hope for the best for you, your mother and brother - though this seems impossible. This is horrific - the abuse of power and destruction of anything and everything in your father's pursuit of his own ends. Horrific yet important to read, to hear and to acknowledge. Thank you, and I am sorry that thus is happening to you and your family. I hope and pray for you - that the healing continues and that you are safe.
LizA | 17 January 2017

I cry with you.
GAJ | 17 January 2017

I have been through hell's doors for 2 years straight since ending an 18 yr abusive marriage. My ex took off with my son, since then the XMIL has taken over being my sons mother to the point where I can only have contact with my son if and when the family violence abusers wish to further the violence through my son to me and his 3 siblings. I would like to share with you some links to 3 projects of mine: 1. proposal for Victims of family violence data base 2. My writings of my experiences titled my former self 3. A video I have created where the insidious abuse of Parental Alienation has occurred, this is in regards to the actions of the XMIL, and I shall be doing one in the near future about how the ex-husband has gone about executing this abuse in two ways. I feel like I am drowning at times, while the ex got engaged 5 short months after I ended the marriage, he had done nothing but prevent me from having contact with my child, but also playing the victim, stealing my experiences.
Tracey Morris | 17 January 2017

Thank you Elise. This is a very powerful personal narrative you have shared. It explains the on going, insidious, hidden, calculated cruelty some men inflict on their families from positions of authority. No one deserves to be subjected to this highly abusive, destructive behaviour. I wish you and your mother and brother a safer, happier life. Take care Elise and all the Best for all of you.
Monica Phelan | 17 January 2017

Thank you Elise for sharing your terrible story. I know domestic violence is out there but hearing such a story as yours really brings the truth home. Thanks also for having the courage to speak the truth.
Tom K | 17 January 2017

I think we need to acknowledge there are too many men out there who are emotionally inadequate and need to self-aggrandise in any way, to make themselves feel real. (there is at least one notable on the world's horizon) Incredibly sad.
hilary | 17 January 2017

Elise, this is my story as well. Although, I went on to marry and have 3 children to one as well. The cycle of abuse.....
Rachel | 18 January 2017

Elise, Thank you for powerful, brave words. Seldom we understand the personal reality of domestic violence, so much coverup and false identity is allowed to the perpetrators.
John and Trish Highfield | 18 January 2017

Elise- you are so courageous to share your story. Thank you. I sent up a prayer for you, so you are assisted in your journey. You and your mother and brother have been through so much. May you all find peace.
Laxmi | 18 January 2017

May God protect and shelter you and yours through good people. Your story resonates deeply ...
Mary tehan | 20 January 2017


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