WHITE Ribbon Day is a bittersweet one for me.

It’s a day dedicated to raising awareness of violence against women.

Of course, I think this concept is a very important one, and one that needs to be recognised, but with the day comes memories and reflection of my own experiences.

Figures are heart-breaking when it comes to domestic abuse or family violence.

Worldwide, 243 million girls and women have been abused by an intimate partner in the last 12 months. Forty percent of these females don’t report it or seek help.

For someone who has never experienced domestic violence, it would be easy to shake your head and wonder why.

As someone who HAS experienced domestic violence. I know why.

You see, it took me years to get out of my abusive relationship and until you experience one yourself, and I pray you don’t have to, you cannot understand how hard it is to leave.

There are many different types of violence – some more prevalent in our community then others.

Probably most common in our country are domestic violence, which includes economic violence (controlling finances, school or work), emotional violence, physical violence, psychological violence and sexual violence and Digital or Online Violence, which includes cyberbullying, doxing (public release of identifying or private information) and non-consensual sexting.

In Australia, 16 percent of women have experienced physical violence from a partner since they were 15.

More than one million children are impacted by domestic violence.

On average, one woman per week is killed by a current or former partner.

I wanted to share my story with Mildura Weekly readers, but to protect my family and I, I asked to remain anonymous.

On the outside, I bet 95 percent of both my family and my and our friends didn’t know what was going on.

My ex partner had two types of friends.

The ones that knew about it but turned a blind eye.

Or because he was very good at playing the happy and helpful person he was to everyone else, there were the friends who had no idea what he could be like behind closed doors.

I always tried to be happy. I always tried to have a smile on my face.

But the thing about abuse, is it can crush your self confidence, independence and worth.

So while on the outside it was all rainbows, inside, I was a mess of anxiety, self doubt and worry.

It’s easier probably to read over those facts and disassociate yourself when domestic violence isn’t something you have had to deal with.

For someone who has, it’s both frightening and in a odd way comforting.

It saddens me that there are so many females out there who have been treated like this. But it reassures me I am not alone.

For me, domestic violence was a prevalent occurrence for a number of years.

That was, until one day I had decided I had had enough.

For me the abuse took the form of (mainly, but not limited to) economic violence, emotional and psychological violence. There were intermittent times of physical violence, but it was the day in, day out abuse that wore me down more so.

I’m not sure what started it. It could have been a number of reasons, none of them justified.

While I realised domestic violence was happening early on, it took me a number of years to do something.

For me, it was that I thought I would struggle to cope without my partner, mainly emotionally and financially.

On top of that, I had conflicting thoughts of the love for him, the memories of the good times, when they were “good” and then there was always the promise that he would change.

I know too well how these thoughts can consume and suffocate you – forcing you to stay in a relationship where you are being treated not like you should.

I have a small but special group of friends, and family members who have all the care, love and support in the world for me. But still it was a huge step to take.

A reassuring thought to me as I was beginning to contemplate leaving serious was that there are many services that can support you locally when domestic violence is involved.Even knowing that it was hard to make that first step – daunting, frightening and the unknown.

But one I had enough.

I had enough of being belittled.

I had enough of being controlled financially.

I had enough of the emotional abuse.

I had enough of the name calling.

I had enough of trying to talk things through in a civil and mature manner only to be told I was being condescending, because it wasn’t what he wanted to hear.

I had enough of being scared and I had enough of walking on egg shells.

I’d begged him for months and months to get help. But his behavior was always my fault.

Suddenly the unknown was less scary than reality; the life I was then living.

And so I did it. I ended my relationship. I turned to my family and friends, I turned to The Orange Door.

I let go of that control and I trusted, because I believed I deserved more than how I was being treated.

It was challenging to start with. Even over a year later now, it can still be hard.

I raise a family mainly by myself but thankfully with the assistance of family and friends when needed.

I have found a job I absolutely love and gives me the opportunity to balance a career with family, most importantly, and friends. The children are thriving academically and socially.

I think I am “doing” life pretty decently now overall but what still gets to me are the little doubts that creep into my mind. The ones that were entrenched through years of abuse.

This is balanced out by the relief, the relief that I don’t have to be subjected to that abuse again.

Relief that the only way now is up.

There always seems to be a lot of concern about broken families and the impact separation can have on children.

I’m not denying it is damaging to some, but in my circumstances it was less damaging than what my children had to experience prior.

For me, the proof is in the pudding constantly being told how great of a mum I am by those who matter most, my children, or when they tell me I am the best mum in the world.

I recognise my past relationship gave me some of the best experiences and times of my life, but I also refuse to let the bad times define who I am today.

I never thought I would be brave enough to break the cycle. I never thought I would be brave enough to say enough is enough. But I made that change.

And if you need to make that change – it all starts with you.

You don’t need a referral to call The Orange Door or you can visit their website for further information about their services: www.orangedoor.vic.gov.au

They can assist you through the entire process, from first and foremost making sure you are safe, to being a shoulder to cry on and assisting you financially.