DARKNESS: The dream life became a living nightmare
"I'M dead, either way."
After more than a decade of torture and abuse at the hands of her former partner, these were the sobering words that came out of Julie's mouth as police pleaded with her to let them try to protect her.
Julie (not her real name) was willing to share her story with the Bulletin in the hope that the community perception and response to domestic and family violence would change.
The Townsville woman said she had her "big house and lived the white picket fence life most little girls grow up dreaming about" but it was all a facade. In reality, she was living a nightmare.
Julie said the relationship escalated from coercive control and threats of violence to physical attacks after she had a child.
She said the abuse got progressively worse over the years and became more frequent, unpredictable and violent.
Julie's attacker would torture her by choking her to the point of unconsciousness.
"I felt unsafe during pregnancy but after the birth is when he absolutely kicked it out of me and then it just didn't stop," she said.
"It was my daily (occurrence) so by four o'clock my anxiety was through the roof because I didn't know what I was in for.
"Most of them (assaults) were kicks in the head, my back and in places I could hide them with long clothes, but I did have regular punches to the face that you couldn't hide."
Julie said she became a prisoner in her own home, unable to work because she wasn't allowed.
She wanted to leave, but it was never going to be that simple and every time a family member tried to intervene she wouldn't allow it, Julie said.
"I said 'You can't do it without having me killed'," she said.
"I didn't want the police to come because then I thought it would turn into a murder-suicide and I was really scared of that."
Julie said she'd had a fractured relationship with QPS over the years and it wasn't until her interaction with the Vulnerable Persons Unit that she felt she could trust police with her situation, and ultimately her life.
"No, I didn't think highly of the police at all because I didn't trust them," she said.
"I remember the cops were called when I was getting beaten in the back room, and they came banging on the door."
Julie said she wanted to take control of her story and be a driver of change in how government agencies, including police, respond to domestic violence.
Under Queensland law, police officers will only accept formal statements from victims.
"I want the system to change so that if we (victims) get beaten, we can go to the police and to the agencies to get the photos and document it," she said.
"We might not be ready to make a formal complaint and we shouldn't be pressured to but, of course, we need support. Without evidence, no one can prosecute anyway and they're losing a lot of evidence because that's not happening at the moment."
Queensland legislation broadly defines domestic and family violence as behaviour that is physically, sexually, emotionally, psychologically or economically abusive, threatening, coercive or aimed at controlling or dominating another person through fear.
*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.
Originally published as DARKNESS: The dream life became a living nightmare