"Why Didn't You Just Leave?"

Mother embracing son

“I remember the incident that woke me up. He attacked me at my sister’s wedding in front of my family. I wasn’t aware of the mental and emotional abuse he put me through, but it was a wakeup call when he physically hurt me.”

For so long, Molly had been scared to reach out for help. 

“I was terrified! I felt stuck and that there was no way out. At that time, my visa was joint with my ex and thinking about what would happen if I left the relationship kept me in there.”

She had heard about Aviva three months prior from a counsellor at work, but it wasn’t until this incident that she decided to reach out for support.

“I felt guilty about what I had put my children through by not having the courage to leave. The embarrassment of putting up with what I did.”

Even after reaching out to Aviva, Molly had trouble being completely open with her support worker because of this guilt. But her support worker reassured her that what she was experiencing was violence and she deserved to feel safe. 

“She helped me realise that not only my children are affected by the impact of what had happened, but I was also a victim in this. That realisation was an important part of my journey.”

Aviva supported Molly and her children to move in with her family and eventually to get a bond for new accommodation. But the violence didn’t stop.

“Even after I left, I was still terrified. I remember wanting to open my own bank account seven months later and I was shaking when I went to the bank. That night, he broke into my home. I was scared to take that step to separate our finances as I knew what the repercussions would be.”

A big step for Molly was when she finally started to feel comfortable reporting to the police. 

“I had always been fearful of going to the police,” she says. This is common for people experiencing violence, who worry that it could further escalate the situation. 

“Now I am able to report everything. Having the bravery to report and knowing how this could help me with my safety was huge.”

Aviva also supported Molly to get a Protection Order. 

“Even after the PO was served, he was still intimidating me and breaking into my home. But with him knowing that I was ready to ring the police and that they can arrest him based on the Protection Order stopped him from actively harassing me.”

People in violent relationships are often asked, “Why didn’t you just leave?” Molly’s story of continued harassment and violence paints a picture as to why that can be difficult. Even having separated, moved into a new home, and having a Protection Order, Molly was still scared and in danger. Her ex even began sending others to harass her.

Through Aviva’s safe@home programme, Molly received home security upgrades, including an alarm to make it easier to call the police and security cameras to collect evidence of any further incidents. Since the security cameras were installed, there have been no further incidents at Molly’s home.

“If this service was not available, I don’t think I would have had the courage to leave him,” Molly admits. “Because [even after leaving], if I can’t sleep at night and am scared even in my own home, I would have felt like I should have just stayed in the relationship. Having these options, gave me courage and allowed me to take the first step into leaving the relationship and keeping my children and myself safe.”

Molly’s journey is an ongoing one. “Now nearly four years on, I am still suffering the consequences of leaving my ex. I have high blood pressure and anxiety. I am hypervigilant even when I’m at home. I remember having to tell my children about what was happening, and I see the impact it had on them and the struggles they went through to understand it.”

But Molly would not go back for anything. 

“I feel safer now and I know that support is available through every obstacle I face. Even though there is still anxiety and uncertainty, knowing that someone is on the other end of a phone is good enough for me. There is a way out and you don’t have to do this on your own.”