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How I broke the cycle of domestic violence in my family

Robyn Lehmann-Rhodes, of Sippy Downs, broke the cycle of domestic violence and got out of a bad relationship. She is now happily married to Ashley Lehmann-Rhodes and they have a son, Billy, 15.
Robyn Lehmann-Rhodes, of Sippy Downs, broke the cycle of domestic violence and got out of a bad relationship. She is now happily married to Ashley Lehmann-Rhodes and they have a son, Billy, 15. Janine Hill

MY grandfather used to violently beat my grandmother.

My father beat my mum quite violently. Usually there was alcohol involved.

I remember saying to my mum that I would never marry because I couldn't understand why you would let something like that happen to you.

I met my first husband. He didn't drink so that was a huge drawcard for me, and he didn't raise his hands to me, but he was verbally, mentally and emotionally abusive.

In my eyes, even at 19, it was okay. I should have known better at 19 but in those days, there wasn't a lot around. There wasn't social media, it wasn't advertised on TV, things like that.

I moved in with him after a beating from my father and I had nowhere else to go so that was my meal ticket for getting out of a bad situation.

We married in '83, had my daughter in '84, and we had my son in '87.

He was totally manipulative the whole time and the unfortunate thing he was sober the whole time. It wasn't alcohol-induced, which is what I was used to.

And after a long time when you're told things - you're stupid, you're ugly, you're fat - you believe it, because you close yourself off from the outside world, because you're embarrassed, you're ashamed, and you just function.

Not a lot of people knew because I made sure that we didn't go to places where I was exposed to that type of thing, and I was a very good actress as well. I was very, very good.

Over the years, there was physical violence. Not a lot of physical, which doesn't make it okay, but he had my mind, he had control of me totally, and he was starting to control my daughter.

I had contemplated suicide. I think it's just going through the motions if something happened. And I did wish him harm as well. It made me a person I didn't want to be. But that's what I wanted. All my problems would have been solved, so I thought.

He would call me at work and say things to me and just totally manipulate me. He was the provider so I had to do everything he said. The children had to abide by everything he said.

He used to threaten to not pick the kids up from school when I was at work. It's just mental manipulation and that really does a lot of damage. Those scars don't heal. And I'm certainly not playing down physical violence but that mental abuse stays with you. And it does, it stays with you.

 

The oath sworn against domestic violence at a White Ribbon Day event outside the Sunshine Coast Council building, Nambour.
The oath sworn against domestic violence at a White Ribbon Day event outside the Sunshine Coast Council building, Nambour. Janine Hill

The crunch came when he threatened to hit me over the back of a head with a shovel one day. We lived on a property and he followed me around the property with a shovel in his hand just to keep me at bay.

I think I was just sort of breaking down.

One day, the day before Father's Day, he told me he was embarrassed by the kids. He was ashamed that they were his children. They were magnificent children.

And he considered me to be a whore, basically, even though I had to dress like a man. I had to dress in jeans and flannelette shirts so I didn't attract people's attention.

I didn't know myself. I didn't know my favourite colour. I didn't know my favourite song. I didn't know anything about myself. I was a person. I was a being, but I was owned by someone else.

When he told me he was ashamed of the kids - and the kids loved him, they adored him - I got in the car and I drove to Bairnsdale, this was in Victoria. I thought if I'm on highway 1, I can't go wrong.

We went to a motel, the kids and I. I bought them McDonald's for the first time. They were seven and 10 years old.

I did give them the option of staying with their father. Of course, they wanted to come with me but I didn't ever want to force them to do something they didn't want to do.

The following day, I rang Women's Helpline and it was an answering machine. And I thought I'm just meant to go back, I'm doing the wrong thing. The universe is telling me to go back.

Then I thought, no, I'm not doing it.

So the following day I went to the local police station and they took me to the local women's shelter. We lived in the women's shelter for a week, and not the least bit ashamed of it, not at all.

He threatened to take the kids from me, all of that manipulation. He took all of the money but at the end of the day, I just wanted out. I just wanted him out of my life.

Unfortunately, he was still in the kids' lives. The manipulation and abuse every second weekend continued until they got to the age where they decided they didn't want to go through it any more.

 

Domestic violence survivor Robyn Lehmann-Rhodes tells her story at the White Ribbon Day event outside the Sunshine Coast Council building, Nambour.
Domestic violence survivor Robyn Lehmann-Rhodes tells her story at the White Ribbon Day event outside the Sunshine Coast Council building, Nambour. Janine Hill

I'm now married. I married 18 years ago to a a wonderful man who is the polar opposite to my first marriage. We have a son together. He's 15.

My son is 29. He's a wonderful adult, a wonderful human being and and he knows how women should be treated. He's a respectable young man.

I have a daughter. She's 32 nearly, she married in April, very happily and she's pregnant with her second child.

So I'm here, and I'll continue to spread my story to say my cycle's broken. I broke that cycle. It's gone. It's taken me 21 years.

Abuse is not something to be ashamed about. It shouldn't happen any more. My mother loved my father to the grave. I don't get that.

But I'm here now and I'm going to say I've done a hell of a good job. My daughter is in a good relationship now and I'm in a good relationship.

I'm a victim. I'm a survivor and that's my story.

Robyn Lehmann-Jones, 53, of Sippy Downs, told her story for the first time at a white White Ribbon Day event at the Sunshine Coast Council chambers at Nambour this morning.

Topics:  abuse cycle domestic violence dv survivor victim white ribbon



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