‘I had to escape’: Roma woman shares DV horror story

 

As she lay in a pool of her own blood, covered in bruises, Savannah Shaw knew she had to leave her relationship.

She had been attacked with a meat tenderiser, not by a stranger or an intruder, but by a man who had told her countless times that he loved her.

Wayne William Holley pleaded guilty when he faced the Roma Magistrates Court last month, to one count of assault occasioning bodily harm - a domestic violence offence.

After the court heard of Holley's violent attack, he was sentenced to an 18-month probation. No conviction was recorded.

Now 23-year-old Savannah wants to share her story of surviving a relationship that involved physical and emotional trauma in the hope it will inspire others to leave abusive and controlling relationships.

Savannah and Wayne initially met online and the relationship blossomed over a few months before Savannah quit her job on the Sunshine Coast, packed her things and moved to Roma to be with the 23-year-old father.

She said Wayne was initially charming and caring, but she quickly noticed jealous and insecure behaviour.

"I thought this behaviour was normal though - it was my first relationship so I didn't think much of it," she said.

Scott Kennedy, a support practitioner for Lifeline Darling Downs and the Southwest said he often heard about the use of "coercive control" behaviour in cases of domestic violence. He said the abuser would begin by emotionally and psychologically abusing their partner, before physical abuse occurred.

"Coercive control means the abuser will start by hitting walls or threatening to commit suicide or saying they will take the kids away, which will progressively get worse," Mr Kennedy said.

"The abused person often has fear in the relationship."

Savannah said four months into the relationship, Wayne struck her.

A frightened Savannah blamed the violence on the fact Wayne was working long hours and was in a bad mood, and hoped it wouldn't happen again.

"To understand domestic violence, it's a series of behaviour that can make another family member feel less safe and less connected with others and therefore feel traumatised or fearful - it's very broad," Mr Kennedy explained.

"On the other side of domestic violence, sometimes it's safer for the person to stay in the relationship.

"If they're seen leaving or trying to leave, they could be killed."

After the couple moved houses in Roma, Savannah said the violence became more frequent.

"He soon realised he couldn't just keep punching me in the face because people would notice," she said.

"So he'd start punching me in other areas of my body."

She said sometimes Wayne would break down and question himself by saying things like "why am I such a bad person?"

But mostly, he would yell at Savannah, turning the blame on her.

It was common for Savannah to be asked, "why do you make me do this?" and "you must like that I hit you".

Savannah said she was too scared to contact domestic violence services or programs in fear he would find out.

Mr Kennedy said it was common in DV relationships for the abuser to control the movements of their partner.

"They check their phone, movements, emails, then they become part of their partner's 'property' and they don't like when anyone is allowed to play with 'their property'," he said.

Savannah said she recognised early on that she was in an abusive relationship but just hoped it wouldn't continue.

"I just became numb to it and the nasty things he'd say," she said.

Mr Kennedy said mental abuse in relationships could often leave longer-lasting scars than physical abuse.

"The mental can be long lasting and will eat away at the person," he said.

"The stress and anxiety will last for years."

It all came crashing down for Savannah and Wayne during the Easter long weekend earlier this year.

The incident that was heard in court began when a fight erupted about what to cook for dinner.

"He stormed off to the bedroom, so I washed up and put his meal in the fridge," Savannah said.

"I went into the bedroom and he told me he downloaded Tinder and said things like 'I'm going to f--k this b--ch'.

"I just rolled over, I was fed up. He asked for my car keys and said he was going to get a r--t.

"He was pissed off and starting elbowing me so I put my elbow up which then hurt him so he got more mad.

"He went into the kitchen and got the meat tenderiser and he hit all along my body until I ran near the window and a light came through the window from a car coming into the driveway so I tried to run away.

"He yelled at me, asking if I was running away from him.

"He hit me on the head and hand with the meat tenderiser, leaving me with a golf ball sized bump which is now fractured.

"He punched me in the nose and blood went everywhere - all over my shirt and on the carpet and I just laid there.

"I didn't believe someone who said they loved me, would do this. I knew I had to escape otherwise he'd kill me."

The following day Savannah went into work and broke down to her boss.

Her employer gave her a phone to use in case of emergencies and she called police and her mum.

Savannah said she wanted other women to know they could speak up if they were in an abusive relationship.

"I wish I spoke up earlier and even though I didn't get the result I wanted in court, I still hope I can bring awareness to other women out there going through the same instances," she said.

Mr Kennedy said it was common to see domestic violence orders granted against a perpetrator for multiple partners.

"You often see it roll on and the same thing happens in each relationship," he said.

He said domestic violence was very common in young relationships.

"I see more people 18-30 years than any other age bracket - domestic violence doesn't discriminate in terms of age," he said.

Savannah has since returned to the Sunshine Coast and is finishing off her nursing degree.

If you or someone you know has had experience in an abusive relationship, or with domestic violence, please seek help from the following numbers and organisations:

  • DV Connect Womensline: 1800 811 811
  • DV Connect Mensline: 1800 600 636
  • 1800 RESPECT: 1800 737 732
  • Sexual Assault Helpline: 1800 010 120
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
  • Lifeline: 13 11 14
  • Domestic Violence Action Centre: 4642 1354
  • Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service: 1800 88 77 00
  • Centacare Safer Families Support Service (Roma, St George, Cunnamulla, Charleville): 1300 477 433
  • Domestic Violence Regional Service (South West): 4639 3605
  • Domestic Violence Service (Far South West): 4622 5230
  • Working Against Abuse Service (Roma, St George and Mitchell Courts): 4622 5230


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