Warning: Willow's story discusses emotional and sexual abuse which may be triggering for some people. Please visit our "Where to get Help" page for details on support available in New Zealand.
We met when we were eighteen. He was one of the smartest, funniest people I’d met, and I thought he hung the moon. It only took a couple of months for the emotional abuse to start - the laying down of foundations for what was to come over the next few years. Within 6 months, we were living together, he had isolated me from my friends and my family, I had dropped out of university and quit playing football; we lived in a world all our own. It took me another 4 years to see the full extent of the abuse. By this point, he was my everything; I had no friends and I was working a job I hated to support him. It took a relative stranger walking into my life and saying “look at what this is” for me to open my eyes and muster the courage to leave. Denial is such a powerful thing; it’s amazing what you can convince yourself to avoid feeling shame and embarrassment.
It’s been 4 years since that day, and it’s been one hell of a journey. I only started seeking proper help for all that I went through a year ago - but before that, I rebuilt my life. It’s not been easy but I’m so much stronger for it. That relative stranger who was kind enough to help me is now one of my best friends. I’ve travelled the world, changed careers and I’ve got a great support network of friends and family. But mostly importantly, I can talk about what happened. There’s no shame, only healing. I’m learning to trust again, in people and in life. And I can finally admit to myself: it wasn’t my fault.