I was unable to objectively see what was happening to me and my feelings. I was being slowly depersonalised so that I was seeing, thinking and feeling what he wanted me to.
When Lisa* was 19 she met a charming man, who, on one of their first times together, spent his last $6 on a rose for her.
'I thought he was incredibly sweet and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. I didn’t realise then that I was committing myself to years of sexual, verbal and physical abuse. I came to know Andrew* as a man who could sell sand to Arabs. He had a way of twisting the truth to convince me to do what he wanted to do.’
Within six weeks of meeting Andrew, Lisa moved 400 kilometres to be with him, leaving a full-time job and burning bridges between herself and her family. They lived together for a year and then got married. Their son was born seven months later.
‘There were some memorable times, such as when he did the dishes for me because I was having a horrible day, or travelling together to states I hadn’t been to, visiting friends, and learning how to play electronic games.
‘People ask: “Why didn’t you leave sooner?” It’s like the frog in the saucepan. If you put it into boiling water it will jump straight out. But if you put it in cool water and gradually turn up the heat, it will get used to the increasing temperature, and it will sit there until it boils to death.’
‘Because it all happens so gradually’, says Lisa, ‘I was unable to objectively see what was happening to me and my feelings. I was being slowly depersonalised so that I was seeing, thinking and feeling what he wanted me to.
‘My greatest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to cope as a single mother’, says Lisa. ‘I felt that I would always be looked down upon, or ostracised. I was scared. I left a few times, but I always returned to Andrew, thinking that we could work it out. He refused to see a counsellor with me. He always managed to convince me that he could resolve our issues. This never fixed anything; all it did was give me a reason to stay. I didn’t want to leave, so it was easy for Andrew to convince me that he could work it out. It’s what I wanted to hear.’
Then there is the fear of public perception. Lisa grew up in a small, isolated rural area. ‘Divorce was something that happened to other people, who were so shamed that they had to move out of the area. I never thought that I would be divorced, and so I resisted the very thought of it.’
Lisa is able to look back on the time when she finally left Andrew as a period of growth and when she ‘truly took responsibility’ for her actions.
‘God has provided abundantly for my needs. I have had to trust the still, small voice and depend on his amazing, forgiving grace. I now have empathy and understanding for people who have lost their way; I’m working with people who have a mental illness, assisting them to find their voice.’
Lisa left Andrew six years ago and is now married to a pastor. ‘He is the most caring man I have ever known because when I get cross at myself or our son, he just lets me know that he loves me and cares for me. He has helped me to repair connections with people I hadn’t seen for 15 years.
‘Miracles are possible! Only God knows the plans he has for your life. They are amazing, they inspire hope — and they don’t involve getting boiled at all!’