Real Life

A domestic violence survivor speaks out: "I thought he loved me, so why was he doing this?"

He was determined to control my every move.

By As told to Take 5

Shannan Thomas, 41, Sunshine Coast, Qld shares her terrifying story with Take 5:

My phone pinged, showing I'd received a new Facebook message.
It was from Shannon Grant, a guy I'd hung out 20 years earlier, before he'd gone on to play AFL for Sydney Swans and the Kangaroos.
How are you? he wrote.
As a single mum of two, living on the Sunshine Coast and studying social work, I welcomed the idea of reconnecting with an old friend.
We got chatting and I learned that Shannon was now a single dad of two and an AFL coach.
One night we were talking on the phone when Shannon's tone suddenly became aggressive.
"My ex ruined my life," he snapped.
This surprised me because he was normally so calm and kind.
I figured it must have been a sore point with him.
Later, he invited me to Melbourne for a weekend.
At the start we had a lovely time, but slowly that changed.
We had a lovely time, just the two of us.
Less than a day later, I returned home and he called.
"I'm committed to you, and I'd like us to be exclusive," he said.
Despite the distance between us, I decided to make a go of it.
Every few weeks I flew down to see him.
Because of my kids, I wanted our plans to be flexible in case anything came up, but Shannon kept booking my flights in advance.
"I've already paid and I'll be wasting money if you cancel," he sighed whenever I expressed doubt.
Although he was attentive and affectionate, Shannon was obsessed with my phone and always asked about texts I sent or received.
After six months together, I was at his place for a dinner party when I glanced at my phone for a split-second.
Suddenly, he snapped.
"Who's messaging you?" he barked in front of his mates.
Before I could answer, he grabbed the phone and ran outside.
I was covered in blood.
"Stop Shannon," I pleaded, catching up to him.
As I reached for the phone, he grabbed me and threw me against the fence.
I hit my head and everything went black.
I came to on the footpath, shivering.
Shannon was gone and my top was covered in blood.
In shock, I stumbled back into the house.
"You've cut yourself," Shannon said. "It was an accident."
His friend insisted on driving me to hospital, where I explained to a doctor that I'd had an argument with my partner.
He wanted me to call police, but I refused.
The cut above my eye was glued closed and I was kept under observation for concussion for the next 24 hours.
He promised not to hurt me.
On my way home, Shannon texted me.
I never hurt you – it was an accident.
I love you, it read.
I just wanted to forget him.
Never contact me again.
You hurt me badly, I wrote back.
I told the kids I'd injured myself moving furniture.
Over the next few months, Shannon texted his apologies constantly.
I'll never hurt you again, he said.
I couldn't help but think he might have changed; deep down I still had feelings for him.
He flew up with his kids and begged me to meet him.
"Don't give up on me," he begged tearfully over dinner.
"I promise to be a better man and get professional help."
I weakened.
"You'll never find anyone that loves you like me," he insisted.
Convinced by his words, I returned to him.
One day at his house, he stamped on my foot, crash tackled me to the floor and grabbed my phone.
But one day he found a message on my phone from a male friend and flew into a rage.
I was terrified.
Someone heard us and called the police.
Shannon was made the subject of a domestic violence order.
After that, he again promised he'd be a better man and I fell for it.
I flew down to Melbourne and we had a romantic date at Sandringham Beach.
But then, I got a text from a friend and Shannon instantly took it as proof I was cheating on him.
He began yelling and a passer-by called police.
After they quietened Shannon down and left, he dragged me to his car and drove me to his house.
He followed me into the bathroom and grabbed me round the throat, squeezing tightly.
"Shannon!" I choked, terrified.
He's going to kill me, I thought in horror.
Suddenly he stopped, and, as always, was full of apologies.
I'd seen what he was really capable of but I was so in love with him that yet again, I let my guard down.
I thought the new year would be a chance to start over.
But every time I touched my mobile, he got angry.
One day at his house, he stamped on my foot, crash tackled me to the floor and grabbed my phone.
There was nothing on there.
The abuse continued
But he verbally abused me the whole night but I was too scared to leave, I felt like a hostage.
The next morning, he acted as if nothing had happened.
"Don't ever contact me again," I said to him when I left.
I was well and truly done.
But he did.
He flew to Queensland and begged me to meet him at a restaurant.
My plan was to make him see this time we really were finished.
He got drunk and upset I wouldn't drink the wine he'd insisted on buying me.
Then he wrapped his hand in a towel and shoved my head with such force it jerked back.
Fortunately, the attack was caught on CCTV and security officers made him leave.
So I made statements to police about Shannon's attacks, hoping this would stop me – or any other woman – from enduring such abuse.
He knew all the ways to control me and make me so vulnerable, I believed he loved me too.
In court he pled guilty to three assaults and one count of recklessly causing serious injury.
He was sentenced to six months in jail, but appealed immediately and was bailed.
Instead, he got a two-year community corrections order.
In October he pled guilty to breach of a domestic violence order for shoving my head when we met in Queensland and was fined $1200.
It was dismal but at least it forced him to address his behaviour.
Looking back at our relationship, there were so many red flags I'd brushed aside because I was so in love.
He knew all the ways to control me and make me so vulnerable, I believed he loved me too.
Now, I've launched an online anti-domestic violence program called Red Flags, which warns women, and men, about the early signs that someone is abusive.
I've been doing talks to community groups and hope to run school workshops eventually.
Shannon was successful and famous and I was a strong, educated woman.
What happened to me proves domestic violence really can happen to anyone, by anyone.
Take 5 is still calling upon the government to implement a national GPS program that sends alerts to domestic violence survivors whenever their abuser comes within a specific radius.
If you agree this must happen, please sign our petition to demand that the government to do more to protect victims of domestic violence and give them the power to protect themselves.
With more than half a million readers, we do have the people power needed to bring about change that could help save many lives.

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