Real Life

REAL LIFE: My husband abused me for 35 years, but I finally left him

I secretly hoped people would notice my bruises and help me.

By Laura Masia

Elizabeth Maclean, 58, from Brisbane, Qld shares her terrifying true story;

I stood frozen with terror in the bedroom doorway as the icy-cold blade pressed against my chest.
"Please don't do this," I begged my husband Colin, 59.
Minutes earlier, he'd become paranoid that he could hear someone in our yard.
"It's only thunder, darling," I said, trying to placate him.
But in an instant, his calm demeanour shifted to aggression.
He put down his ice-cream and within seconds was in front of me, his wide shoulders blocking the doorway.
He picked up a knife from his bedside table and held it to my chest.
"Thunder?!" he spat explosively. "You're an idiot!"
Eyes wide with fear, I wondered how my life had become this bad.
I'd first met Colin at a disco when I was 18.
His smile was breathtaking and we clicked instantly.
Within six months, he proposed.
My parents thought I was too young, but I was sure they were just being overprotective.
Colin and I got married and I fell pregnant with a baby boy.
"I've always wanted a son!" Colin said, beaming.
I felt like I was living in a fairytale.
But when I was eight months pregnant, I saw another side to my husband.
Colin and I.
I was walking in to the bathroom when he followed me in.
"Not now, honey," I said. I was exhausted.
I fell sideways, hitting my head on the wall.
I stared at Colin in disbelief, clutching my stomach protectively.
He just turned and went back to bed.
Sitting on the floor, I thought about leaving him. But where would I go?
I was far too embarrassed to tell my parents or friends.
And our son was almost here. He deserved to know his father.
When Colin woke, he begged for forgiveness.
"It'll never happen again, Lizzy," he promised.
I tried to believe him. You just need to not to anger him, I thought.
For a few months, Colin was the perfect gentleman.
He bought me gifts and showered me in affection, but inevitably the tiniest thing would cause him to lash out again or verbally abuse me.
Afterwards he'd say it was my fault.
Not long after giving birth to our son, Ben, we had another boy, Michael.
Colin and I seemed like the perfect couple to the outside world.
"I'd give anything to have a relationship like yours," my friends gushed.
I'd smile at them but secretly hoped they'd notice my bruises and help me.
Colin was terrifying.
Colin soon became jealous of the time I'd spend nurturing the boys.
Thankfully, he didn't hurt them or let them see him attacking me.
But it would always happen behind closed doors.
The abuse continued for 35 years without anyone catching on.
One day I accompanied Colin to Sydney for a medical procedure.
In the hotel room, he snapped, punching me in the head, and when I fell to the floor, he kicked my chest.
The pain was excruciating.
I struggled to breathe while I lay on the floor.
I didn't dare get up in case he attacked me further.
Back home, my injuries were too severe to hide and I had to seek medical help.
The attack had torn the lining in my chest wall, and I was in for a long healing period.
I had no choice but to come clean to my boys.
I sat Ben, 34, down, explaining that for the last four decades, his father had been violent towards me.
"Why did you deal with this alone for so long?" he asked.
I shrugged sadly. I had so many reasons but none he'd understand.
Next day, he called a family meeting.
"Dad, this has to stop," Ben said sternly.
Colin's hazel eyes turned black.
He exploded in a rage, lunging towards his own son.
Thankfully, Michael restrained him and Colin eventually agreed to move out and leave me alone.
My sons, Michael and Ben.
I was relieved, but felt certain it wouldn't last.
So I had the house fitted with security cameras, changed the locks, added a deadlock and panic button to my bedroom in case I needed to shut myself away.
But after a short holiday to visit my niece in Hong Kong, I returned to find Colin inside the house.
He'd somehow made a new key.
"I promise I've changed," he said.
I didn't believe him, but I was too scared to kick him out.
I let him back in with a plan to record proof of the abuse – I just hoped I lived through it.
"What are these for?" Colin asked, looking at the cameras.
"To keep us safe," I replied.
Colin was well-behaved for the next few weeks but soon, even the cameras weren't enough to stop him.
One minute, he was eating ice- cream the next, he'd pushed me against the wall, holding a knife to my chest.
Through all the years of abuse, I'd never got used this.
That night, he threw the sharp blade into the mattress, but I knew the next time, I might not be so lucky.
If I didn't leave, he'd kill me.
Two days later, Colin was going to the shops.
"Did you change my seat settings in the car?" he grumbled from the doorway.
"No," I replied softly.
He glared at me as he tipped the can of drink he'd been sipping over my head, before slamming me against the wall.
Footage of one of the last attacks.
With my hands sticky and my ears still ringing from the blow, I jumped in my car and went to the police.
I had 10 minutes to make my escape.
I felt a weight fall off my shoulders as I told the officers what I'd endured.
My statement combined with the security camera footage was enough to arrest Colin.
He pleaded guilty to seven charges including three charges of assault and bodily harm, and was sentenced to two years in jail.
But somehow, he will be released after only six months. It's not enough for the years of terror I'd suffered.
I'm terrified that one day I'll run into him. I don't think there will ever be a day when I don't look over my shoulder.
I shared my story on A Current Affair, and everyone was shocked by the footage.
But I hope in doing so, that I'll help others to recognise the cycle of abuse and be encouraged to break free.
I'm trying to move on.

Sign our petition

One Aussie woman dies each week at the hands of a partner or an ex.
Almost one quarter of these victims had already taken out an AVO against their murderer.
This is a national disgrace.
Take 5 is demanding the government do more to keep women safe.
We've called for tougher sentences and imprisonment for violent offenders who breach an AVO.
When we told Elizabeth about our petition, she said "That's a terrific idea. Women have a right to know if their abuser is in their general vicinity. Then they have the power to choose what they want to do."
If you'd like to find out more and sign our petition, click HERE.
If you, or someone you know, is suffering from domestic violence please click here for help or call 1800RESPECT.

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