It was a day like any other. I went into my 16-year-old son, Jason’s*, bedroom to wake him for school as I had done on hundreds of other mornings. But that day was different. Instead of finding my son asleep in his bed, he was gone and in his place was a suicide note on the pillow.
The note read that he was sorry, that it wasn’t my fault but he couldn’t live with his pain any longer.
I drove to the police immediately and seven horrible hours later we found him on top of a cliff. They talked him down from the edge and took him to a psychiatric ward but he still didn’t admit the horrors he had endured for years at the hands of my partner, Matthew Meredith.
I couldn’t fathom why the son that I adored so much was so sad he wanted to die.
I tried to get him to open up, but he wouldn’t tell me for weeks what was wrong. Eventually, one day we were driving in the car together and he said Matthew had been “doing things” to him. I wasn’t certain what that meant but I turned the car around and headed directly to the police station.
He begged me not to go. He was incredulous that I believed him, and I now know that for 10 years he was kept quiet with threats that I wouldn’t.
Jason begged me to turn the car around and go home, to give him some time.
And I did. I wish I didn’t, but I did.
It took a few more weeks before he asked his father and stepmother to take him to the police and he made a formal statement.
Matthew began raping Jason when he was just six years old, barely more than a baby. Matthew enticed silence by shaming him, and humiliating him. It continued for years and Jason thought if he took the abuse his sisters would be safe from the evil things Matthew did to him when they were alone.
But his sisters weren’t safe at all.
When I first met Matthew he was charming and endearing. I was a single mum and he would say that he remembered growing up without a dad and how much he missed that connection so he would buy my kids gifts and treated me well.
My daughter, Ava*, was seven and Jason was four, and I wanted them to have a strong male figure in their lives.
I began to notice odd behavior. He would listen to my phone calls on CB radio, and became very possessive towards me. He was controlling and paranoid but I still loved him. I wanted it to work.
Shortly after we got together he begged me for a child of our own. I was perfectly happy with my two, but he said this may be his only chance to be a dad so we got pregnant and we were happy.
One day when I was nine weeks pregnant he approached me in the house and he was very agitated. He demanded I have an abortion. When I vowed I would never do that, he attacked me and punched me again and again in the stomach.
Afterwards, when his rage subsided, he was so sorry. He sobbed and said he didn’t know what got into him. He said it wouldn’t happen again.
In hindsight, of course, the signs were there but when you’re in it, it’s not as simple as people would believe.
I grew up with a drunken violent father and I vowed my kids would never experience the same kind of terror, so I now feel crippling guilt for what my children have experienced in their short lives.
The violence towards me didn’t suddenly become really bad, it kind of grew.
You know how they say if you drop a frog into boiling water it will jump out but if you drop it into pleasantly warm water and turn up the heat it will stay there until it boils to death.
Matthew slowly boiled me by chipping away at my self-esteem. He told me I was worthless, old and ugly, he said I was a bad mother. He took my life away. I had no access to my bank accounts. I could no longer access my emails.
I was an empty, broken, shell of a person.
He would violently drag me from my bed in the middle of the night to make him food, or a drink. I would bite down on my tongue and cheeks until I tasted blood in order not to cry out and wake the children.
He would beat me mercilessly, and then refuse to take me to the hospital when I lay broken on the floor. If I tried to go to bed in my agony he would force me to get up.
One time I had broken ribs, and a broken foot and he still refused to let me get help. To be honest, that wasn’t even a stand out beating. I know now that I have seven healed spinal fractures from different time periods. Sometimes I would conjure ways to kill myself so my kids wouldn’t be the ones to find my dead body. Other times I would dream of ways to murder him and not go to jail.
I was at rock bottom, but I still didn’t leave until the discovery that he was a sexual monster ripped my eyes open to what our lives had become.
He began raping Ava when she was seven years old. Matthew told her Mummy knew all about it and I was ok with them having a special relationship.
He told Ava she was his special girl and that they were in a loving relationship together. He said one day they would be together as a couple when she grew up and she loved him for it.
She experienced Stockholm Syndrome, where she believed her abuser was actually being kind and loving, because it was easier to bear what was happening. Even after he was arrested she had feelings for him.
She said on some level she understood it was wrong, but she was hoping to protect her baby sister. When Ava discovered her baby sister had been molested regardless she was devastated. She hadn’t protected her at all.
The abuse on my baby girl, Jasmine*, started when she was six.
Jasmine was terrified into silence because Matthew promised if she breathed a word he would kill me and kill her big brother and sister. To this day, after admitting to police what happened to her, she fears he will come and kill us.
He vowed he would too. Even as they were taking him away he vowed he would hunt us down and kill my “brats” before he killed me.
Matthew Meredith went to jail for 20 years what he did to my children, but although he is in there, the pain and horror doesn’t stop for my babies.
Jason is 21 now and has tried to kill himself seven times. He has a baby on the way, so maybe this little life will give him something worth fighting for but every day he battles the profound, ugly pain that dwells deep inside him.
The guilt I feel is overwhelming because I did not know. I failed being a mother because I did not protect my children.
The people in the town we lived in would stop and whisper when they saw me coming. People would say “how could she not know?” but I didn’t, all of my children were manipulated so cunningly that none of them spoke up while they endured this most horrific abuse.
We have all had amazing support from Fighters Against Child Abuse Australia, and we have all had intensive counseling, but it will never take away the scars that mark their souls.
My kids are amazing, they are my heroes. I have told them they have every right to be angry with me, I remained in a toxic situation that I should not have been in and I put them in harm’s way. They have every right to be angry… but what were we going to do with that anger?
Let it rule our lives? Be victims forever and let that evil monster win? Together we cried, and raged, and hit a punching bag, but we decided we had to become survivors.
I’m working to change legal reform and make legislative changes because Matthew Meredith didn’t get the full force of the law because we weren’t married. He was tried with a different charge for my kids, versus our shared child.
He was their father figure for 12 years, and he violated their trust and their bodies. The charges should have been equal for all of my children.
My kids and I all still have nightmares, and I will often wake with tears streaming my face and sobs choking my throat. Some days it’s almost too horrific to bear, but you have no idea how strong you are until you have to be.
I beg every victim of abuse, male and female, to let go of the shame. It’s not your fault but don’t kid yourself that your violent relationship is not affecting your kids. Whether it happening to them or they’re just watching you, they are hurting too, so reach out and get help before it’s too late.