Here, Rachele, 45 tells the story in her own words.
Ready to meet someone, I’d joined an online dating site, but I kept having the same problem – my job. I worked as a cleaner in the mines and would be away for two weeks before coming home for one. Then I got chatting to a man called Brad Peterson.
I work in the mines, too, he told me. The fact he understood my shift pattern was perfect. I soon discovered we had more than that in common, though.
With the same silly sense of humour, we were always laughing and we enjoyed a drink at the pub on our days off. ‘I love a chick that can play pool,’ Brad grinned, when I thrashed him at yet another game. Plus, at six feet tall and muscly, I thought he was gorgeous.
Because I was away so much, my kids, Kaea, then 14, and Tane, 12, lived with their dad. But when I introduced them to Brad, they likedhim as much as I did. He’d pick them up when they needed a ride and told them funny stories.‘You two are so in love,’ my friends would say.
Then, a few months after we’d got together, we were playing pool when a man came over. ‘I’d love to give your missus a game,’ he said to Brad. ‘Cool, go on then,’ I replied.
At that, Brad stormed out of the pub. Confused, I finished playing pool then went to find him. ‘What was all that about?’ I asked back at home. Furious, Brad started screaming, accusing me of cheating on him. ‘Pull your head in,’ I said. ‘I’m with you.’ I went to turn away but suddenly Brad hit me across the face. ‘I’m so sorry,’ he said, softening. ‘I didn’t mean to do that.’
As a nasty black eye formed, I wanted to believe that it was an accident. But after that, Brad became even more jealous. I’d always been really sociable and had lots of friends. But if I chatted to someone, he wanted to know who they were and what we were talking about. Exhausted by it all, I broke up with him, but Brad knew exactly what to say.
‘I’m sorry, but I’ve been hurt in the past and I’m insecure,’ he said, pulling me in for one of his big cuddles. Remembering his good, loving side, I took him back. But it was the start of a horrifying, draining cycle. We’d have a great week, then Brad would be physically and mentally abusive. ‘You’re nothing but a dog,’ he’d spit, pushing me on the bed. Afterwards, he’d apologise and make me feel like it was my fault.
‘I didn’t want to do it, but I can’t trust you,’ he said. ‘It’s your personality, you get on with everybody. What if someone takes you away from me?’ ‘I only love you,’ I insisted. And I did. When it was good, it was amazing.
Brad was so house proud, he’d come home with a new dining table or picture frames. And when Kaea fell pregnant, Brad was ecstatic. He went straight out and bought a bassinet and little onesies. When she gave birth to her little girl, Koda, Brad was right there with us. ‘I can’t believe I’m a pop!’ he wept, proudly. But then the abuse would start all over again. He’ll change, I told myself.
Then, this October, nine years after we’d first got together, Brad messaged me while I was working in the mines. Video call me, he wrote. I want to look around your room and check no-one’s there. Even when we were apart, he was still able to abuse me. Back home, I ended it for good. ‘I can’t do this anymore, Brad,’ I said. ‘Take your things and go.’Suddenly he smacked me in the jaw so hard I fell on the couch.‘I think you’ve dislocated it,’ I sobbed.
Just then, a strange calm came over Brad’s face. ‘Go to the spare room,’ he said. There was something about the way his eyes glazed over that terrified me more than ever. Running for the front door, I tried the handle, but he’d locked it. In the spare room, Brad pulled a backpack and cable ties out from under the bed.
‘What are you going to do with them?’ I asked. ‘I need to tie you up,’ he said, matter-of-factly. Forcing my hands behind my back, he tied them first, followed by my feet. ‘Please don’t hurt me,’ I pleaded. ‘I’m not going to,’ he promised. But Brad shoved two pairs of thick socks in my mouth and wound duct tape around my head three times. Next he got a doona. ‘I need to wrap this around you and you need to walk to the car,’ he said, coolly. Bound and gagged, I staggered outside, breathing through my nose.
Brad pushed me onto the floor in the back of the car. ‘Stay down, don’t lift your head up,’ he hissed.
Setting off, I saw the neighbourhood fade away, replaced with trees. When we finally stopped, I realised with horror that we were in the bush.And no-one had any idea where I was. ‘I’m not going to jail for this,’ Brad said. ‘I’m going to kill myself.’
Attaching a hosepipe to the petrol tank, he got in the car with me and closed the door. ‘Please take this off,’ I mumbled. ‘Why are you doing this?’
‘Tell me the truth,’ he said, ripping the tape off. ‘You’ve been with other men.’ ‘I haven’t, I love you,’ I replied, trying to keep him calm. ‘Please untie my hands.’
As fumes poured into the car, he removed the cable ties. Then he shoved three sleeping pills into my mouth and made me drink them down with water. ‘Let me out,’ I pleaded. I had to live for Kaea, Tane and my granddaughter. Just then, Brad pulled me into the fresh air. ‘Koda needs her pop,’ I tried reasoning with him. ‘Come on, let’s go home.’
Promising I wouldn’t call the police, we went home.By then, I was so drowsy Brad let me sleep. But at 6am the next morning, the interrogation started again. Outside on the driveway I asked for my car keys.‘I’m scared of you, Brad,’ I said. ‘I’m going to see Kaea.’ ‘Why don’t you come inside and shower first?’ he said. The next thing I remember is being on the floor. Kicking desperately, I tried to fight Brad off, but he reached for something and kneeled on top of me. A knife!
Holding my head to one side, he slit my throat. What have you done? I thought. Gazing right into my eyes, he did it a second time, then a third, then a fourth. Blood spurted from my neck as he climbed off. Leaving me for dead, he stole my car and disappeared. Clutching the gaping wound, I staggered to the gate. I could hear air rushing through my throat and my arm was hot from all the blood. Somehow, I managed to bang on the door of my neighbour’s house. ‘My partner just slit my throat,’ I choked. ‘Lie down,’ she said, grabbing a towel. ‘You’re okay, you’re talking and breathing.’
At Royal Perth Hospital, a mask was put over my face and everything went black.When I woke up, Kaea, 23, and Tane, 21, were there with my friend. I’d had surgery to repair my windpipe and my throat had been glued back together. Wounds on my hands where I’d desperately fought for my life had been stitched. ‘We had to put a tracheotomy in too,’ a doctor explained. ‘It was the only way to keep you alive.’
It meant I couldn’t talk or eat. All I could do was think. Brad had tried to murder me. He’d promised he wouldn’t hurt me and he’d tried to kill me. I couldn’t comprehend it.
The next day, Kaea had some news. ‘Brad’s been killed in a car accident,’ she said.
The aftermath had been caught on camera and played on the news. I want to see it, I wrote down. Brad had raced along the highway and smashed head on into a truck. My car was smashed into pieces. Beforehand, he’d written on Facebook, love is evol [evil]... I showed ya, time to go now, goodbye life. ‘I hate him,’ Kaea said. ‘He could’ve taken you away from us. We wouldn’t have had a mum.’ The doctor said it was a miracle Brad hadn’t severed my vocal cords.
Amazingly, 10 days later, I was allowed to go home. Because Brad had destroyed my car, I had no way of getting to my doctors’ appointments, so my sister Justine set up a GoFundMe page to raise some money. I was touched when people donated and left supportive messages.
Two months on, I’m still struggling to come to terms with what happened and I’m getting counselling. It was like something out of a horror movie. No-one should have to go through that. If you’re in an abusive relationship, please, speak to someone. Get help.
Every day I have to look at the scars. They’ll always be a reminder, but they’re also a sign of what I survived.
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