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Brave mum: ‘I escaped from hell for my boys’

Judy is incredibly brave

Brave Judy Sharp, 61, from Brisbane, shares her inspiring escape story to help others.

As my husband handed me the bunch of tulips, my heart sank.

‘Thank you, they’re lovely,’ I said, forcing a smile.

Without fail, Mick* brought me flowers every Friday, 52 weeks a year.

It should have made me feel special, but it was so at odds with the way he made me feel the other six days a week, it seemed creepy.

Mick would get jealous over the smallest things.

I felt controlled and was desperately unhappy.

After our sons, Tim and Sam, arrived, things only got worse.

Convinced I was cheating, Mick started putting sticky tape across the front and back doors each night, then checking in the morning to see if it was broken.

The thing that cut me the deepest was when he called me a bad mother.

The boys deserve better, I thought.

But Mick controlled our finances and I had nowhere else to go.

One evening, I was sitting on the sofa cuddling Tim, three, and Sam, one, as Mick hurled insults at me. Suddenly, he grabbed a camera.

He said it was going to be my last night alive and the photo was so the boys had a memory of being with me.

As he snapped the picture, I stared down the lens, too worn out to react. 

When he grabbed me, I screamed so loudly he stopped.

After he’d left for work the next morning, I knew we had to escape.

Frantically, I searched for a house we could rent. Tim has severe autism and a shelter wouldn’t take us in, so this was our only option.

The picture Judy Sharp ex husband's took
The haunting photograph

In desperation, I withdrew some money from our account to pay for bond and a week’s rent.

As soon as Mick left the house the next day, the removal van arrived and we quickly packed up.

With no cash or job, how on earth am I going to look after my boys? I panicked. 

But when I stepped inside our new home, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.

Time passed, and even though Mick wasn’t harming me anymore, the awful things Tim and Sam had witnessed had clearly stayed in their minds. 

As they grew up, I made sure the boys knew how much I loved them and that nothing that’d happened was their fault.

I also made sure they didn’t become angry men like Mick.

Bringing them up in a pleasant environment,
I emphasised good manners and being polite. And we never raised our voices.

‘Kind is the most important thing you can be,’ I’d say.

I was proud when my boys grew into amazing, happy gentlemen. Tim, 32, is a successful artist and Sam, 30, is a swim coach who trialled for the Olympics.

I have a wonderful full life, a job I love and a home with a garden.

Judy Sharp and her boys
The boys and me after our escape

I wanted to reach others who are in an abusive relationship to remind them they aren’t alone, and to show them they can get out.

So, every year, on the anniversary of our escape, I post some of our story on Facebook. The boys are proud that we’re helping other survivors.

A few years ago, I found the haunting photo Mick had taken that awful night and decided to share it.

It was hard to see the distraught look on our faces, but I want women to know that domestic violence and abuse is never acceptable. No child deserves to grow up in such a horrible environment.

I want others suffering to know there is a light on the other side.

*Mick’s name has been changed

How to talk to kids about domestic abuse

Children may respond differently to witnessing abuse. They may withdraw, act out, or they may quickly show signs of trauma, such as anxiety, sleep disruption or problems in school.

Stock image of family

They may even feel conflicted about loving their abusive parent.

These are very normal feelings, and it’s important that they be validated.

It’s normal for people who have been in a violent relationship to not want to talk to their kids about it.

It might seem safer to pretend that the abuse didn’t happen, assume that the kids don’t know about it or hope they will just forget about it.

But, denying or ignoring abuse can actually create more confusion and fear, so it’s important to talk to your children about what’s going on whenever possible.

What can you do?

  • Ask about how they’re feeling, and try to really listen and understand them
  • Allow them to share whatever types of feelings they have towards the abusive parent
  • Let them know you believe them if they share something
  • Let them know the abuse is not their fault or your own
  • Let them know you love them and want to keep them safe
  • Accept that they may not be willing or able to talk about it right away
  • Help them learn healthy ways of dealing with anger, fear and other emotions
  • Help them get involved in things that boost their self-esteem and make them feel good about themselves
  • Consider taking them to counselling or therapy, if possible
  • Maintain as much structure and routine with them as you can

Source: www.thehotline.org

  • In an emergency, call the police.
  • If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence, contact 1800RESPECT for free, confidential advice and support 24/7, online and by phone.

Call 1800 737 732, or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au (Aus) or 0800 456 450 (NZ).

  • If you suspect a child is living with domestic violence or experiencing family violence, contact your state-based Child Protection line.

Children can call Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800, or visit kidshelp.com.au (Aus), or call Kidsline 0800 54 37 54 or visit kidsline.org.nz (NZ).

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