When Jennifer* would scroll through news stories of women who had been tragically murdered by their intimate partners she felt a pit in her stomach – not just because of the awful subject matter, but because it could’ve been her.
Her seven-year relationship started like many relationships do – she met a man who was charming, funny and handsome.
She never dreamed she would be documenting her days in a diary and collecting evidence so she could one day escape him.
When Jennifer arrived at the Email office she appeared nervous but determined.
The Mandurah mum carried a folder under her arm filled with photographs and text messages.
“The main reason I’m here today is to encourage victims of abuse to report the abuse to police – otherwise it can continue to the next person and the person after that,” she said.
How it began
Jennifer puts her ex-partner, Geoff*, seven years ago, and the two quickly fell in love.
“We put through mutual friends – they thought we would be the perfect match.
“I thought he was very handsome and also big and strong – I thought he would protect me, I didn’t think I would need protecting from him.”
The pair enjoyed a relatively “normal” relationship at first, and they eventually had two children together.
It wasn’t until 2013, when they were on holiday, that Jennifer would first experience Geoff’s physically violent side.
“We had an argument, because I thought he had been flirting with someone else. He had previously asked someone else for sex and it sort of came up again, like ‘how can you reassure me that you won’t embarrass me like that again ?’, and I slapped him on the bottom.”
Jennifer said Geoff then disappeared into the bathroom before tearing back out in a rage.
“He said ‘I’m going to teach you a lesson’, and just picked me off the ground by my throat, threw me on the bed and just laid into me. All I could do was protect my head – I had no idea when it was going to be over.”
When the attack eventually finished, Jennifer was bruised and bloody with a broken finger she had received from trying to protect her face from the blows.
Geoff then took Jennifer to the hospital, where she discovered she would need surgery on her finger.
“He seemed remorseful. He gave me flowers, bought me a new nightie for the one he ripped off and wrote me a card.”
The following eight months seemed like they were “back to normal”, and Jennifer began to relax – but her relief wouldn’t last long.
The little things add up
Despite the appearance of his initial remorse, after the attack, Geoff told Jennifer she “deserved it” and had “pushed his buttons”.
“There was remorse, but then it was just backflips – so it was never really remorse,” she said.
Desperate to maintain a sense of normality for her children, Jennifer persisted with the relationship, hoping things would eventually settle.
While she decided to try and salvage the relationship, she also began documenting things in a diary.
As she reflected during our interview on the many “red flags” she could see in hindsight, she brought up a time when after she had given birth to their child, she had stitches which made it hard for her to be intimate.
“I was worried he would go elsewhere for sex if I didn’t give it to him. So we had sex, and I felt my stitches ripping open. I told him that I was ripping open, I told him it really hurt, I showed him the blood, but he kept on going until he was done.”
Geoff’s behavior continued to escalate, and Jennifer feared for her life – worrying he might tamper with her brakes or even have someone else attack her.
“I love going out for a run – and as I was about to go out running he would say things like ‘don’t get raped and murdered’. Things like that – so I wouldn’t run my normal trails.
“I also canceled my life insurance and made sure he knew it because it made me feel safer.”
Despite his increasing loss of control behind closed doors, Geoff maintained relationships outside of the home, making sure no one ever saw the side Jennifer did.
“People saw the good side of him. I loved the good side of him, it’s like you want to stay with them because you love the good side of them and you give them the benefit of the doubt.”
Two years after the first violent attack, Geoff would put his hands on Jennifer again, in front of their small child.
“He was angry at me because I couldn’t find something on Facebook. I was just drawing at the table with my child and he grabbed me and pushed me down.
“Kids shouldn’t have to be exposed to something like that, ever.”
The point of no return
Fearing for her children, Jennifer decided it was time to get away from Geoff for good.
She rented her own place, and despite having to share custody, she put in every effort to keep their lives as normal as she could.
The next few years saw Jennifer receive countless text messages filled with both abusive language and pleas for her to come back.
It wasn’t until a few years later, when Geoff showed up at her rental unannounced in a rage, that she decided she needed to take things further.
“He pushed my door open and started yelling at me while the children were right in the bedroom sleeping. That’s when I thought ‘this is it’, I had to put a stop to it somewhere.”
Jennifer took her carefully collated evidence and made an appointment to speak to Mandurah police.
“I all the evidence I had and went gathered to police in November 2020, and they really listened to me.
“When I read my diary back it was like looking from an outsider’s view. Things like every week yelling, punching the walls – I didn’t see that wasn’t normal.
“When I eventually did go to the police it was such a relief. They gave me the victim support resources and they came and visited me. I had no idea how much support was out there.”
The police helped Jennifer compile her evidence and take Geoff to court, where he would eventually receive an order with protections in place to make sure she would never fall victim to him again.
“I know this sounds so cliché, but if my story can even just help one person it will be worth sharing. There is help and support out there.
“I heard later he had assaulted a female prior to me meeting him – and maybe I wouldn’t have gone through what I went through if interventions were in place.”
Jennifer said she still has residual trust and intimacy issues from her experience, but the court process had helped her receive a form of “closure”, which would help her move forward into a new chapter of her life.
- Allambee Counselling: 9535 8263
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- 1800 respect