Danielle Tulloch experienced three years of torture and abuse at the hands of her former partner until it escalated to a point she thought he was going to kill her.
The 37-year-old continues to suffer from the physical and emotional abuse inflicted on her, experiencing flashbacks, anxiety, nightmares and constant pain from being hit so many times.
After a violent incident in October, Ms Tulloch was forced to leave her Ballarat home and she now lives almost 450 kilometres away. She will have to move at least two more times so her former partner can never locate her.
"Every time you think it's over, you are reminded of this feeling and you think 'is it going to stop?'," Ms Tulloch said.
Her former partner, Gene Stowe, pleaded guilty to threatening to kill, robbery, unlawful assault, committing an indictable offence while on bail and contravening a bail condition at the Ballarat Magistrates' Court in January.
The prosecution withdrew the serious charge of aggravated burglary following negotiations with the defence counsel.
The incident occurred on October 3 when Ms Tulloch was at her Wendouree home dozing in her bedroom and Stowe arrived.
The 42-year-old man accused her of stealing $100 from him before spitting in her face and telling her if she did not give him her bank card he would kill her.
Ms Tulloch told him to leave the house but Stowe grabbed her purse, took out the cards and placed them in his pocket. Ms Tulloch fled to the lounge room and accessed a duress alarm provided to her by family violence service Berry Street.
Stowe, who had no mental health issues but was addicted to drugs, became angry when he saw the duress alarm in her hand and he grabbed her by the hair, threw her on a couch and punched her to the left side of the head.
Ms Tulloch started calling his name out loud, as she was taught by her support workers, to raise the alarm she was being attacked.
Stowe then picked up a tomahawk and held it above his head telling her he would kill her while holding plastic tubing in his other hand.
Ms Tulloch said she was so frightened and turned her head away so she could not see what she thought was coming - that he was going to kill her. She believes the duress alarm saved her life because it recorded enough detail to alert the authorities.
The incident occurred less than a week after Stowe was bailed from the Ballarat Police Station with conditions he not attend Ms Tulloch's house, but he went there three times before he was arrested.
Ms Tulloch, who grew up in the Northern Territory, decided to speak out because she wanted to be given a voice and warn other women they do not need to suffer.
"He (Stowe) will take it to the next poor girl. He is getting the chance to rehabilitate but we don't get that chance. We will have it forever," Ms Tulloch said.
She said Stowe's abuse and controlling behaviour, which included financial control, started about six months into their relationship. She described her experience as "not living" but "existing" and just trying to survive.
Ms Tulloch said many incidents of physical abuse involved Stowe hurting her back and neck because he knew this was where she was most vulnerable due to a spinal injury she was born with.
Her doctor has told her she has an acquired brain injury, and likened it to being in a car crash, from being hit to the head so many times.
Ms Tulloch said she did not leave Stowe for a number of reasons, including his threats to family and not having any financial stability.
"They convince you that's how you are meant to be and you won't get any better or deserve any better. He had me convinced," she said.
It took me six months working on myself to sort out my place and courage to do something about it.Danielle Tulloch
She said she wanted to send the message to other women that it is possible to get out of a relationship, and hopefully her story would help them.
"Do your research, gather information on the court processes and listen to your gut. If domestic violence is going to happen once, it's going to happen 10,000 times again. Listen to yourself sooner," Ms Tulloch said.
She said support from police, family violence service Berry Street, UnitingCare, Stowe's family and her new partner had been amazing throughout her horrific ordeal.
Her recovery is ongoing, with regular counselling sessions and medical appointments. She is currently awaiting another double or triple fusion in her neck.
Ms Tulloch said she felt protected from Stowe after a 10-year intervention order was put in place at his sentencing hearing in March.
According to Impact for Women, 12 Australian women have been killed in the first 11 weeks of this year, in alleged relationship violence deaths.
Stowe is currently serving a 19 month prison sentence, which has a non-parole period of 12 months. At the time of his sentence, he had already served 154 days in custody.
While sentencing Stowe, Ballarat magistrate Ron Saines said Stowe's offending against Ms Tulloch was a serious example of family violence.
Stowe abandoned an appeal application in the County Court at Ballarat on March 20 because the judge said he would re-sentence Stowe to more jail time because his offending was "far too serious".
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.
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