For years Veronica suffered coercive control at the hands of her partner, which last year culminated in a vicious physical attack - the effects of which will impact her for the rest of her life.
After the perpetrator was sentenced in court this week, she is bravely sharing her story in an effort to raise awareness of what family violence can look like and the lifelong effects it can have.
Veronica Arnel and Craig Kennedy were together for four and a half years. The couple married in March 2020 but throughout their marriage, Veronica began to suspect her husband was having an affair.
It was last September that her suspicions were confirmed when she viewed an explicit photo texted to his phone, which also popped up on his iPad, from another woman.
"I was just horrified but it did confirm my suspicions that he was having an affair with her. I telephoned him and he didn't deny it. When he got home I confronted him about it again and he still didn't deny it."
'The worst night'
Around 1pm, the heavy drinker - who at the time consumed about a slab each day - turned to the bottle and began verbally abusing Veronica. About three hours passed and with his fury fuelled by alcohol, Veronica said he turned into "a monster".
Knowing how much alcohol he had consumed, when an intoxicated Craig tried to drive off just before 9pm, Veronica attempted to take the keys from him.
"He broke out into a fit of rage and there was no escaping for me," she recalled.
He pushed Veronica hard in the chest into the front door, causing her to strike her head. As she put up her hand in self-defence, she ripped his singlet.
As he made a beeline for the bedroom to retrieve some money, Veronica followed him up the hallway.
As she walked towards the kitchen, she was kicked in the lower back with great force.
As he spat that he was going to kill her, she was picked up "like a ragdoll" and thrown back towards the ground, hitting her head on the floor. The force caused her to black out momentarily.
"I tried to get back up but he pressed me back down with his foot. I saw stars," she remembered, adding that the force of hitting her head and the pain caused her to vomit. "In that moment, I thought this is it. I'm either going to live or die.
"It was 15 minutes of pure hell," she said. "I honestly felt like I was trying to fight off a monster."
Craig repeated that he was going to kill Veronica before he left the house.
To this day I still don't know how I got back upVeronica
"To this day I still don't know how I got back up," Veronica said.
After he left, Veronica contacted a close friend who rushed to the house, calling police and an ambulance on the way, before accompanying her to hospital.
Assault exacerbated condition
Veronica, who lives with a rare condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), said the assault caused her condition to flare and her pain levels went into overdrive. As a result, the assault caused debilitating pain.
"It was like being stabbed with hot knives. I was in the worst pain possible."
According to a report written by a specialist pain medicine physician, tendered as evidence in her case, CRPS is a very rare condition.
Veronica was diagnosed almost 10 years ago - a devastating diagnosis after what should have been a simple procedure to remove a node from her thigh. Her husband was her full-time carer.
"The hallmarks of CRPS are neuropathic pain with areas of altered processing of sensory information from the body to the brain and signals that normally do not produce pain starting to be painful," it reads.
The condition means Veronica is in severe pain almost all of the time. The pain can be exacerbated by a light touch, brush of clothing, change in temperature, as well as stress.
For example, while an ordinary daily task for anybody else, for her, taking a shower feels as though she is being cut by razor blades.
"If anything happens to me physically, my pain signals go crazy," she explained. "I live in pain every second of the day."
Being in such pain all the time means she experiences pseudoneglect - she does not know if she is moving a part of her body unless she looks at it.
This results in frequent falls. Once, she had broken her foot in a fall but did not realise as her body and mind were already consumed by such excruciating pain.
A long term consequence of the condition is an altered brain physiology.
"One of the most important long-term goals in Veronica's treatment over the last eight years has been to prevent her functional decline to the point where she would need to be in a wheelchair, as many patients with CRPS," the report continues.
"Veronica has worked with great determination to maintain this goal with continuing walking and activities, despite unimaginable pain.
"This has been helped by medical interventions including her dorsal root ganglion stimulator and regular ketamine infusions and botox injections to treat severe spasms of the muscles in affected limbs."
The stimulator is the third device which has been implanted, with the others removed due to device failure and infection.
The latest one, which she had for more than six years, improved her quality of life immensely.
The device consists of a battery powered unit inserted under the skin on her lower back. Electrodes extend from the unit to her spinal cord, with the report explaining it is a "fragile device which should not be exposed to external impacts of any kind".
A follow-up report written in June says the former life-changing device - the most effective form of treatment for her - was no longer effective for her pain management since the assault.
"As a direct consequence of the assault, [her] stimulator isn't working and giving her analgesic effects. Due to the after effects of the assault and probably related to the direct impact on the device, it is no longer working and no longer gives Veronica the relief it did have before the assault.
"Due to loss of efficacy...it is my opinion that this type of treatment is no longer available for Veronica. This has left her with significant increases in pain and increased suffering that is likely to be ongoing."
With worsening pain, it means Veronica has had to resume other treatments once again - painful injections and infusions.
I've been given a life sentence. I don't know what the future holds for meVeronica
She has also lost trust in other people and in her own judgement of others.
The fact she will live with the consequences of the assault for the rest of her life "terrifies" Veronica and she does not know what her future will hold.
"I cannot believe this has happened to me. I've been given a life sentence. I don't know what the future holds for me - I can only live each day."
Culmination of abuse
While what happened on that night was horrific and deeply traumatising for Veronica, she said it was the culmination of years of abusive behaviour towards her.
Treatments in hospital every few weeks are "painful and sickening", but during her time with her husband, she said these periods were her only safe haven.
"It was just too much to move out. It was just too much on top of my disease and then COVID."
But with her degrading condition and intensive treatment for an incurable disease, she just "couldn't keep fighting him". That night of September 13 was the last straw for her and she left him.
Veronica said her condition meant she didn't recognise much of the behaviour as abuse, until it became physical, as she was always so distracted by the impact of her condition.
Craig was very controlling - he isolated her from her family and friends, who were not allowed to visit their home.
His controlling behaviour included wanting to know where she was every minute of the day, while she was not permitted to change her appearance or cut her hair.
If she went out, she needed to ensure she brought home his slab to drink. While they ran a business together, she also had restricted access to funds. It got to the point where she couldn't access some of her treatments because she couldn't afford to pay for them.
Veronica never told her friends, family or doctors about what she was experiencing until that "worst night".
Since leaving her husband, Veronica has been homeless. She has lived in temporary accommodation with a family member since that night, but has been unsuccessful in attempts to secure a rental through family violence services and real estate agents.
She has applied for more than 100 properties without success. Veronica said this was preventing her from moving on from the trauma, as she cannot begin to rebuild her life.
In addition to taking the brave step to report her abuse to police and go through the court process, she took the courageous step to share her story to take a stand against family violence and hold her perpetrator accountable.
She sees this as fighting back.
She encouraged readers experiencing abusive behaviours to seek help, as there are ways to navigate the system.
"If I can do it, others can do it too. Someone needs to make a stand, so I have. If I can help at least one person then I know I've done something."
Veronica plans on applying for a course in family violence support so she can use her experience to help others.
Police filed an intervention order for Veronica days after the assault, before Craig was charged with numerous offences.
He pleaded guilty to recklessly causing injury, making threats to kill and contravening a family violence intervention order.
Kennedy's defence lawyer said he "snapped" and behaved in a way that was "reprehensible".
"He is extremely sorry for his behaviour and the suffering he put her through. He accepts his behaviour was disgraceful and is horrified at the harm he has caused his wife. He accepts full responsibility."
On Thursday, he was sentenced in the Ballarat Magistrates' Court. He was given a 15-month community corrections order with requirements to complete counselling for alcohol treatment and a men's behaviour change program. He was convicted and fined $2000.
Magistrate Ron Saines said recklessly causing injury and threats to kill were offences of violence and he was sentencing being based on these admissions.
If this story has affected you, help is available. Phone 1800 RESPECT or Safe Steps on 1800 015 188. The Central Highlands Orange Door at 21 Armstrong Street North Ballarat is available during business hours.