‘In so deep’: What it’s like being trapped in a nightmare
Years after the physical wounds of domestic violence had healed, Jo Mason was still struggling to mend the emotional scars inflicted by the perpetrator.
The Queensland woman was the victim of a years-long campaign coercive control by her partner who systematically stripped her of her financial freedom, social connections and her confidence.
"Yes there was physical violence in the relationship as well, I went to hospital twice," she said.
"But in my case I would say that the coercive control had a greater impact on me than the physical violence because the words just reverberate around in your head.
"The emotional impact was greater than the physical impact for me."
In the years after escaping the abusive relationship, Ms Mason said she would still start to panic an hour into a catch up with a friend, fretting about what would happen if she stayed too long.
Ms Mason said it took her a long time to recognise her partner's controlling behaviour for what it was.
"It crept up slowly and it wasn't until I was in so deep that I actually realised what it was," she said.
"But also they were more subtle and resulted in other impacts like compromised confidence, compromised social connections, impacts to work, impacts financially and things like that.
"Having seen the things I'd seen in the news about domestic violence I didn't correlate it with those things with DV."
Ms Mason said greater education was needed to teach people about domestic violence and coercive control.
She is now using her negative experience to create a positive change after starting a company named WorkHaven which works with businesses to help victims of domestic violence.
"Workplaces have a really key role in the stance against domestic violence because ultimately there's a duty of care but the domestic violence can really impact someone's ability to get to work, their performance at work and their ability to uphold their role," she said.
"So it's very important that workplaces understand domestic violence and have the right measures in place to support their employees in a meaningful manner and that's what WorkHaven supports people to do."
Ms Mason said people needed to understand that domestic violence can happen to anyone
"I think there is a perception that it happens to a certain type of person and that's not the case it can happen to anybody," she said.
"In my experience as an ambassador for the Brisbane Domestic and Family Violence service we've met so many different people from different backgrounds and from all walks of life that are impacted by domestic violence. It doesn't discriminate."
Ms Mason urged victims to seek help, saying the violence did not have to define them and they could have a happy future.
"When you're going through DV it can feel so overwhelming and like the walls are closing in because it impacts so many different areas of a person's life," she said.
"It's like a hand grenade being thrown in - it can impact your health, your social networks, your finances, your confidence, the time you have with your family, all of those things.
"So it feels really overwhelming but you can move on beyond domestic and family violence but I have moved forward since my situation. I am happy I'm fulfilled, I run an organisation and support organisations that take a stand against domestic and family violence. There is hope."
Originally published as 'In so deep': What it's like being trapped in DV nightmare