AWARENESS: Abuse is not just physical.

If you missed it, last week the 'Love Shouldn't Hurt' campaign with Two Good Co, American Express, and Deliveroo launched here in Sydney, with me as the face of the campaign. As a domestic violence survivor, it was a true honour to stand up and put my face out there- literally, there's a 10m x 6m mural of my face in the heart of the Sydney CBD- but it's been what has happened since then that has truly made it worthwhile for me.

I've long been open with divulging that I experienced domestic violence. It happened at an age for me that ended up shaping the rest of my life, and I've come a long way down the path of healing and self-discovery since that time. I soft-launched the Onwards & Upwards campaign earlier this year, a social movement that is set to shine a light on those who have been affected by domestic violence in their life, and have come through the other side.

But what all of these things have done, has been to begin to give people an opportunity to speak up, and share their stories with me, and with others. And what I'm starting to discover, is that there is a major misconception that is still going strong- and it's resulting in too many women (and men) living in harmful situations.

ABUSE IS NOT JUST PHYSICAL. Please understand this. If someone who claims to love you or care about you, is putting you down, stopping you from working, stopping you from seeing your friends, constantly checking your phone, forcing you to stop/change religion, they are ABUSING you. And it is not okay.

Unfortunately, the word 'violence' in domestic violence probably doesn't help the connotation of the act needing to be physical or sexual in order for it to be classed as that, but the fact is, domestic violence or abuse really does cover all of those types. Physical, sexual, emotional, financial, spiritual, social, and even cyber abuse all falls under this crime. And every single one of those instances, are against the law.

Just because a person doesn't hit you, doesn't mean your situation is any less serious, or any less important. Most violent relationships do not start physical. It is a slow build, the physical comes later. But it can be very easy to brush it off, say it's 'not that bad' and that 'well, he hasn't hit me, so it's okay', but I really and truly would like you to listen to me. As someone who has been there, who has experienced multiple forms of abuse. Please hear my words.

If you are being made to feel that you are not worthy, that you are stupid, that you are incapable of making decisions, or being kept from friends or family, if you aren't allowed to work, or have access to money restricted, if you're not allowed to practice your religion, or have your phone calls monitored, if you're not allowed to attend events alone (or at all), or have friends of the opposite gender, if you're made to feel small, if you feel unhappy or unsafe going home, if you feel you are constantly walking on eggshells. If you are, in any way, not feeling safe, secure, and truly loved by someone who is supposed to care for you, please know that this is not normal. This is not how it is supposed to be. It is not safe. It is not fair. It is not right.

You are a blessing. Your life- something of which you only have one- is a blessing. You have your own strengths and weaknesses, quirks and skills, and a reason for being here. You are not worthless, you are not stupid. You are also not forgotten.

Don't be afraid to speak up, and change what is happening. If you can, leave. If you are afraid, or need help, ask for it. The police take domestic abuse situations very seriously- the change in their systems since the time I needed them has been huge, they can do more for you now than they could ever do for me. There are organisations that can house you, feed you, even move you out of your home if you need to. They do this because they care, and they want to see you safe. Talk to your friends, talk to your family. It can feel embarrassing- I know, believe me. But there truly is no shame. 

IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. It never is. If you don't believe me, take a quiet moment to yourself. Sit down, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and listen to your inside voice. I promise you, no matter what that outside person has said to you, your heart voice will tell you the truth. You are not to blame.

Abuse is not just physical. It really isn't. The scars that can be left by non-physical abuse can run much deeper, for much longer. Your situation is not meaningless. You can put an end to it, and you can find life and love again.

Please share this with your friends, your family, and especially with anyone that you feel may need to hear these words. If you do fear someone you know is in an abusive situation, be there for them. Give them the opportunity, the space, and the safety to speak to you. There is help out there, ready and waiting to give life back to you.

And please feel free to be a part of the Onwards & Upwards campaign. I am open and willing to speak to anyone who needs a listening ear, or support from someone who has experienced it before. Go to the Onwards & Upwards site: www.onwardsandupwards.com.au and get in touch with me there. 

If you are affected by violence in any way, or feel maybe you are, please feel free and able to get in contact with any of the below services:
IN AN EMERGENCY, call the Police and/or Ambulance
1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732): 24-hour national abuse hotline
Lifeline 13 11 14
Kids Helpline 1800 551 800