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Mum stops ex from seeing their daughter after he ‘sexually assaulted’ her – now he has custody

A distraught mother has revealed how she escaped her abusive and controlling partner only for the courts to grant him custody of their young daughter. 

Jenny*, whose name has been changed, said she stopped her ex from seeing his daughter ‘for a few years’ when the then pre-schooler complained he had sexually touched her during an overnight visit.

Speaking to FEMAIL, she said her decision backfired with her ex went to the Family Court demanding he be granted access to see his daughter. 

A distraught mum has revealed how she lost custody of her daughter in bitter legal battle with her ex who she says was controlling and psychologically abusive

A distraught mum has revealed how she lost custody of her daughter in bitter legal battle with her ex who she says was controlling and psychologically abusive

Jenny said her ex told the court that she had coached her daughter to lie and say that he had sexually assaulted her.

The court believed him, and now Jenny is only allowed to see her daughter once a month during supervised visits.  

‘He is a stranger to her, and he is dangerous but they gave her to him anyway,’ Jenny said.

‘I can’t even apologise to her about not being able to see her or say that I miss her because anything even vaguely referencing the court goes against orders.

‘I can’t take her to the doctor or have time with her at home, all because he convinced the court I had told her to say she was abused. I was just trying to keep her safe.’ 

Frustrated with the family law system and afraid for her daughter who is now in primary school, Jenny has decided to share her story to highlight the insidious nature of domestic violence and help others recognise if they are at risk. 

A distraught mum has revealed how she lost custody of her daughter in bitter legal battle with her ex who she says was controlling and psychologically abusive

A distraught mum has revealed how she lost custody of her daughter in bitter legal battle with her ex who she says was controlling and psychologically abusive

At first Jenny thought Josh*, whose name has also been changed, was perfect. 

He showered her with love and attention, something she craved after coming out of a 10-year relationship.

A few months after they started dating Josh suggested they live together – which delighted Jenny who had only ever been in long-term relationships.

But the day he moved in everything changed. 

‘That weekend he started to be really controlling, starting fights about everything, and I noticed he seemed to have little to no empathy,’ she said.

At the time she put it down to the stress of moving house.

But it never stopped.

‘All of a sudden I was in this relationship where I would get in trouble for everything, a relationship where huge fights would break out over a spatula,’ Jenny said.

‘I am a really relaxed person usually, and rarely argue with anyone so this was huge for me.’ 

Josh decided to head back to university as a mature student and Jenny supported him financially.

What are typical signs of non-physical domestic violence?

1. Isolating you from your support system. An abusive partner will cut you off from friends and family or limit your contact with them so you don’t receive the support you need. 

2. Monitoring your activity throughout the day. 

3. Denying you freedom and autonomy. A person exerting coercive control may try to limit your freedom and independence. For example, not allowing you to go to work or school, restricting your access to transportation, stalking your every move when you’re out, taking your phone and changing passwords, etc.

4. Gaslighting, where the abuser makes you doubt your own truth, experience and sanity, by insisting that they are always right, and instils their narrative of a situation, even if the evidence points against this. Gaslighting in essence, is based on lies and manipulation of the truth. 

5. Name-calling and severe criticism, as well as malicious put-downs which are all extreme forms of bullying. 

6. Limiting access to money and controlling finances. This is a way of restricting your freedom and ability to leave the relationship.

Financial abuse is listed above as a specific form of abuse but, within the context of coercive control, financial control is a tactic to keep a person disempowered, by utilising strategies such as placing you on a strict budget that barely covers the essentials, limiting your access to bank accounts and hiding financial resources from you.

7. Reinforcing traditional gender roles and coercing you, as the woman, to take care of all the cleaning, cooking and childcare. 

8. Turning your children against you. 

They may try to weaponise the children against you by making comments that are critical of you, belittling you in front of the children, or telling them that you’re a bad parent. 

9. Controlling aspects of your health and your body. The abuser will monitor and control how much you eat, sleep, exercise, or how much time you spend in the bathroom. They may also control where you go for medical help, and the medications you take. 

10. Making jealous accusations about the time you spend with family or friends, either in person or online, as a way of phasing out all your contact with the external world, except for them. 

11. Regulating your sexual relationship, for example making demands about the amount of times you engage in sex each day or week, and the kinds of activities you perform. 

12. Threatening your children or pets as an extreme form of intimidation. When physical, emotional, or financial threats do not work for the abuser as desired, they may make threats against others such as your loved ones.

 Source: See What You Made Me Do: Power, Control and Domestic Abuse by Jess Hill

Non-physical domestic violence, known as coercive control, has been in the spotlight recently. 

Because coercive control is now recognised as a fundamental form of domestic, family and sexual violence – the foundational and central element of domestic abuse towards women. Coercive control is a predictor of severe physical violence and homicide. 

She said when she tried to speak to Josh about problems with their relationship he would belittle her or change the subject.

‘Every time I tried to make boundaries in the relationship he would threaten to walk out – he held our connection to ransom,’ she said.

‘So I kept compromising and soon I didn’t recognise myself.’ 

Jenny said Josh would use the silent treatment, humiliate her in public and slam doors when he was upset. 

‘One day a huge fight started over the way I said hello when I walked through the door,’ she said.

She explained she had been for a walk with her dog and came back feeling relaxed and happy.

What red flags did Jenny miss? 

Love bombing

Pushing to move in straight away

He became financially dependent

Change in attitude

Co-dependent relationship 

Constant arguments 

Holding relationship to ransom

Not respecting boundaries

Pushing friends away

Alienating family

‘It’s like he could sense it, whenever I was happy, and would start a fight to strip it away from me.’

Jenny said her friends began distancing themselves from the couple because ‘he would make them feel uncomfortable’.

‘He would try to argue points over and over, even when they agreed with him,’ she said.

‘So my friends just stopped having me to things because they didn’t want him to tag along too.’

Her family said he also made them uncomfortable and Jenny’s brother told her he was ‘no good for her’.

‘I took it as a personal challenge, which was stupid,’ she said. 

After five months of living together Jenny began to feel anxious and depressed.

‘It was scary because I had never felt like that before in my life,’ she said.

After they had been together for a year, Jenny decided to end the relationship after recognising she had become a shell of her former self.

‘But on the day I kicked him out I found out I was pregnant,’ she said.

‘I wanted to try to be a family because I thought that it would be important for our child.’

However, five months later Jenny left him for good.

Jenny said this is when the abuse escalated. Josh would send her disturbing text messages, criticising her for putting on weight and for ‘living in the suburbs’ in attempts to make her feel worthless.

‘It’s crazy that his words had such an impact, even after we split. Especially because he was always in-between jobs and constantly moving from one share house to another.’ 

When their daughter was born, Josh would see her a few times a week, and although he still sent Jenny cruel text messages, he was fine during face-to-face visits. 

Jenny decided to share her story to highlight the insidious nature of domestic violence and help others recognise if they are at risk

Jenny decided to share her story to highlight the insidious nature of domestic violence and help others recognise if they are at risk

‘It looked like he was making a real effort, so I thought everything would be fine, that we could co-parent somehow,’ she said. 

This all changed after Jenny went on a holiday with his extended family, so they could get to know the little girl as well.

Jenny was sleeping in her own room, after making it clear to the family the former couple were not together.

‘I woke up and he was having sex with me,’ Jenny said.

‘I said no but he just kept going.

‘I was so confused for a few days afterwards, because I felt like my body had betrayed me.

‘When I woke up and he was on top of me I did feel pleasure from his touch. But it kept playing on my mind because I didn’t want it.

‘And even though my body reacted the way it did it was rape. I was asleep when he started, I didn’t consent.’

In her confusion, Jenny sent her friend a text, telling her she had been seduced during the holiday and felt conflicted.

‘But as I reflected on it I was really terrified,’ she said.

‘The rape was one thing, but the manipulation was another, he had altered my sense of reality to get exactly what he wanted from me.’ 

She didn’t contact police after another friend warned her it could make their situation worse and that the rape would be hard to prove given their previous relationship.

‘I told Josh he could see our daughter but not inside my house, I was scared it would happen again,’ Jenny said. 

Josh continued to spend two days a week with their daughter, while threatening to withhold child support if Jenny didn’t agree to his ever-changing terms.

The fragile friendship soon broke down three years later when their daughter accused Josh of sexual assault.

Jenny immediately cut all contact between them. Josh promised to use his knowledge of the legal system to ‘destroy’ her.

‘And he has, I have spent every cent, my family have mortgaged houses, my mental health has gone downhill and now he has my daughter.

‘I was attracted to his intelligence, but he was so methodical with his abuse, and he has now taken everything.’ 

To Jenny’s horror, her friend sent her text messages to Josh, who used it in court when she accused him of raping her as part of her evidence. This lead him to rubbishing his daughter’s sexual assault claims.   

‘He told the court that I had coached her to say those things, so I could take her from him,’ she said.

‘There was no proof he had touched her and her story was not always consistent, she was so young when it happened.

Red flags to watch for in friends and family 

1 – They have lost their confidence or are unusually quiet 

2 – They seem afraid of their partner 

3 – They have stopped seeing their friends or family 

4 – Their partner often criticises them, humiliates them, orders them about or makes all the decisions 

5 – Their partner controls how the other person spends money, what they wear or what they do 

6 – They often talk about their partner’s bad temper or jealousy (they might regularly accuse the other of flirting or being unfaithful) 

7 – They say their partner pressures or forces them into sexual activity 

8 – They have physical injuries, like bruises, broken bones, sprains or cuts 

9 – The children seem afraid of the person or are very withdrawn or anxious 

10 – Personality changes, like low self-esteem in someone once confident

Red flags for victims and future victims

1 – Does your partner criticise your family and friends? 

2 – Have they stopped you seeing family and friends? 

3 – Does your partner make you feel dependent on them psychologically, financially and emotionally? 

4 – Are you concerned about seeing friends and family with your partner? 

5 –  Are they are starting to become physically aggressive with you or the children? 

6 – Does your partner keep track of you and want to know who you see and where you are at any time of the day? 

7 – Do they bombard you with texts? 

8 – Does your partner put you down and try and use humour to laugh it off?

9 – Does your partner apologise for their behaviour and then make excuses or blame you? 

10 – Do they have unrealistic expectations of you and what they want you to do?

‘They also asked why I hadn’t confronted him about the abuse before going to the police and blocking access. But why would I do that, I was trying to protect her, and a perpetrator isn’t going to say “yes” to a question like that. 

‘So the courts sided with him and gave him full custody, to ‘protect her from me’, and make up for the time he had missed.

‘Because they believe I coached her to say she was assaulted I am deemed a psychological danger to her.’

Jenny is fighting the ruling.

‘Their decision not only puts her in danger but tells her that if something bad happens to her she can’t tell anyone or she will be punished,’ she said.

Jenny has not had a relationship with another man since her daughter first spoke about Josh’s sexual assault.

‘I find it really hard to trust men now,’ she said.

‘Looking back I see all the red flags – I want others to see them too.’ 

People experiencing domestic violence can call 1800 RESPECT.

What is DV awareness month? 

Domestic violence awareness month aims to shine a light on the issue.

It can affect anyone in the community, regardless of their level of income, status, gender, age, race or culture. Most victims, however, are women and children, and most perpetrators are male. Children are often the hidden victims of domestic violence and abuse. 

18 women and 16 children were killed as a result of domestic violence between January 1, 2022 to May 3 2022 alone.

Many service providers, including White Ribbon Australia and Lifeline assist people to leave violent relationships.

Other services, like Next Steps, help people fleeing from a dangerous relationship.

Next Steps Australia supplies Starter Packs of brand new manchester items to families affected by domestic violence when arriving at a refuge or transitioning from a refuge to private accommodation.

They contain the basic manchester necessities for an individual including sheets, quilts, pillows, and towels.

The charity is supported by donations, largely from our corporate partners including value retailer Best&Less, who raised over $145,000 in 2021 to fund 730 Manchester packs for survivors and their families. The impact of this donation is huge and will make an enormous difference to so many women and children.

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