Dianna's story

Dianna is a victim-survivor of domestic abuse. She experienced abuse for 12 years and is now on a journey of recovery and advocacy. She shares her story to help as many people as possible be informed. 

Names have been changed for privacy.

This page includes descriptions of domestic abuse. If you need advice or support contact 1800RESPECT.

Dianna grew up seeing her dad use coercive and controlling behaviours to abuse her mum. Her dad would isolate her mum from friends and family - stopping her from using the car and cutting up her clothes so she couldn’t attend events. He would then deny the abuse to make her doubt her memories (also known as gaslighting).  

Because of this, when Dianna started dating, she saw abusive relationships as ‘normal.’ 

Dianna met Mike when she was 35, and their relationship developed quickly. She had left a previous relationship the same year and was caring for her two children at the time. Mike and Dianna got married within two years.  

At first, his abusive behaviour was hard to spot. He’d sometimes act aggressively and try to scare her by slamming his fists on the table, but he was quick to apologise. However, after they had a baby together, he became more controlling and demanding.  

Mike would wake Dianna up several times during the night to re-hash an incident or argument and make her believe his version of events. He questioned her decisions and insisted that she was going crazy and wouldn’t survive without him.  

He threatened to admit her to a mental health rehabilitation centre. Dianna, terrified and exhausted, sometimes believed him.  

I can’t tell you how fearful everything was. That’s what they work on, keeping you in that fear mode so you stay.


If she questioned his actions, he’d claim that she was overreacting, blame her, or deny that he had done anything wrong. He often told her that her children were lying to make her doubt her trust in them and damage their relationship.  

Mike owned his own company and carefully upheld his reputation. Mike did not use physical abuse. He would gaslight Dianna, question her perceptions of reality and wear away at her self-esteem.  

He’s very articulate and very organised. He would present himself as one person to the world, and then at home, he was a different person. He knew that if he worked on me from the inside out, then he would be able to do whatever he wanted. I felt like I was losing my mind.


When Dianna fell pregnant again, a friend suggested they shouldn’t have another child together due to the abuse. Dianna agreed, but she felt shame and guilt about leaving.  

“The drive to have a happy family drove me past logic, past critical thinking. I was thinking, if I can keep working at this, if he can see that we have a great family, we can stay together. It was too painful, the thought of not having that happy family.” 

Over the course of the relationship, Dianna tried to leave the abuse six times. Each time, he would persuade her to come back by apologising constantly, professing regret and promising to change his behaviour. Each time, she eventually came back. 

Mike would also use the children to threaten Dianna and force her to stay in the relationship. 

“He would say, ‘Ok, you leave. I’ll keep the kids because the courts won’t let them go with you. You’ve got depression, you’ve got no job. What court will give you the children?’” 

So, Dianna started studying with a plan to get a job and gain financial independence. There, she learnt about domestic abuse and realised that’s what she was experiencing. Her mind felt clearer than it had in years. 

When I heard that what had been happening to me was domestic abuse, I just thought, ‘that’s what this is, I’m not crazy!’ Once I had that realisation, I was really keen to get out.


After 12 years with her husband, Dianna found a job and moved out for good. Living independently was difficult at the start, without savings or family to support her. She also still felt the doubt, guilt and pain that kept her trapped in the relationship. 

She also felt a huge sense of relief. She could finally think clearly. 

Now, Dianna works in domestic violence response and advocates for education around healthy relationships. She draws on her experience to support women experiencing domestic abuse and help break the cycle of abuse. 

From July 2024, coercive control will be a criminal offence in NSW in some circumstances. Find out more about the coercive control laws.

Quick exit

Call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) for 24/7 support

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