Matthew's story

Matthew is a victim-survivor of domestic abuse. He now works in community support and advocates for the voices of other victim-survivors.

Names have been changed for privacy.

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

From a young age, Matthew experienced physical, sexual and emotional abuse from his mum’s partner. As a result, he struggled with low confidence and experienced poor mental health. 

When Matthew met Ben, they had an immediate connection. Ben seemed confident, charismatic and caring. Their relationship quickly became romantic and intimate, but they kept this a secret as Ben didn’t want to come out. Within a few months, they were living together, working together, and almost never apart from each other.

Ben’s behaviour quickly became abusive. He would take Matthew’s car keys so he couldn’t leave their home and would show up to places uninvited, scaring Matthew. Ben got extremely jealous of Matthew’s friendships and would question him repeatedly about them. 

Ben would insult Matthew about his appearance and ability to do simple things and threaten to tell his family he was crazy. He would use the secrecy of their relationship to validate periods where he would reject or isolate Matthew. He also started to physically abuse Matthew, frequently hitting, pushing or throwing things at him.

He got me down to a place where I had no self-esteem and I was powerless. Then he became physically violent and made me believe it was my fault.


If Matthew said he wanted to leave the relationship, Ben would apologise and promise to change, begging him to stay. But the promises were short-lived – he never changed his behaviours.

Matthew didn’t have family to turn to, and when he decided to tell someone in his community, he didn’t feel supported.

“They were really blasé about it. I felt like nobody would take me seriously, even though he really hurt me.” 

Matthew struggled with illness, worsened by years of abuse. Ben supported Matthew when he was unwell, but later used this power imbalance against him.

I didn’t like how he made me feel, but part of me was so obsessed. It’s like I didn’t know how to exist without him. The good moments made me believe I deserved the bad things, like when he hit me or controlled me.


Towards the end of their relationship, Ben started switching quickly between love-bombing and rejecting Matthew. He suddenly proposed to Matthew, who finally felt respected in the relationship, then only two days later called the wedding off, leaving Matthew isolated and dejected.

“It came to a point where I thought, this is not the life I envisaged. It was affecting everything. I had become someone that I didn’t recognise.”

Matthew decided to leave and found a job and apartment away from Ben. He felt relieved after three years of abuse with Ben, and a lifetime of hiding from his community, but found the separation difficult.

My dependency on him was no longer there, but I was left with all these nightmares and flashbacks from the abuse. It was difficult. It still is. But it needed to happen and I’m glad it did.


Matthew now works as a community support worker and an advocate for victim-survivors, calling for their experiences to inform policy and service delivery. He is particularly passionate about raising awareness of the experiences of male victim-survivors, and the importance of self-compassion in healing.

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

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