Agatha's story

Agatha is a proud Aboriginal woman and a victim-survivor of domestic abuse. She now lives with her four daughters and is an advocate for victim-survivors and Aboriginal women like herself.  

Names have been changed for privacy.

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

Agatha met her first partner, John, when she was 17. Straight away, he was entirely focused on her, calling her constantly, complimenting her and making big declarations of his love. This love-bombing quickly pulled Agatha into a fast-moving relationship with him.

Only 2 weeks into their relationship, John started losing his temper and yelling at Agatha to scare her. Despite the fear she felt, Agatha thought it must be a normal challenge for young relationships. To protect herself, she started to learn how to appease him and manage his erratic moods. 

The way that I managed my perpetrator was I was a good girl. I did everything I needed to do and everything he expected of me to keep the peace.


John became more demanding and violent when Agatha fell pregnant with their first child. They found out it would be a girl and he threatened to hurt himself if Agatha didn’t terminate the pregnancy. Agatha refused and his verbal, emotional and physical abuse got even worse. This happened each time Agatha fell pregnant with her four daughters. He was unsupportive, even when she became sick, and he refused to stay with her in hospital or care for the children.

John demanded that Agatha prepare all his food and clothes and insulted, threatened and hit her if she didn’t. Agatha and her daughters would secretly leave the house while he was at work, but they feared what would happen if he found out. The sound of his car pulling into the driveway terrified Agatha and her daughters because they couldn’t predict what mood he would be in.

There was a constant sense of needing to be there ready. I just had to do what I was told to make things better. That was my life, that was the kids’ lives. Doing whatever he wanted to keep him calm and to keep him nice.


John stopped Agatha from working and controlled all of their finances, criticising her if he thought she had spent too much. As an Aboriginal woman, attending community events was important to Agatha. John would stop her from attending these events or force her to leave early and then drive home aggressively to scare her. He stopped her from seeing friends and family, even when her mother fell ill, completely cutting her off from anyone who could help. Sometimes, he locked Agatha out of the house overnight, forcing her to sleep outside. 

He yelled and threatened the kids to control her. His abuse put her in a constant state of fear, always careful not to do anything that might set him off.

Every thought, every action was filtered through what he thought, and the fear of what he might do.


Agatha was isolated, terrified and exhausted from years of abuse, and still struggling with lasting illness. She developed an addiction to pain-relief medication, which John used to shame and insult her further. She was offered access to rehabilitation but was afraid of what he would do if she left the children with him. 

Agatha left the relationship multiple times, fleeing with the girls to stay with friends or family. As soon as she left, John changed. He was loving, calm and apologetic. He asked Agatha to come home where he would take care of her. For weeks after she returned, he continued to love-bomb her until he knew he’d regained her trust. Overnight, he would change back, often worse than before. 

One day, Agatha secretly asked for help from a friend who had also experienced domestic abuse. The friend implored her to seek help.

“Getting help was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I knew he was going to kill me, or that last little bit of determination was going to leave me and I’ll be a husk of myself.”

The help-seeking journey had its own challenges. After years of isolation, she didn’t have people around her to help her access support that she needed. Sadly, this lack of support and the struggles Agatha was facing meant she wasn’t able to safely care for her children and they were removed from her care. This was devastating for Agatha.

I didn’t have anyone to advocate for me, and after years of abuse, I just needed help. I couldn’t articulate what I needed for myself and my family.


Despite all the challenges, Agatha committed herself to her healing journey - starting therapy, finding a job and a place to live and recovering from her addiction. Her community rallied around her and empowered her to take these positive steps. Agatha was still worried about what John might do if she reported him, but also felt empowered to stand up to him. Within a year, her kids were safely back at home and she was awarded full parental responsibility.

“My mental health was at an all-time low. I’d finally gotten out, but I just didn’t have anything left. Those 12 months were really transformative. I was actually making decisions and choices for myself. But I didn’t find peace until I was with my kids.”

Agatha now advocates for support for victim-survivors, particularly Aboriginal women. She also calls for education around abuse, encouraging communities to stand up for victim-survivors and provide support when they’re in need. She shares her story with the hope it will inspire women experiencing violence to seek help and bystanders to reach out and support them.

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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