Emma's story

Emma is a victim-survivor of domestic abuse. She is now an advocate and empowerment coach for others who have experienced abuse. 

Names have been changed for privacy.  

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

Emma met Scott when she was only 19. She’d never been in a relationship and as a child she’d experienced loss, trauma and instability. So, when he showered her with love and attention, she immediately felt seen, heard, valued and loved. 

“He chose me because I was vulnerable. He came in like a knight in shining armour, professing his love for me, promising he’d always protect me, that he’d always take care of me, that he’d be my family, that we were soulmates.”

However, it wasn’t long before his behaviour started to change. He began to isolate her from her friends and family and stopped her from working. He started insulting her and making negative comments about her appearance and her ability to do basic tasks. He told her she was crazy and that everyone else thought so as well.

People ask me why I didn’t leave when the abuse started. But the truth about coercive control is that the love-bombing distracts you and pulls you in, so the insults and degradation can subtly creep up. He was breaking down my self-esteem and self-worth in ways I couldn’t even identify at first.


His persistent criticism and gaslighting made her believe she was a burden, that she wasn’t good enough and that she couldn’t make it on her own. She was dependent on him for all her needs - he took away her phone, computer, wallet and car keys. So, when he started to become physically and sexually violent, she was already trapped. 

I would second guess myself constantly. The gaslighting and the manipulation, it’s the most insidious part of coercive control, because you don’t trust yourself and you don’t trust anyone else. I didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t.


Scott presented himself as a calm, stable, family man and would tell lies about Emma to try to make her seem unreliable. He told people she had problems with alcohol and drug use, but said he was willing to support her. He’d stop her from coming to events, and then tell people she didn’t come because of her alcohol and drug use. He’d ask neighbours to watch her and tell him if she left the house or had visitors. He told people she was the abuser. She didn’t know who she could trust. 

“People believed him easily because I said and did unusual things. I was worn out. My behaviour was erratic, and I looked unwell. These were symptoms of abuse and trauma but he used them to undermine me so no one would believe me if I told them what he did.”

Emma and Scott were together for 20 years and had three children together. He used the children to scare, threaten and control her because he knew she would do anything to protect them. If Emma showed any sign of wanting to leave, he would threaten to hurt her and the kids. The physical violence was severe and constant.

At one point, a police officer told Emma about the cycle of abuse. She finally felt validated and started to recognise the patterns of Scott’s abuse.

Scott's abuse continued to escalate, and Emma decided to leave the relationship. However, the years of abuse had isolated her from her friends and family, leaving her without a support network.

“I ended up in a mental health clinic. When they asked me who they could call to support me, there wasn’t one single person.”

After leaving the relationship, Emma worked hard to rebuild her life and heal from the abuse. She dedicated herself to learning new skills and strategies to manage the complex impact of the abuse. She continues to work on her healing journey and feels proud that she has created a new life for herself and her family.

I decided this wasn't going to be my life, so I fought back. This wasn’t easy and there were days that I thought I’d never get better, or that I wouldn’t be able to move forward. I put all my focus on myself. And this is the magic I use every time I feel stuck, triggered or at a roadblock. I make myself a priority.


Emma is now an advocate and empowerment coach for others who have experienced abuse. Emma calls on the community to work together, alongside support services, to end domestic abuse.

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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