Violence has been a part of Dannielle Parker’s life for as long as she can remember.
“Mentally, physically, emotionally – all of it really,” she said. Growing up with a series of violent father figures she said marred her understanding of healthy relationships as a young adult.
“When you grow up thinking that’s normal, you just find yourself attracted to that,” she said.
Facing abusive language and behaviour, including physical violence, from a young age, Dannielle felt worthless.
“Your innocence gets taken away from you at a young age and you’ve got nothing left,” she said.
She said abusive romantic partners then took advantage of her lack of family support and finances to take control of her life.
“A lot of people know my weakness is that I don’t have anything, so then they try and act like they don’t have anything. So then you’re more susceptible to staying,” she said. The partners made her feel needed, but Dannielle said it was all about taking advantage.
“If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”
In Dannielle’s experience, reaching out to people with violent partners was next to impossible until they were willing to leave the cycle of abuse.
“You can sit there and you can tell someone as much as you like, but until they actually realise it for themselves, then you can’t help them,” she said.
“I look at my friends and they just keep going back and going back, going back and it just gets worse and worse.” She felt a permanent change was only possible once the victim reached their breaking point.
For Dannielle, that moment came when Family and Community services removed her son from the home.
“I’m glad that he got taken because it gave me that chance. It gave me that three months to get away from (my partner) and see a different side of life and realise that there’s more in the world than what I had,” she said.
Doing her best to protect her son from the violence, Dannielle said it was often about “the little things you do to break the cycle”.
“He’s not going to grow up how I grew up. He’s not going to grow up seeing the things I did when I grew up. He will be in healthy relationships,” she said.
Still struggling to shift her attraction to healthy partners, Dannielle said her violent past was a heavy burden to carry into a potential relationship.
“A normal person coming in with someone like me is just like ‘Woah man! Take a step back,’” she said.
Danielle said red flags to watch out for before entering a relationship included a need for control, obsession with phone use and money, one partner making choices for another, not allowing them to see friends and guilt tripping.
“A lot of people just keep it to themselves, but the more they keep it to themselves, the worse it gets,” she said.
“When it finally does come out, you have no one. You really don’t, because everyone’s tried to tell you for so long, you just keep going back and back and back and you eventually have nobody.”
In their battle against the cycle of domestic violence, White Ribbon Australia is seeking local opinions with a town-wide survey.
To participate in the survey, visit the council website or internet kiosks at the library, Linking Together Centre and the council administration centre by April 30.