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Ayla Nasuh was mentally and physically abused by her partner from the age of 17. The violence was so extreme her parents thought she would end up dead.
Eventually, Ayla was able to escape her violent relationship but it took her six years.
She has told Heart: “In the beginning it was a really controlling relationship and I didn’t really have any awareness of it.
“Initially, it was more emotional abuse. There were lots of mind games being played and I kind of got sucked into the relationship. When he first assaulted me, normally you’d run miles away from that relationship but I’d kind of been groomed into it and saw him as a victim. I felt sorry for him and thought I could change him.
“He’d put me down, tell me I was overweight, I’ve got naturally curly hair and he’d want me to straighten it. Everything about me he wanted to change. I never felt good enough.
“The first time he hit me was three weeks into the relationship. He kicked me through a fence, chased me down the street and obviously I was scared. The neighbours were there but nobody did anything.
“He started crying after that and I felt sorry for him and thought it must be my fault.
“I’ve been hospitalised I don’t know how many times. A lot of head injuries, he’s slashed me with a fish knife, when I was 18 I’d lost a baby, but he’d kicked that baby to the point where I needed to be hospitalised and unfortunately I lost that child.
“You don’t really think about the physical – you think he’s going to kill you, but because you’re in such a low place you think you’re to blame. Most of my friends didn’t want to know anymore and my family couldn’t understand why I’d chosen this monster over them.
“I just believed he would change and I never really got the help and no one really knew what I was going through. Psychologically I was still trapped it in the relationship.
“It kind of destroyed my whole family really. They were in turmoil trying to deal with it because they were grieving – it’s like they’d lost me.
“When I had my daughter I realised she couldn’t be brought up in that environment – it still took me a while but I realised I couldn’t stay with him and stay with my child. He was violent during the pregnancy and when I was breastfeeding. It was a wake-up call for me.
“I was with him about six years. I never really look back and obviously have my daughter now.
“We’ve managed to set up an organisation and help many families – even later in life I’m still suffering some of the physical issues associated with the violence.
I had lots of problems in my new relationship trying to have children – I’ve had a lot of problems and now having to have IVF.
“There was just no awareness at all. The police, we had a terrible response from the police. They could see I’d been assaulted but they walked away saying ‘are you back Ayla?’
“I felt completely like I couldn’t get out of this relationship.
“He often told me he’d kill my brother if I left him – and I believed him. There was no one on the outside telling me I could get away.
“You can get away, reach out to people, don’t suffer in silence even if you aren’t ending the relationship. We need more support from the government, organisations need that support to help the families.
“We are working with men to help change their behaviour. We feel this is a positive step forward. We need to help women and children, but we need to acknowledge we need to help men as well or the cycle will continue.
“There’s a social acceptance of domestic violence and tolerance – and society reinforces it.
“The earlier we get that intervention, going into schools and talking to children about it, that’s the only way to tackle it. Teaching people about equality.
“I’m free. I’m not being controlled, being told who I can talk to, what I can wear, what I can watch. I’ve got ambitions, identity – all those things that we take for granted but get chipped away during an abusive relationship. More than anything, I have that awareness to protect myself, my daughter and other people in the future.
“The more campaigns there are the more we can break the silence and we’ve got lots of communities where it’s acceptable – which makes it much more difficult for women to escape. “