First published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 25 November 2016
Dear lil’ Angela,
Ok, so I know you think you have everything under control and you are one ‘cool chick’. But you know how crazy your boyfriend gets because he thinks he owns you? It’s a pattern in his behaviour that will change your life forever.
You answer to him and only to him. He even believes he has higher authority over you than mum and dad. I know you feel it’s your responsibility as his girlfriend to please him – which you do, always following his command, even when you know you shouldn’t. But being “cool” at school and being an effective, successful woman are two completely different things.
It won’t kill you to open your ears and listen to your mum. Don’t think his behaviour will get better – or that he cares and is only expressing his affection. Real affection and care do not come in the guise of physical and emotional abuse, threats and punishments.
Get out – and get out quick. Do it in a public setting. Respect yourself, back yourself, and trust your natural instincts.
Anj I want you to know that you are not to blame for what will happen just before you turn 17. The fault lies only with him.
You do break up with your boyfriend, but he attacks you in a quiet park and leaves you for dead.
Because of his violence, your life will change. Forever.
Your ex will go to jail. You’ll spend spent eight weeks in hospital, four months in rehab and another two years in a nursing home.
Everything will become difficult – to do, to express or to be. It’s going to take you five years to learn to talk again.
If this happens – please don’t blame yourself for your ex-boyfriend’s crime. And remember that which makes you special, makes you beautiful. Looks are transitory. Your smarts, infectious smile, tenacity and precious gift of always drawing on the positive are the things that make you truly beautiful. They will help you overcome the challenges ahead and build a meaningful life.
You will live with an acquired brain injury and be in a wheelchair. You’ll also campaign against domestic violence – and for respectful relationships – to help kids and men and women to say no to violence. Your work will take you to many places, from schools to police stations and even the United Nations. You’ll find working part-time in IT security at National Australia Bank will help you feel “normal” again. You’ll write poetry.
You will grow up to be a wonderful woman Angela – you are one already! Don’t ever forget this – no matter what.
Lots of Love,
Angela Barker was Victorian Young Australian of the Year 2011. She is an active campaigner for the prevention of violence against women and works in the IT Security team at NAB
For family violence support contact 1800Respect: 1800 737 732
NAB customers experiencing family violence or financial abuse are encouraged to contact NAB Assist: 1800 701 599