DV victim speaks out: raped, tortured and battered
LANI Brennan can still hear her dad's Commodore come flying up the main drag.
"He went up the gutter and nearly went straight into the police shop and he jumped out tearing.
"He saw the state that I was in. He and my ex had words and then my father dragged me to the police station of all places.
"For my father to drag me to the police station that was a huge move, because he didn't trust them."
That day in 2000 marked Lani Brennan's final escape from an abusive, violent relationship which saw her raped, tortured and battered for months on end.
But it wasn't the end of her living hell.
Instead it was the start of a long and hard-fought battle to see her abuser arrested and brought to justice for his crimes.
Speaking at the Grafton Domestic and Family Violence Committee's annual forum on Thursday, Mrs Brennan - now a nationally acclaimed domestic violence campaigner - shared her story of survival.
Raised by an Aboriginal father and Maori mother, she grew up in an Aboriginal community home in Sydney where parties lasted three months and fights between her mother and alcoholic dad were physical.
By the age of 13 she had left the family home and was using drugs and alcohol as a daily escape.
At 18, and in a "very vulnerable" state, she fell into a relationship with an man who was also an addict.
It was about four weeks before he delivered the first slap across her face.
"I used to say at a young age that I'd never let anyone lay a hand on me... but eventually the drugs and alcohol got the better of me emotionally and mentally," she said.
"The violence from that slap escalated very quickly. I always say to women once you get hit once, that's it is going to get worse. And it did."
She was beaten with golf clubs and baseball bats, stabbed and raped.
When she did try to run away, he would track her down with threats to kill her grandmother and brothers.
"As a young girl I didn't know about services, I didn't know where to go for help," she said.
"No-one ever asked me about it."
Once she escaped with the help of her father, using a mobile phone she had stashed the night before, the healing process began and in rehab the fog of Mrs Brennan's addiction began to lift.
It has been a long journey, made more difficult by the court case against her abuser in which she had to relive the entire relationship with minimal support, but she has completely turned her life around.
Now in an attempt to save others from what she has endured, Ms Brennan works to empower all people in similar situations.
She said while there were many more services now than when she needed help, the community itself had to stand up against domestic and family violence.
"It is a huge issue in our country; we are in a total crisis mode right now," she said.
"When you work together it's a lot easier. My motto is a problem shared is a problem halved."
Clarence River Women's Refuge and Outreach Service
24-hour line: 6642 4955
Victims Access Line
Freecall: 1800 633 063
Grafton Community Health
Phone: 6641 8702
Domestic Violence Line
Phone: 1800 656 463