[adultmatchmaker]UNDER HIS EYE

  For Lisa, the shocking image and digital abuse didn’t come out of nowhere. It was part of a pattern of coercive control, manipulation and surveillance wielded over her that had gradually escalated in the early years of the relationship.

  It started with Bob railing at suggestions he do housework, and his insistence the couple share a bank account. It graduated to Bob exhibiting classic controlling behaviour, quizzing Lisa at the end of the day on who she had called. Later she found apps on her iPad that picked up the IP addresses of guests in the house.

  

  

  

  ”Anytime I stood up to his abuse, he would go online to punish me.”

  In her mind, Lisa had attributed the everyday control and coercion as ‘regular’ relationship problems, but slowly she found her self-esteem crumbling into self-doubt and constant worry.

  “It was slow and covert. It was very much the frog in the boiling pot scenario,” Lisa says.

  She had developed a constant fear she was being watched and surveilled. Lisa later found out that Bob was secretly exacting his revenge against her online.

  “Anytime I stood up to his abuse, he would go online to punish me. That’s why the accounts were created. He would get a really sick pleasure in punishing people, even if they don’t know.”

  The day after the midnight discovery, Lisa continued to monitor the Adult Match Maker site and noticed a live chat between Bob and another user. She inserted herself in the conversation using her own name, immediately alerting him.

  When he arrived home, Bob tried to kiss her hello but Lisa immediately recoiled. “Don’t touch me,” she whispered.

  Still too scared to confront him, Lisa turned on her phone to record the conversation. Bob admitted to creating the profile but calmly tried to minimise the situation, telling Lisa the profile was part of a sexual ‘fantasy’ he had constructed. He also promised to delete the account.

  “I don’t think he had the ability to comprehend how bad what he had done was. His reaction to being discovered was not that of a normal person,” Lisa says.

  

  

  

  ”Lisa found herself constantly on edge, awaiting unpredictable explosions of anger.”

  Lisa held on to the vain hope that being found out would give Bob the impetus he needed to become a better husband and partner. And indeed, for months after the revelation, he was on his best behaviour.

  But then the abuse escalated again. Lisa found herself constantly on edge, awaiting unpredictable explosions of anger.

  A broken or non-functional appliance in the house would be enough to trigger his rage. Lisa found herself dreading the moments of his return home, desperately checking the washing machine or treadmill to make sure they weren’t faulty.

  “They were the worst months of emotional and psychological abuse. It’s the minor covert things they do to consistently damage your self-esteem. The simple things, like a really angry look or constant undermining and criticism of unimportant things,” she said.

  Bob would often use his police interrogation skills to make Lisa doubt her reality and shatter her confidence.

  Lisa would find her heart racing, trying to pre-empt what would trigger the next outburst. But the goal posts were constantly moving.

  “Things that would have nothing to do with me, would be blamed on me,’’ she says.

  “If I rang the police and told them he did this one thing, they would have probably said ‘you’re pathetic’, because they view events in isolation and don’t understand the pattern of abuse that was occurring.

  “He was so disrespectful of me, undermining my parenting, damaging my self-esteem and confidence. You just don’t have any left. You don’t have any strength to live.”

  

  

  

  “This was a seriously dangerous and unwell person who was projecting onto me.”

  By the end of 2011, Lisa was on the verge of a breakdown.

  “I was such a broken person.

  “I knew there would be a day I would report him, but only when I felt safe. I couldn’t do it when I was living under the same roof as him,” she says.

  It was at this time that Lisa tentatively started reaching out to domestic violence services and putting a name to the life she experienced with Bob. She also opened up to family and friends about the abuse.

  “It was like a cloud lifted. This was nothing to do with me. This was a seriously dangerous and unwell person who was projecting onto me.”

  Lisa made a promise to herself to leave in March 2012. But a confrontation earlier in the year forced the separation. Bob’s mother, one of the people she had reached out to, had contacted Bob to warn him Lisa was planning to leave the marriage, sparking a confrontation that led to their separation.

  But it didn’t end there. Bob’s surveillance of Lisa escalated after their split. One day Lisa was attending court to pick up the necessary paperwork to get a violence order against him, which would bar him from approaching her.

  Her phone started ringing continuously. It was Bob and he kept calling her during the time she was at court. She turned off her phone and took a moment to breathe, committed to accomplishing what she needed to.

  “If I didn’t answer [the phone] he would ring relentlessly till I answered.”

  She believes Bob knew where she was and wanted to check up on her.

  “He wanted to know if I would stumble and reveal (to him) where I was,” she says.