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A letter to my 16-year-old self - leave your abusive boyfriend now

December 02 2016 By Angela Barker

Angela Barker was only 16 when her boyfriend attacked her, leaving her with life-long injuries. Here is what she wishes her younger self had known.

Dear lil' Angela,

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.

You should 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.

our ex will go to jail. But you'll spend 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.

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 and is a domestic violence campaigner.  Her modified van is critical to her ability to continue her advocacy work, but it needs to be replaced. Contributions to Angela's new wheels can be made here.

This article was first published on The Sydney Morning Herald on 25 November 2016.

Media contact:

Hannah Grant, Media and Ambassador Program Manager, Our Watch: 0448 844 930 or hannah.grant@ourwatch.org.au

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:

“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.”

Read guides for reporting about violence against women and their children.

About Our Watch

Our Watch’s purpose is to raise awareness and engage policy-makers and the Australian community in action to prevent violence against women and their children.

To do this the organisation works to increase gender equality and respect in all aspects of everyday life, such as through schools; workplaces; media; sporting organisations; social marketing, and developing and influencing public policy.

Our Watch’s work derives from the government’s commitment to the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010 – 2022 and gives expression to many of the activities in the Second Action Plan 2013–2016 – Moving Ahead.