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‘Nobody tells you how hard leaving abuse will be’: mum

Authorities gave Darcy Johnston an "ultimatum": leave your partner or your children will be taken from you.

The young mother chose the first option.

Now, living in a Sunny Kids women's refuge on the Sunshine Coast, Darcy and her three daughters are safe and is getting the support they need.

But she said the grass wasn't always greener on the other side of the fence.

Darcy spoke to the Daily from a children's counselling room at the refuge.

The walls were bright blue and decorated with pictures of sea life.

Darcy held her baby while her toddler played at her feet.

In a room designed to make you happy, Darcy showed little emotion when she spoke about her abuse.

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She said she preferred not to think about how it made her feel.

She said no one told her how difficult life would be after she left her partner.

"Everyone tells you to leave … but nobody tells you that you'll leave behind every single possession you own," she said.

"Nobody tells you where you'll be allowed to go.

"Nobody tells you it could be a different roof in a different part of the state every other week.

"Nobody tells you that in so many ways, staying in that relationship was better than some of the things you're facing now."

The strong and confidently-spoken woman said her partner would "not often get physical".

But it was the emotional abuse, control and gaslighting which took all of Darcy's strength.

"He would never really hit me … but he would make it clear that one slight move from me and he very much would," she said.

"He would push me up against walls and restrain me there and hold me there, but at the same time go 'I could do this to you now, but I'm not going to because I'm better than you and I'm better than that. I'm not like all the other guys you've been with'."

Darcy's children would witness most of the abuse.

Her oldest daughter, Rachel, would sometimes even endure it herself.

Darcy wanted to leave many times during the couple's relationship.

But every time she left the house, she would be watched.

"Everywhere I went I was watched, I couldn't do anything without him knowing," she said.

"If he wasn't there he'd have someone keeping eyes on me and keeping tabs on me and the kids at all times."

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Darcy was able to escape after support workers showed up at her toddler's daycare centre and told her to go with them, or her children would be taken from her.

"They pretty much gave us the ultimatum to 'come with us to the office now or we have to involve the Department of Child Safety and the kids are going to be taken'," she said.

Refusing to be parted from her babies, Darcy agreed to go.

She said she would have been unable to access help if she didn't "tick every single box of abuse".

"I wouldn't have qualified for any assistance, I would have had to stay in the situation I was, but what's worse is he would have known I'd tried to leave," she said.

"And that's unfortunately where a lot of women still sit.

"There's no way out for them.

"They can't just pick up and leave, and if they do (they're) leaving with literally nothing and nowhere to go."

Darcy's partner is in prison for breaching bail conditions.

He doesn't know where she is.

But Darcy still can't escape him.

During our interview, her phone rang.

It was her partner keeping tabs.

Darcy's partner grew up in an abusive home and had always been troubled.

She said he treated her well at the start of the relationship.

Darcy was a single mum of one and, in her early 20s, was charmed as he cared for her and her daughter.

But he turned into a different person after his first stint in jail for arson offences.

"As soon as he came out he ditched me," she said.

"He went hard on the drugs, got with a junkie behind my back. We split. A couple of weeks later he came back into the picture but things just kept getting worse and worse."

When Darcy had her third daughter, Frankie, the constant emotional abuse and erratic behaviour took on new heights.

And so too did his drug addiction.

"I pricked myself on I don't know how many of his uncapped needles," she said.

Now, after being free from her partner for months, Darcy is hoping to create a new life for herself and her children.

She said too many women were still stranded in horrifying situations, but anyone could make their lives a little easier.

"Even if all you do is yell out 'I can hear you', it makes a big difference," she said.

"Something as simple as one of the neighbours yelling out 'I hear you' can be enough to at least simmer it down for the moment and potentially give that person an escape.

"Not only that, it lets that woman know that if she really needs help, that neighbour knows what's going on and their door is more than likely going to be open to them."

If this story has affected you or if you or someone you know is unsafe at home, please call DVConnect on 1800 811 811.

*The names in this story have been changed in order to protect those involved.