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Escaping my domestic violence hell

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Escaping my domestic violence hell

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There comes a breaking point in abusive relationships. Mine was when he pulled a knife on me and said he was going to kill me and my children.

 

Finally, I said, ‘We have to get out of here, we have to leave’. I packed our bags, grabbed the kids and we took off in the middle of the night while my husband was sleeping. It was Mother’s Day, 2013.

 

I always think that if I didn’t have the boys, I probably would have stayed and probably would have been murdered by now.

 

He was a fighter, too. He could inflict pain on me easily. Yet the only reason that registered in my brain to leave him was, ‘He’s going to hurt the kids’.

 

My eldest son – Zake, who’s just about to turn 10 – has some PTSD, as I did. He was at an age where he still remembers a lot of it, so it messed him up for a while. My partner wasn’t very nice to him at all. Zake wasn’t his biological son; I had him with an ex at 19. He resented Zake, and me, for that.

 

His little brother, Enson, has no idea. He doesn’t really know who his father is, or where he is. He’s seven now and starts to ask questions but I don’t know how to answer. What do you say? ‘Your dad beat up mummy and now he’s in jail?’ I don’t know if it’s better or worse for him to know.

 

That relationship went for three years, the abuse nearly as long. But it didn’t end on the night I left.

 

After escaping him in 2013, I found the courage to tell my story for the first time. I detailed how he would kick me, pin me down and elbow me, grind his elbow down on my face and choke me unconscious. And far more.

 

So he called me a liar. He continued to abuse me online. He got his little fanbase to call me a liar and witch-hunt me on the internet.

 

Then earlier this year, he was found guilty of domestic assault against three women. It was a big weight lifted off my shoulders. I felt relief. It was a sense of, ‘Finally. Now who’s the liar? Now everyone knows that I was telling the truth’.

 

Yet he didn’t do much jail time. It was a slap in the face to the victims. He’s already out and making fun of it.

 

But he was convicted. That will never go away from his record. He’s forever tarnished. That’s something.

 

Knock me down nine times but I get up ten, bitch. ✌🏻

A post shared by Bec Rawlings (@rowdybec) on

 

 

WARNING SIGNS

I’ve spoken out about this because I think it’s a story that needs to be heard.

 

People think of domestic violence victims as weak. I was fierce, strong, loud, opinionated – outwardly, at least. I was competing in the cage. Everyone thought I was this super-mum with a super-family.

 

Things aren’t always as they seem.

 

So, here’s how that relationship began and the warning signs that followed.

 

It was a bittersweet beginning, as we met when I started MMA; such an important and positive part of my life. Zake was 18 months old, I was coming out of a toxic relationship, I wanted to lose weight and get my shit together.

 

I found a gym. He was there. He almost used the sport to ‘get me’. He was helping the coach I was training under and he took me under his wing, using coaching to get close to me. We became friends, then we became more.

 

It took just a couple of months to experience what’s called ‘gaslighting’. They start causing arguments, then turn it back on you so that you question yourself; whether you’re the crazy one. Did I do something wrong? Did I really cause that argument? How can I keep him happy?

 

It started out with those little arguments. He stepped it up, saying nasty things about Zake. He stepped it up further, until he got physically violent.

 

There comes a breaking point in abusive relationships. Mine was when he pulled a knife on me and said he was going to kill me and my children.

 

He was happy for a while; about three months into our relationship, when I became pregnant with Enson. But I came to realise why he was happy: he had power over me now.

 

He told me no one else would want me, as a mum with kids to two different dads. That I was damaged goods. Used and abused. That I would never leave him. When he began to hit me, he told me it was my fault.

 

I came to believe him. I think it shows how little I thought of myself back then. I couldn’t see why I didn’t deserve the abuse. I didn’t love myself enough to leave.

 

He stopped me from talking to my friends and family. He isolated me. We ended up getting married, then moved halfway across Australia, from Tasmania to Brisbane. I was away from all my support, where he was able to continue to abuse me without people asking questions.

 

I still can’t believe that I went through with all that; I thought it would help, making a fresh start. Part of the reason that we left Tasmania was because he was kicked out of his gym – for hitting me in front of his coach.

 

My first pro MMA fight came just nine months after having Enson. It’s still one of my hardest camps to date. Having a newborn, breastfeeding and going through the peak of the domestic abuse, while training twice a day; that was really hard to get through.

 

And what happened in that fight was the beginning of the end. I was knocked out in the first round by a head kick. My husband walked past my unconscious body as I lay on the ground and congratulated my opponent.

 

The police became involved in our relationship and still, I stayed around. You could just tell with the police, when they were serving the DVO and taking my statements; they get these statements every day. They go to the same kinds of houses, same kinds of families, same complaints, and they know we’re not going to leave. They know they’re going to get called back in a few weeks’ time.

 

It can take a long time to realise that you have to get out, that they’re not going to change. That’s the first thing they do after physical abuse: they reel you back in. ‘I’m going to change, I’m going to go on medication. If you loved me, if you were a good wife and good mum, you’d help me get help’. That’s how he dragged me back.

 

I left with next to nothing. He had bleached and cut up my clothes. Slashed and destroyed our furniture. They were other ways of hurting me, after the DVO.

 

I cannot believe that I made it out of there relatively unharmed. It only ended when I feared for my life, and those of my children.

 

👑🐆 #rowdybec #ufc #souleater 📷 @sizlak008

A post shared by Bec Rawlings (@rowdybec) on

 

 

BECOMING A UFC FIGHTER

I was born in Launceston. I was super competitive as a kid. I started playing basketball at five; my whole family played, I grew up on a basketball court. I competed in gymnastics as well, did athletics right through school and excelled in any sport that I tried.

 

Once I turned 13, I started to get rough and out of control. I was just a wild child. I couldn’t handle authority (I still can’t). It was two middle fingers up and ‘fuck the world’.

 

I ended up getting moved to the Gold Coast for a few months to live with my uncle and aunty. Once I came back from there, I got a bad staph infection in my shoulder and ankle, and I was hospitalised for three months. That messed up my body. I couldn’t get back into sport for a while after that.

 

It put me down the wrong path, hanging out with the wrong people and getting into all sorts of trouble. It wasn’t until I had Zake that I tried to sort myself out, because I realised I was never going to get out of Tasmania. That was my biggest fear. I hated that place. I put a plan together: I’m going to get fit, healthy, stay on the straight and narrow and get out of that life.

 

Then came the gym, and all that came with it. But it was there that I found MMA.

 

I was just a wild child. I couldn’t handle authority (I still can’t). It was two middle fingers up and ‘fuck the world’.

 

I’ve always lived life at 100 per cent. If I’m going to be bad, it’s 100 per cent bad. Or 100 per cent good. All in, all or nothing.

 

When I found the kickboxing gym and started training, I loved it. I was rough growing up and I was always in fights with my brothers and sisters, and at school. That’s how I got kicked out of school. Fighting was my outlet.

 

At the gym, I was like, ‘Cool – I get to kick and punch things, get fit and stay out of trouble, all in one place’.

 

There was no amateur MMA scene back then for women’s fighters. My debut fight was as a pro. Whatever it was, I fought because I liked it.

 

I lost that first fight but won four in a row after that, enough to be called up to Invicta Fighting Championship; a great all-women promotion. I had three fights there, all in 2013: the same year that Ronda Rousey fought for the first time in the UFC.

 

I still remember when ‘Rowdy’ Ronda came on the scene: ‘She’s got the same nickname as me, who is she?’ Her arrival skyrocketed women’s MMA.

 

It went from Dana White himself declaring that women would never fight in the UFC, to having a star of Ronda’s calibre … it was just nuts. I still remember Ronda and Liz Carmouche walking out to the cage for the first time. I was covered in goosebumps. It was a really cool feeling: ‘This is it, it’s started, this is our beginning’.

 

 

My own UFC debut came at the finale of The Ultimate Fighter 20. It put a dampener on things; I didn’t enjoy my time in there, didn’t enjoy the experience of appearing on the show. I fought and lost against someone I didn’t like very much, Heather Clark. I was also going through the passing of my stepfather. He died of Parkinson’s disease while I was in the TUF. My mum was left without her partner and had to bury him.

 

It was a really shitty time. I wasn’t able to enjoy it. I resented it, even though it was my start in the UFC.

 

My whole UFC career has been a crazy roller-coaster; consecutive wins, then a four-fight losing streak that led to me being released earlier this year. Yet I thrive on the chaos. I couldn’t have a regular job without those extremes of defeat and victory.

 

I’d love to go back to the UFC. I intend to, sooner rather than later. I look at some of the girls in the division now and think, ‘I’d whoop your arse, I’d whoop your arse, I’d whoop your arse’. Whatever.

 

If it was about a year ago, I would have been really bummed about being released by the UFC. Would have thought it was the end of the road, a ticket back to hairdressing or waitressing, which I don’t want to do, ever.

 

But when I was released this year, I didn’t think, ‘Shit, this sucks, what am I going to do?’ I was OK with it. I was content with where I am, my skillset, my life. I was like, ‘Something will happen, I’ll be fine’.

 

Literally the next day, Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship contacted me on social media.

 

 

 

BARE KNUCKLE QUEEN

I was like a caged animal released, getting let go by the UFC. I was able to dabble in other areas. Bare knuckle boxing was great.

 

Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship had no idea I’d been released, though they thought I was on the outer after dropping a few losses. It fell into my lap at the perfect time.

 

I’d always wanted to try boxing, I love it. I focused on it for a while when I broke my hip, when all I could do was box. I found a passion and respect for it. I always used to look at it like, ‘Fuckin’ pussies, you’re just boxing, stop running’.

 

First fight, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, last month, I beat Alma Garcia by TKO after two rounds at Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship 1. When I landed a really stiff jab, I felt her nose crush under my knuckles.

 

You know which shots have hurt them in bare knuckle; sometimes you don’t with MMA or boxing gloves. To be punched bare knuckle felt the same as MMA; more of a sting than the thud you get with boxing gloves. I was super relaxed, despite the potential for damage, because I only had to worry about hands, rather than kicks and wrestling.

 

I was like a caged animal released, getting let go by the UFC. I was able to dabble in other areas. Bare knuckle boxing was great.

 

I had only superficial damage from the fight. I bruise easily because I’m fair-skinned, and my right hand was really swollen for a long time. But my technique held up, mostly. I probably went a little crazy in the clinch, which is what busted my hands up; the uppercuts to her jaw.

 

It’s still sinking in, how historic that fight was. It was on the first bare knuckle boxing card sanctioned by a US athletic commission since 1889, and it was the first legal female bare knuckle fight. And, the first by an Aussie.

 

They’ve crowned me the Queen of Bare Knuckle. I’m like, ‘Oh … that’s cool!’ I didn’t realise how big it was in the US. People always told me it was cool being in the UFC, too. I was like, ‘Yeah, it’s cool … but I’m just a normal person who likes to punch people in the face for a living’.

 

I fight again next month, live on pay per view from Biloxi, Mississippi. Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship 2. I can’t wait.

 

 

 

WARRIOR & MUM

Being a fighter and a mum, you need a really tight schedule. Almost army-like.

 

The kids are good, they’ve grown up around the gym and they know no other life. They come to the gym with me at night if they have to. Though they’ve never seen me fight live, only on TV. I think they can come to a show soon.

 

It’s hard. Purely from a fighting point of view, I envy people who don’t have kids, just for all the extra time to focus on training. But then, I probably wouldn’t have the motivation if I didn’t have them; I’d probably slack off, get lazy.

 

I don’t have any time for laziness with my boys, I have no room for error. Two little kids are depending on me to feed them. That’s what keeps me in the gym every day.

 

They don’t have a soft, gentle mum. I don’t think I could ever have been the soft mum. It really irks me when kids are ill-behaved. How hard is it?

 

I was 19 when I had my eldest son, rough, didn’t know where I was going in life. I still managed to raise a sweet, kind, caring, compassionate kid with beautiful manners, who respects people.

 

How did I get it so right when there are people out there in corporate jobs, who run big organisations with all the money in the world, and their kids are arseholes?

 

I’ve always just wanted my kids to grow up to be good humans; that will make me proud. I don’t care if you’re a fighter, a politician – a ballerina, for all I care. Just be a good bloody human.

 

1800 RESPECT: 1800 737 732

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