Lani tells how she escaped a violent relationship.
Lani tells how she escaped a violent relationship. Thinkstock

Absolute hell: Beaten with golf clubs, bats, stabbed, raped

LANI Brennan can still hear her dad's Commodore coming 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."

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.

Mrs Brennan, now a nationally acclaimed domestic violence campaigner, was 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 a 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, it's going to get worse'. And it did."

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," Mrs Brennan 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 her 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 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."

Mrs Brennan said she liked the idea of a publicly available domestic violence database, which would work on the same principles as a sex-offender register.

"A lot of people don't know who they're getting into a relationship with," she said.

The community has to stand up and be accountable."

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