CAMPAIGNER: A witness to and  victim of domestic violence, Karen Harris dedicates her time to helping over victims of abuse.
CAMPAIGNER: A witness to and victim of domestic violence, Karen Harris dedicates her time to helping over victims of abuse. Liana Walker

'I left four times and went back': Abuse victim opens up

KAREN Harris was introduced to domestic abuse as a teenager when she saw the bruises covering her aunt's body.

Her aunty's case, Beryl Birch, would later become a precedent for the "battered wife" defence after she brutally killed her husband following 26 years of abuse.

Mrs Birch, who passed away last year, was sentenced to six years' imprisonment in 1984 for manslaughter but released after one year.

After witnessing what her aunt had suffered through, Ms Harris never suspected that she too would become a victim of domestic abuse.

"I left four times and went back," she said. "It becomes your fault because you begin to feel and believe you're partly responsible for it all, if not totally responsible."

She said her aunt Beryl's case happened at a different time with different attitudes.

When she told her mother about it, Ms Harris was told it was "none of our business" and that her aunt had "asked for it".

After falling victim to the same thing as her aunt, Ms Harris wished she had done more that as a bystander.

She advises anyone, young or old, who witnesses domestic violence to report it to police.

Ms Harris said even after leaving and coming back three times, it took her husband threatening her children to get her to leave for good.

"My children may not have been physically hurt but I do know that they were emotionally hurt," she said.

"I could never ask them for forgiveness for staying so long because I can't forgive myself in regards to them staying so long."

She left her former husband in 1993 who then went missing but was found dead in 2012.

Ms Harris gives back to the community by volunteering at Women's Health Gladstone and the community coordinated response to domestic and family violence.

But her key message to victims of abuse is you can get out the other end.

"They haven't made their bed and they shouldn't to lie in it," she said.

May is Domestic and Family Violence Awareness Month.