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DV payout: Survivor receives $50k for decade of torment

Carrying her baby and telling her little boy to "run" to a nearby paddock, Leila Fisher cowered in fear believing the man she loved was going to shoot her, a court heard.

Instead, according to her civil claim filed at the New South Wales District Court, her husband Alasdair James Percy just appeared and laughed.

"You thought I was going to shoot you, did you," he said, according to the court documents.

Mr Percy was never charged with any criminal offence, but Ms Fisher sued him in the NSW District Court for trespass, claiming he intentionally physically and emotionally intimidated, bullied and abused her, causing her to experience fear, intimidation and emotional trauma.

Intimidating behaviour such as the incident in the paddock was repeated at the family home, about 17km from Orange, NSW, during the couple's 10-year marriage.

But few people in the small town knew what was happening behind closed doors.

Ms Fisher, a lawyer who is about to move to the Sunshine Coast from Darling Downs, said the coercive control and intimidation was unbearable.

But she said there was also love, making leaving the father of her children a difficult choice.

"The psychologist I was seeing was saying 'leave him', the doctor I was seeing said 'leave him', some of my family members said 'leave him', and I still didn't leave him," she said.

"You're not kidnapped in a house and kept in a room … there's still some good things that occur and that are shared, and that keep you there.

"Unless you have somewhere to go, as in somewhere to go where it's safe and people are going to nurture you, I can understand … why you just keep going back to where you were."

Domestic violence survivor Leila Fisher. Picture: Bev Lacey
Domestic violence survivor Leila Fisher. Picture: Bev Lacey

Ms Fisher shared her story with the Sunshine Coast Daily as part of the HerStory campaign and to raise awareness of White Ribbon Day on November 20.

According to the Federal Government's 2016 Personal Safety Survey, one in four women has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner.

Ms Fisher said her former partner, an older man who had been married previously, was initially charming.

"It was a whirlwind kind of relationship where we started dating, three months later we were engaged," she said.

They were married within six months of getting engaged, and Ms Fisher fell pregnant almost immediately.

According to Ms Fisher's statement of claim, the emotional abuse began in the couple's first year of marriage.

On August 31, 2016, the New South Wales District Court entered verdict and judgment for Ms Fisher. The court ordered Mr Percy to pay Ms Fisher $50,000 in damages after a consent judgment was agreed by both parties.

The court heard Mr Percy had threatened self-harm and punched holes in walls next to Ms Fisher's head.

But she says the most serious incidents listed in her statement of claim were not always violent.

The court heard Mr Percy would periodically wake Ms Fisher at night, step out of bed, grab a knife and walk around the house in the dark in a menacing manner causing her to experience trauma and fear.

In one case, the court heard Ms Fisher woke with Mr Percy sitting on top of her choking her.

According to court documents, Mr Percy claimed he'd been sleepwalking.

Frustrated with police response, the mother-of-three now encourages other victims to take civil action against abusers who were not criminally charged.

"This process of the district court personal injury action … was not harrowing in any way, it was totally different to how women might feel in a magistrate setting," she said.

By pursuing a civil suit through a personal injury lawyer, Ms Fisher's case was "no win, no fee".

She said few victims knew that was an option.

"This is something that's open to victims. There are things that they can do," she said.

White Ribbon Day, held annually on the last Friday before November 25, is a time when communities come together to stand up, speak out and act, and say "no" to gendered violence in Australia.