Warning: Distressing content
I was 19 years old when I first met Jon Seccull. We were volunteers at the local fire brigade.
He was such a gentleman. I remember my grandparents, who I was boarding with at the time, commented on what a lovely young man he was. Telling my sisters that he was so funny.
Everyone that knew him would describe him as a "giant teddy bear", and he always has been on the surface, but behind closed doors he became a monster that I was afraid of.
At one point I was certain he would eventually kill me.
In private, Jon's demeanour was in stark contrast to what he allowed others to see. There were red flags in the early days, but I missed them entirely.
I dismissed the multiple calls and texts asking for my whereabouts when we were dating as "just a man in love", simply caring for his woman.
I put down the occasional control over finances as him just being frugal. And things escalated so gradually over those 20 years, there was never a moment where I thought "he's not the man I married" or "this isn't right" until I was in way too deep.
There had been pressure from Jon to be more adventurous in the bedroom from the very beginning. I was a virgin when I met Jon and he used that to say I didn't know what I was missing out on having only been with him.
He was obsessed with sex, he wanted it around the clock and soon, regular sex was not enough, and after years of begging and pestering by him, in 2008, I conceded to talking with other men online.
The pressure continued for me to have sex with another man. In early 2011, Jon convinced me to go out to do just that. It was my way to prove I was a proper partner, a way to make him happy, as I'd failed him as a wife. He organised who and when I would have sex with and he would watch via webcam.
There were consequences for me upon returning home. Those consequences were violent sexual assaults that he called "punishments". After that, I had to go to whoever, whenever he ordered, or face the consequences of punishment or reprisal.
After we lost our three-year-old son Ethan in a horrific train accident in late 2011, we dedicated our lives to raising awareness for organ donation.
Throughout the next few years, I wrote speeches behind the scenes while Jon faced the cameras and showed the nation a grieving father. He travelled around and spoke at medical conferences, we stood side-by-side and fronted the media, presenting a united front as grieving parents.
He portrayed the hero well; a loving father and supportive husband doing what he can for organ donation through the hazy grief of losing a child. He was even an ambassador for the domestic violence charity White Ribbon through his work.
The grief was even used to further the sexual exploits. It would make him feel better, he even told me his psychologist told him that it was normal to have those thoughts and that I should help him. The sexual assaults were many and they were violent and degrading, they left me feeling humiliated and empty, a husk of myself.
Jon's drinking increased a lot after we lost Ethan. He would get a slab on the way home and it was gone the next morning. When he was drunk, the verbal abuse and sexual demands were more overt than when he was sober. It became my normal. I was his wife, and this was my duty.
I know that from the outside it must seem strange not to have realised what was happening was abuse, but it happened so gradually over such a long period of time, that it just never registered to me.
Jon would say to me things like, "I'm a White Ribbon Ambassador, don't you think I know what abuse is!" and "I don't hit you, this isn't abuse!" And after being belittled and pushed down over so many years, you lose faith in your own judgment. The abuse makes you believe you are nothing.
After returning from a night away with friends, he pulled a gun on me. He stood there at the end of the bed with his bolt action firearm and I heard him pull the lever and the bullet clicked into the chamber. He said, "You're the lowest f***ing c*** on earth, You're a complete waste of oxygen and you need to be put out of your misery."
I've never been so scared in my life, I just sat there thinking this is it. Then he ejected the bullet and threw it at me. He said I wasn't worth the cost of a bullet and then said he'd shoot himself in the driveway so the kids would find him and then I'd have to explain to them that it was my fault because of what I'd done.
By 2013 I had returned to uni to do a nursing/paramedic degree. I had to steal study time when Jon was either passed out, or when I was out at a pub pretending to be trying to pick up other men.
One night, I was doing an assignment on domestic violence and mental health when it hit me. I sat there reading through these domestic violence checklists, and I'm like, "Oh my goodness, Michelle, you're as dumb as what he says you are!"
Realising I could tick all these boxes, I told myself "he's abusing you".
After that, I started calling him out on his behaviour. It enraged him. I tried to leave a few times but he stopped me. I knew deep down he wasn't going to change, but years of humiliation and shame made the leap a heavy one.
I received a solid shove out the metaphorical door one night in 2016, when Jon was drunk and I went around the corner to my friend's place to avoid his alcohol-induced rage.
My sister called and asked where I was because my daughter had messaged her. She said, "Mum's going to get hurt by Dad tonight and I won't want to be here for it."
That's when I realised that staying was only hurting my children and I needed to get out if I wanted to protect them. I knew I had to be careful, five days later I told Jon I could not be married to him anymore and headed for my sister's place.
Later that year I went to the police and made a statement.
Jon was arrested in 2017 and charged with three counts of rape, one of assault and one of threats to kill.
I had to recount everything I could possibly remember, in as much detail as possible. The process to get a sexual assault case to even just see the inside of a courtroom is horrific. The questions were endless.
"Where were his hands?"
"How many times did his penis enter you?"
"Did you say no?"
I completely understand why people don't go ahead with it. Even after answering all the questions and knowing he'd been charged, Jon was living nearby for almost four years until the trial started. During that time I was terrified, not just for my own life, but for the safety of our children.
When the trial began, Jon was facing 12 counts of rape, two of assault and one of threats to inflict serious injury. The trial itself was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my entire life. I was scrutinised over the tiniest details and asked intrusive questions about my sexual history.
The fine line between consent and abuse within the confines of marriage became a focal point in the trial. Years of abuse already had me doubting myself, and I started to wonder why others would ever believe my word over the word of the "big teddy bear" they saw before them.
By the time the court case was over, I was broken.
For a jury to get a guilty verdict [in Australia], 11 of the 12 jurors have to say yes, beyond reasonable doubt. I knew the odds of a conviction were low, but I had faced my monster. I stood tall and spoke my truth, and I was prepared for the worst. But the worst didn't come.
Jon was found guilty of nine counts of rape, two counts of assault and one count of threats to inflict serious harm.
I wish I could say it's all over for us now, but it's not, and the effects of living with a monster might never be completely behind me. But I do know things will get better.
I remember someone asking me once what the worst thing that he did to me was. My answer is still the same thing today: he made me believe I was nothing. Because it's only when you believe you are nothing, do you think that you deserve what's happening.
I'm working hard to change that narrative inside my head, the one that doubts every decision I make as a parent, as a woman, and as a person.
What I do know, is that I never deserved nor asked for what happened to me. Nobody deserves to be treated like that. Nobody deserves to be spoken to like that. And nobody deserves to live constantly on eggshells.
Yet when you're in that situation, you believe that you deserve it. People can tell you that you don't, but until that internal dialogue gets changed, you stay.
I still have a lot of self-doubt, but I hope to one day get to the stage where I can say to myself, "Good on you, Chelle, you've done the best that you can!"
• You can listen to Michelle's full story and other real-life stories on the I Swear I Never podcast.
How to get help
If you're in danger now:
• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours or friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people. Scream for help so your neighbours can hear you.
• Take the children with you. Don't stop to get anything else.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay.
Where to go for help or more information:
• Women's Refuge: Crisis line - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 (available 24/7)
• Shine: Helpline - 0508 744 633 (available 24/7)
• It's Not Ok: Family violence information line - 0800 456 450
• Shakti: Specialist services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and children. Crisis line - 0800 742 584 (available 24/7)
• Ministry of Justice: For information on family violence
• Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Patunga: National Network of Family Violence Services
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women