Family violence must be addressed

Most of my posts are reflections on my life. Unfortunately I experienced domestic violence many years ago. I also experienced the condemnation of society that I had somehow “let” this happen. Do you really think that the first time you meet someone they lean over the table in the coffee shop and punch you in the head? No! It starts much more simply and insidiously than that. The subtle changes to your appearance, toning down of makeup, lengthening of skirts and shirts, modification of the bright colours you used to wear. Alongside of this are the comments about your safety and wellbeing at certain establishments or with certain people. And before you know it you you are dressing like your grandmother and all your old friends are gone. What is worse is that your girlfriends have been replaced by his friends’ partners who think all of the above restrictions are “normal”. And then “it” happens, one minute you are arguing and the next you are on the floor after being hit. You go to your “new” friends for advice. Their advice “you just have to try harder”. “If you get everything right then he won’t hit you”. EXCUSE ME!! How is a human being hitting me because his mate perved on me in any way my fault.

So there I am, on my one true friend’s couch, the only one I was ever allowed to have, asking her for advice. My jaw is still sore and I am still using an ice pack. Now I have to point out that I am, and always have been, the strong one in the relationship. We decided that rather than disrupting my kids again, I was quite the train wreck in my twenties, that we would see how things went. Hah! I should have just grabbed my kids and fled there and then. Could have saved myself and them all sorts of terror. What followed next was two years of continual moving, always being found. I moved house ten times.

I could not get a judge, initially, to grant a domestic violence order to protect me. In fact, at my first appearance the judge made me feel worthless and as though I somehow deserved the treatment I was receiving. Finally, after having my head repeatedly smashed into a concrete floor, and been repeatedly raped (it is the only word to describe that weekend), I was granted an order. And a kindly doctor had organised a place in a refuge. I couldn’t be collected from a “secret” meeting point until lunchtime the next day. I went home and acted normal. By this time he was accepting that I needed some space and had moved a few apartments away to his brother’s house. In the dead of night I snuck some clothes down to my car. Terrified. Heart pounding that I would be seen. I wasn’t, fortunately. I then went back upstairs and proceeded as normal. The kids off to school and me off to work. I was there when he rang at 10.30. I confided in my boss and she was wonderful and arranged for me to be paid out in cash and had my phone diverted to hers so that if he rang again she could stall him.

I was too scared by this point to even go to the school to pick up my kids. The local police were amazing. They went to the school and got my kids for me. The refuge collected us and decided that it was unsafe for us to remain in Melbourne. So I was transferred to a refuge in another state. My family were so supportive but didn’t know how to handle this situation. Neither did I. My dad convinced me to not run. To come back to Melbourne and stand my ground. I often think that was a sliding door moment. I came back to Melbourne and of course he found me and moved back in. Eventually the police got me out and I moved to a caravan park. I had reached the lowest ebb of my life.

On 23 December 1995 I made a decision that would change my life for ever. I boarded a train to Sydney with two kids and four bags. I changed my name and started again. I built my life as my own. I could do this because I was born strong. I was born always wanting better. Knowing that there was a better way. Always seeking my way. The way that was right for me. Many women don’t have this view of themselves. Society bombards us with images that seek to subjugate us. We have laughing little jokes that keep the divides between equal and not equal firmly in place. We are taught that self deprecation is good. For many of the women in violent situations they stay because there really is nowhere else to go. There are less refuges now, less emergency housing, less services. There is also a very real and legitimate fear that if they leave they will die. And let me tell you that is true. Women who try to leave die more often than women who stay.

So what do we do? We need to sign the petition below for starters. We need to teach our sons that violence towards anyone is not an appropriate way to behave. We need to teach our daughters and our sons that they are perfect and wonderful and deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. We need to role model the behaviours we would want ofr our children on each other. We need governments to hear that this is intolerable and that services need to be provided.