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Domestic Violence Survivor
Last week I was chatting to a young lass “Lisa” who lived in country Victoria. She is a beautiful and cheery person; we’ve chatted about many things over the last few years when she visits the city on business. I know a little about her family; she is one of 4 and probably about 25 or so. She’s single and adores her niece and nephew the only grandchildren in the family. I’ve seen their photos with their Mother; Lisa’s eldest sister. They are all extremely good looking and photogenic, heads tossed back with laughter in most of the shots “How gorgeous” I thought.
Chatting inanely as one does at times I said “Gosh your niece and nephew must be excited about Xmas coming up – at 3 and 4 they’ll be right into it”.
“Oh yes” she said then stopped for a minute and put her head down and muttered, “…well I don’t know actually …. I haven’t told people as I don’t know how to, but my sister and the kids have had to go to a women’s refuge …. They are moved on each week and I have hardly been about to even phone her, the security is so tough”.
…” It’s …….. me as I feel so sorry and helpless she is a domestic violence survivor – none of us knew – well not really as she has never confided in us but new she’s in fear for her life ….”.
I was shocked to hear this and expressed my concern and support for her.
She went on to say that her parents are in denial and her other siblings have not been told for fear that the boys “will go ballistic and search for her husband”
As if this was not already heartbreaking enough she added, “The kids are both disabled so I don’t know how they are coping with the moves and disruption …..”
I felt almost unable to comprehend this situation. We hear of family breakdowns and violence and our dear resident Bonnie Roberts still works for refuges collecting items and survival packs for the woman and children who are the collateral damage of a family at war. But this was new to me, not merely the hypothetical but the actual; happening to someone whose sister I know.
I had not thought of how refuges must be run, how the women cannot have a mobile phone as they can be traced, how many need to be moved on regularly, how they virtually lose touch with family and a support network (unless very special arrangements are made).
It is speculation to imagine how long this goes on for, how the court system works in tandem as so many of the aggressors are facing charges for various crimes of violence.
Secrecy is essential as so often partners find wives, we’ve all read and heard of horrific stories of women being followed and pursued across borders, even across countries. Secrecy in terms of security protects but the secrecy which precedes nearly all cases of family breakdown allows the problem to grow, to fester and in some cases become toxic and downright dangerous.
Why people do not divulge is complex. Some folk are naturally reserved about anything and find it hard to emote about their feelings full stop let alone about relationships. Privacy is a precious thing if it is born of respect and need for dignity but sometimes we say, “It’s none of my business …..” as we do not know how to deal with a suspicion or hunch lest we offend or upset.
We often see our relationships – especially if failing – as sources of shame and humiliation. A woman (and sometimes a man) can feel demeaned enough by a partners scorn or aggression but for the wider world to know that we are thought so little of by another is shameful and adds to the mantle of degradation so many abused people wear so heavily.
Struggling more and more to hold the weight of this up, keeping up appearances of normality whilst crumbling internally.
After Luke Batty was killed by his mentally unstable father and Rosie Batty succeeded in getting Domestic Violence better understood – and attempts at remedy even funded – we have had greater awareness and sensitivity to this phenomenon. It’s always been there though and many of our Fairway residents probably knew of neighbours who suffered in silence – or did so themselves.
What support systems existed in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s?
Was family breakdown as prevalent? Was family breakdown as prevalent? Were past gender roles clearer (Dad at work, Mum at home) and did this make any difference to family strife? Are modern pressures to compete and achieve eroding sense of self? Is the ‘construct’ of marriage itself …. of eternal unity … outmoded? Would a renewable contract without any recrimination if it is dissolved is better?
I have no idea, but in trying to get a handle on the extent of domestic breakdown I read some statistics and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare states that “…. Partner violence causes more illness, disability and death than any other risk factor in women aged 25 – 44 years”.
Can this be so? – more than cancer, car accidents and Heart disease?
I found this astounding and it really is a wakeup call for us to “make it our business” if we have any inkling of someone being distressed or not coping however difficult this may be to balance concern with perceived intrusion.
Family breakdown and domestic violence are now talked about to the extent that unions and industrial advocates want special workers rights for paid leave and other inbuilt supports to assist folk at work who are going through home trauma.
With a staff of 100 we have some employees who need our help and care through hard times. It is vital that we provide this not just because it is ethically correct and a compassionate approach to one of our own who is n distress but also to ensure that the stability of a job – and what it means for our residents to have functional well supported staff – maintains the community cohesion which is Fairway.
It is clear that women’s refuges provide an essential, life saving role and need funding and res………….. Each time Bonnie makes a call for donations – through this newsletter – let’s dig deep.
Long ago a heavily pregnant unmarried and homeless woman sought refuge …. she found it in a stable and gave birth in the hay.
No matter the circumstance we all need shelter and s……. in times of need. May this yuletide bring not only joy but huge gratitude, after all so many of us are blessed beyond our knowing?
** All details altered for privacy.