I have survived three experiences of family violence. The first abusive man in my life was my father who was both a victim and a perpetrator of family violence. He taught me to tolerate abuse and pander to controlling boyfriends.
The second abusive man was my husband, another victim-perpetrator. He won my heart then stole my confidence, all of our assets, and traumatised our child.
The third abuser was my defacto partner whom I believed to be the love of my life. When I ended our seven year relationship he retaliated by trying to destroy every aspect of my life.
He stalked me at home by loitering in the street, coercing tenants to let him into my building so he could wait outside my apartment door, smashing neighbours’ fences, and breaking into my flat. He stalked me in public places texting details of appointments he thought I was attending, shifts I was working, and my bank transactions.
He damaged my reputation with two employers, causing me to voluntarily resign from a rewarding role and prompting a manager in a second job to tell me that the stalker’s contact with the police and my emergency service colleagues had been “toxic” to my career.
I am the one in four women who has been the victim of family violence.
I now know that it could happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Victims of family violence look and sound just like your daughters, sisters, mothers, wives, friends, colleagues and neighbours. That’s because we are. We are everyday women.
No one is immunised at birth against family violence, homelessness, poverty, mental and physical illness which often coincide. We are all vulnerable to the epidemic that is family violence.
When I left…
Family violence is one of the toughest things I have experienced but it has also been the making of me. I am a survivor who found strength in many acts of resistance against these perpetrators.
I stood up to my father to protect myself, mother and sister. I held my defacto accountable for breaching an Intervention Order more than 100 times – he is now on a Community Corrections Order and faces jail if he breaches the five-year Intervention Order.
While I have tried very hard to protect my child, the Family Court has not. A partner who commits continuous family violence should not be allowed to have unsupervised shared care of a child. I have begged doctors, child protection workers, teachers, police and lawyers to help but it seems the current system will not intervene except in the most extreme circumstances.
As an Advocate…
I do not define myself as a victim, I am a woman with a powerful story of suffering and survival. I am also a woman who is healing and learning to love wisely.
One of the people I trust the most is a fellow safe steps Survivor Advocate. We share things no one else knows. We respect and support one another free of judgement. We are the lucky ones, we are alive and we know that we must work together on behalf of the invisible and voiceless women and children who are maimed and killed.
To the broader community…
I would like the broader community to know that family violence keeps happening to women because there are so many men choosing to harm their partners. These men believe they are better than women. They control us and exert power over us because they know they can get away with it.
These men, whom we once trusted and loved, tell us we deserved it, but we deserve better.
If we want to be free of family violence we must all, as individuals and as a community, challenge this patriarchal culture where women are not equal in the home, at work and in the community. Change begins with each of us.
safe steps recognises that survivors have been among the most powerful activists for change regarding societal attitudes towards family violence. By courageously sharing their stories, survivors have raised community awareness about abuse in the home, and pushed for important political and sector reforms.
We share the stories of some of our safe steps Survivor Advocates to ensure their powerful experiences are heard by even more people, and honour the important contribution each woman has made as an advocate and an activist.