Sandra’s Story

I am a friend, sister, wife, entertainer and a mother. I am also a survivor of family violence.

The period in the abusive relationship for me was under two years. During that time, I was slapped, pushed and held down. Without a doubt the physical violence would have escalated if I had stayed. It always does – without exception.

Like most women, I wanted my relationship to be inclusive, transparent and safe. But my ex-partner thought I needed to be kept in my place.

If I were to challenge his unqualified accusations it meant punishment by way of name calling and put downs followed by long periods of silence.

If you are a victim of family violence you live with fear constantly. Fear that you are going to die if you stay – die if you leave. You feel trapped. The words ‘family violence’ are not even on your radar – you are told every day you are the problem.

You just want the violence to stop. You hope that by modifying your behaviour, things will improve. But he keeps moving the goal posts.

He uses tactics such as threats, intimidation and isolation from friends and family. He undermines and accuses to the point that you have no sense of your own integrity and values. You feel you have lost yourself completely and frankly it is too painful to acknowledge. You’re numb, in survival mode, never knowing what he will do next, how far he will go.

You are confused. You are scared. You are nervous and jumpy. You are depleted, not sleeping and sometimes feel you are on a slippery slide to your grave. You feel hopeless.

When I left…

The most profound positive change occurred as I begun to implement boundaries – I learnt that the less I spoke with him the better.  I learnt to just call the police rather than say I would. I learnt to take action quietly rather than engaging with him. I did not always get it right as I tried to reason with him, but as I healed, I pulled right back and strengthened the front line; needless to say this antagonised him further.

He wanted to continue controlling me after I left and the relationship ended.

I was a strong woman when I began this journey – I had endured a great deal on my own before meeting my former partner, and I am a stronger woman now.

As an Advocate…

Ignorance regarding family violence is alive and well. It is essential therefore, that we continue to advocate to and educate our influential leaders, religious groups, educational institutions, neighbours, friends and family members.

Women must be made aware that there is help available. Organisation like safe steps are doing vital work on the front line providing 24/7 access to support services. Women need to know that there are help services available where they will be believed and empowered to take control of their lives.

When contemplating the epidemic of family violence in Australia, my ongoing frustration is that, despite current statistics that show that one in three women are affected by family violence, an average of more than one Australian woman a week is killed by a current or ex-partner. We still struggle to talk about it openly in our current society.

To the broader community…

We must all step up and be part of the solution – it’s all of our business! Only a community approach can forge permanent change. We cannot rest – not while women and children are suffering in silence!

Most importantly, it is time to give women a voice!

By telling my story, I hope people will listen and reflect, be compassionate and maybe help open up the conversation about the epidemic that is family violence in Australia.

To anyone reading this who is experiencing abuse…

My suggestion to women living with family violence is to reach out to front line 24/7 services like safe steps who can provide you with information and support.

For people living with family violence I want to reassure them that there is hope and with the right support you can rebuild your life free of violence.

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.

Read more survivor stories.