26-year-old Tina had never been in a relationship when she started dating Dani, who was ten years her senior. During the first two months their relationship was wonderful, so much so that Tina agreed to move in with Dani who kept saying that it would make more sense for them to live together rather than both renting separately.
But, a couple of months after they started living together, Dani became increasingly controlling. She would call Tina constantly demanding to know where she was and who she was with, she would accuse her of cheating, become jealous and sullen if Tina spent time with friends, and would constantly put her down, saying she was stupid and childish. If Tina tried to rationalise with Dani, Dani would usually start yelling and throwing objects. Then Tina would end up apologising just to calm her down. Dani would say sorry too, claiming she only acted that way because she loved Tina so much, saying all lesbian relationships were emotionally volatile and that she’d kill herself if Tina ever left her.
Their relationship continued like this for more than a year, until Dani’s increasingly controlling behaviour led Tina to reach out to safe steps. She called and spoke to a Support Worker about what she was experiencing. The Support Worker listened closely and gently clarified that Dani’s behaviour wasn’t normal or healthy. At first Tina did not want to end her relationship with Dani, she felt if Dani just knew her actions weren’t normal she would start acting differently. The safe steps Support Worker provided Tina with information about family violence in same-sex relationships and assisted her to develop a safety plan to ensure she remained safe while living with Dani.
But, over the coming months, it became clear to Tina that Dani’s behaviour wasn’t changing – she decided she had to leave the relationship. She again called safe steps and her Support Worker was able to help her establish a plan for separating and moving out safely. Tina moved back in with her parents. During the weeks after the break up Dani would call Tina repeatedly, sometimes up to 50 times a day, and came to her work demanding to speak to her.
During this period, Tina was continuously in touch with her safe steps Support Worker who offered practical assistance, advice on staying safe and emotional support. Tina was so grateful for safe steps support that, several months after separating from Dani, she emailed to say thank you and let the team know that she was happy and mentally healthy
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.