Domestic Violence Survivor Stories
A 25 year old Sudanese woman, Rita* entered into an abusive relationship while living as a refugee in Kenya. At the age of 18, a marriage was arranged to an Ethiopian man; she was to be his fourth wife. Rita’s husband was physically abusive and the marriage lasted 3 months, during which she got pregnant. After her husband divorced her, Rita was forced to live with her father and stepmother. The stepmother continued the physical abuse and emotional abuse. Rita was beaten, forced into domestic labour and restricted from receiving any education. During this time she gave birth to a daughter with severe Cerebral Palsy.
Although she is still living in the abusive situation, Ishar has provided practical support to allow Rita to gain housing, which is currently being processed. Ishar also assisted her application to school to learn English and educated her on the public transport system. She is now able to communicate in English to be an advocate for her daughter.
A young Australian-born female with a South African background, Christi*, was in a three year intimate partner violence relationship which involved physical, emotional and financial abuse. While in the abusive relationship, Christi became pregnant and decided to stay in the relationship as she wanted her son to have a father. After the birth of her son, Christi tried on many occasions to leave her partner, as she was feeling more unsafe due to his irrational behaviour such as his jealous outbursts. Christi came to a breaking point in the relationship, and finally managed to leave her partner with her baby son.
Christi expressed that while she was in the abusive relationship, she started to lose her self-identity, her self-confidence, her power and that her existence only revolved around meeting her partner’s needs while her own needs and rights were disregarded. She also withdrew from family and friends, and didn’t feel she could disclose her abusive relationship to them. When the Christi finally confided in her best friend, she felt comforted, but realised that her friend did not understand her situation or what she was going through, so she still felt alone, unsupported and not understood.
Christi was referred to Ishar by Communicare in April 2018, while receiving counselling. The services Christi used at Ishar included assistance in applying for housing and bond with DV worker, counselling sessions with the Psychologist, and visiting the GP. Christi had not been aware of the organisation, but found the services and staff to be very helpful. Before Ishar, Christi found accessing community resources to be quite difficult, not because of an English barrier, but due to not knowing where to locate services in the community. Once Ishar assisted her with obtaining certain services, it became much easier knowing where to go.
Christi has also been attending the Domestic Violence Therapeutic Group for the last year or so, which she has found to be very supportive. The group has given her a safe environment and the confidence to talk openly about her intimate partner violence relationship without feeling uncomfortable or different. She has also felt a spiritual kinship with the group where she has been able to connect to them due to their personal experiences in family domestic violence. Christi is feeling more empowered, much happier and slowly getting her self-confidence back.
The group has also given Christi the confidence to start thinking about her future. She is interested in returning to do some further study – may be nursing or hairdressing or work in the beautician industry, which she had intended to enter before she met her partner.
Quote from Christi:
“If I think back a year, I was so different than what I am right now, so it has been good coming to this group... it has helped me a lot.”
A young Afghanistani woman, Aisha*, came to Australia in November 2016, to marry. She travelled on her own, and had no family or friends here. Aisha’s marriage broke down due to intimate partner violence in 2017, and she sought refuge. She was later relocated to a home where she felt safe from her husband. Aisha was referred to Ishar by her interpreter, while seeking legal advice from a lawyer around March 2019. Aisha was not aware of Ishar or what the services included, and without an appointment, walked into Ishar and spoke with Reception, who referred her to a DV worker.
Aisha has used many services at Ishar including counselling sessions with a psychologist, visits to the GP and sessions with a DV worker. She has found Ishar’s services and staff to be very helpful, and feels grateful for the help she has received. Aisha has also been attending the Domestic Violence Therapeutic Group for the last two months, which she has found to be very supportive. Before coming to Ishar, Aisha was feeling depressed, scared and alone, with no support. The group has helped her to become stronger and more self-confident, in a safe environment. She is now feeling much happier and has also made a few friends through the group.
Accessing resources in the community has been somewhat difficult for Aisha due to the English language barrier, but Ishar has assisted by linking her to community resources. Since leaving her husband, and having more contact with the community such as Ishar, refuge and TAFE, Aisha now feels more confident and has a better understanding of the English language, though she still requires an interpreter when attending Family Court.
Ishar has helped Aisha has gain so much, such as a safe support network,feelings of regained confidence and security, and has also allowed her to start thinking about her future and what she would like to achieve. Aisha expressed her desire to go to TAFE and enrol in an interior decorating course. Before coming to Australia, Aisha was working as a beautician in her hometown, and she feels she would like to return to the industry. Aisha feels that coming to Ishar has helped her to “blossom like a flower”.
Quote from Aisha: