Content warning: The following account of lived experience contains references to trauma and abuse which some may find confronting or distressing. We encourage self-care and discretion when engaging with these materials.
“At first I thought that maybe he would change back and be a good husband, but I quickly realised that would not happen. I wanted to leave but I did not know how. I was in a new country, feeling alone. My mother had returned home and all my family lived overseas.”
Lucy made her way to Australia from her Asian home as a professional migrant alongside her husband. As a qualified professional, in a high-paying, and highly regarded field she dreamed of a happy and peaceful life together in their newly adopted home.
Shortly after arriving in the country, Lucy was struck down with ill health, and complications arising from her surgical treatment resulted in her inability to continue working in her profession, to which she had dedicated years of university study and professional practice.
While there had been some challenges in the relationship prior to marriage, it was during the time of her illness, and loss of ability to earn her high paying income that her husband’s behaviour became abusive.
This behaviour was not only directed at Lucy, but also towards her mother, who had come to Australia to care for her during her recovery.
“He started drinking again, and visiting online relationship chat sites. He was verbally abusive towards me, and my mother, and would open all the doors and windows around the house while I was bedridden so I would be freezing alone in bed,” Lucy says.
Shortly after the drinking and online behaviour recommenced Lucy’s husband lost his job, which led to an escalation in the violence.
“He became more verbally abusive. The language and the things he said were unbelievable. And there was the shoving. At first I thought that maybe he would change back and be a good husband, but I quickly realised that would not happen. I wanted to leave but I did not know how. I was in a new country, feeling alone. My mother had returned home and all my family lived overseas.”
As is often common in domestic violence situations, Lucy’s husband worked to socially isolate her, banning her from even the most casual interactions with the neighbours. He also limited her financial freedom, took away her mobile phone and started making lavish jewellery purchases for other women.
The threats also became far more direct. “He started to say things like ‘Two fingers are enough for me to kill you’, and would become annoyed and uncomfortable if he caught me watching news coverage of the Baden-Clay murder trial,” Lucy said.
“I knew I needed to get out but I didn’t know where to go. I had lived a very comfortable life growing up, and as a well paid professional and I was terrified of becoming homeless. I felt completely lost and alone, so I stayed.”
“Captivity is the word I would use to describe my existence for the final five years of my marriage.”
Lucy’s husband had now taken to kicking her from behind, stressing he was not using his hands to strike her.
A few days before Lucy finally made her escape the violence and threatening behaviour had escalated to such an extent that she phoned her closest friend, who lived on the other side of the country anticipating the worst.
“If I end up dead it is not a suicide, no matter how it looks.”
Within days a punch to the face left her bleeding profusely from the head, and fearing her husband was about to kill her she seized an opportunity to escape to the street where her cries for help were responded to by a neighbour who took her in and phoned for the police and an ambulance.
Lucy spent two days in hospital, where a support worker suggested she reach out to the Brisbane Domestic Violence Service operated by Micah Projects for support.
Like many women fleeing domestic violence at a time of crisis, Lucy had fled her home barefoot with nothing but the shoes on her back.
I felt completely frozen. I had no idea what was going to happen to me. Then Anna from Micah arrived and brought me two pairs of all the clothing I would need just to get started. They helped me move from a motel into a boarding house, and then a shelter, and helped me to apply for my current housing. They knew what I was going to need and they helped me to get it every step of the way.
"They were very friendly and completely understanding of the trauma and challenges I was dealing with. There was no judgment, and no sense that they were treating me any differently because I was a recent citizen. They treat everyone equally and work together as a team so you feel like everyone is supporting you."
Due to the effects of her medical condition, Lucy is unable to return to her original profession, however with stable housing in place, Lucy has been able to undertake postgraduate studies in counselling and is hoping to find a new career helping others, including people who find themselves in similar circumstances to her own.
“Today I am smiling again, and enjoying the freedom I deserve as a human being.”
*In order to ensure the ongoing safety of Lucy and her extended family, names and identifying details have been altered to preserve her identity.