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.
“I will never forget what seemed to be the longest journey out to the refuge. I was in a foreign country and my life was packed into a suitcase. I was going to a place where I had never been and never heard of.”
I was a young woman from an Asian country who had a successful career, close friendships and basically no worries in the world but something was missing. I yearned for the opportunity to challenge myself. Travelling to Australia seemed so exciting, and it became extra special because I had fallen in love with an Australian man. It was hard to leave my family and friends, and I had no idea that I would end up trying to survive domestic violence.
Not long after we got married my relationship with my husband became very difficult and I started to feel scared. I was experiencing all forms of abusive and controlling behaviour from my husband, including not having any control of my finances. But it wasn’t until I was walking along with our new baby and saw an advertisement about domestic violence, that I realised domestic violence is not just physical and that I was experiencing it.
I wanted to leave the relationship, but I was told by people that if Child Protection found out about the violence, I would lose my child. The thought of this was unbearable and on one occasion at the hospital I was too scared to talk to the social worker. I had no idea what my rights were or what I could do to help my situation.
I wanted to call Centrelink to find out about income support that I might be eligible for, but you had to wait on the line for a very long time, and I didn’t have enough credit on my mobile phone. I went to local libraries to use their internet, but I was nervous about looking up domestic violence because I was worried about what others might think.
The violence I was experiencing escalated to the point that the police came and used capsicum spray on my husband. He was holding our baby and the capsicum spray got him as well.
After this event I contacted a domestic violence service in Melbourne. We did some safety planning and I decided to live with my cousin in Brisbane. However my husband turned up at my cousin’s house four times during our stay, and it made me worry for my cousin’s family and my safety.
During this time I made contact with a domestic violence service through my support worker at a job assistance program, and they offered guidance and support and suggested that I go into a refuge. I was really scared because I imagined I would be staying in a big shed with lots of people around me, and no personal space.
When I arrived at the refuge I couldn’t believe how supportive the workers were. They very kindly had food stored in the pantry and fridge and this thoughtful gesture made things so much easier. It was such a relief to not only feel safe, but to be in a comfortable space where my baby had the freedom to play, and with our own living space.
I will never forget what seemed to be the longest journey out to the refuge. I was in a foreign country and my life was packed into a suitcase. I was going to a place where I had never been and never heard of.
Going to the refuge gave me the opportunity to learn about the cycle of domestic violence and gave me access to appropriate legal aid advice. It was acknowledged that the process of mediation would be unsafe due to the domestic violence I had experienced. Staying at the refuge also gave me a support network of other women which made me realise that I was not alone. The refuge also enabled me to gain independence by gradually moving me to medium-term accommodation and finally long-term accommodation.
I will never forget what I went through. Due to a parenting agreement I’m unable to leave the country even for a holiday with my baby to see family and friends. But I know it’s important to move forward.
I believe that domestic violence education is so important and I hope that sharing my story encourages other women to access support services. Nobody should have to lose their sense of freedom due to the experience of domestic violence.