No 'home, sweet home' for many
26 November 2020
November 25 is the UN's International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, but tragically, many women and girls in Australia, and internationally, remain unsafe in their own homes. Many face emotional, verbal, sexual, financial and physical abuse – even the threat of death – making home more of a prison, than a safe haven.
At first – after Alecia* had seen a notice for a Salvation Army service and reached out for help – she couldn’t look her support worker in the eye. She’d spent nine years with a husband who didn’t allow her to speak, think or act without his permission.
Alecia’s husband was a high functioning corporate worker who physically, financially and emotionally controlled and abused his wife. He kept her isolated in the family home for many years, until he found a new partner.
With no access to income, no outside support, and, by that stage, totally isolated from family and friends, Alecia had no strength or confidence to stand up for herself. Rather than feeling angry, she felt grateful to be moved into the garden shed, sleeping on a yoga mat, rolled out on a workbench.
There was no heating in the shed, and she was only allowed to use the bathroom once her husband had left the property each day.
It wasn’t until the local school began ringing to say that her daughters were unsettled, particularly her 11-year-old daughter, that Alecia realised she had to act.
Then, when she was able to take her children to her local library, she saw a notice about a Salvation Army service. And reached out for help.
Alecia finally left home with one small bag of possessions and no access to money. She had no identification and was extremely anxious, as she had been told by her husband that if she left him, she would never see her daughters again.
The Salvation Army team organised emergency accommodation, arranged counselling, and connected her with a legal service.
Her support worker says: “Alecia was given positive news by (the) legal service about her rights to her children and her domestic violence situation. Immediately we noticed a huge change in her. She started to look at workers when they spoke with her, she stood taller and smiled.
“Alecia received an offer of a two-bedroom unit in a neighbouring location to the children’s schools and was given the green light legally to have joint custody of her children who requested to stay with her during the school week.”
Alecia now has a job, she has connected into a church community and regularly hosts her friends and children’s friends in their unit. She and her daughters continue to rebuild their lives.