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In May 2012, Behnaz and her two children came to Mary Anderson Family Violence Service.  Behnaz was referred to our service through the Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service after escaping a violent husband .......

Behnaz had been living with ongoing family violence since early days into her marriage. Behnaz’s husband was extremely controlling and manipulative. He did not let her family visit her after Behnaz had her first child. He would lock the door to make sure no one from Behnaz’s family would visit her.

The family came to Australia in 2010 on a Protection Visa.

Behnaz was completely isolated when she arrived in Australia,she could not speak English and was not allowed any contact without her husband being present.  Behnaz’s husband did not let her attend the language school and forced her to say that it was her own decision.

After having her second child, Behnaz experienced severe post natal depression and she was unable to care for her child. Her husband and his family constantly accused her of neglecting her new born baby. Behnaz could not tell anyone or the Police about the physical, psychological and emotional abuse because she was afraid of her husband. But when her husband kicked her and the children out of the house, she went to the Police who contacted the Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service.

After being referred to MAFVS, Behnaz was placed in the MAFVS refuge. Behnaz struggled caring for her 2 children when coming into our service she had limited knowledge of income, banking and budgeting skills. 

Behnaz worked with her case manager to build her skills, such as how to use public transport, attend Centrelink, do grocery shopping and get a bank account. This process took a few weeks but while supporting Behnaz through this process she was able to gain knowledge which in turn built her self-esteem and confidence. MAFVS followed this process with housing, health, education, legal, employment and building a social network.

Recently, Behnaz moved to a new area and was confident to manage most of this by herself, repeating the steps that she has already been through when supported by MAFVS. Behnaz works part time and studies English. Her English has improved since she started attending her classes and building her social and work network which grows stronger every day.Behnaz is hoping to get her Victoria driving license very soon.

I was 24 years old when I met Micky, and we soon fell in love ……

My family did not like him they kept telling me that they did not trust him,  that he was too controlling.  Micky kept telling me that my family were jealous of our love and wanted to break us up.  So I packed up and moved in with Micky, the man I loved and trusted.

Over the next year I felt tired all the time, I stopped speaking with my friends, I did not go out any more, it was all too difficult as Micky would get so angry if he did not know where I was at all times. One afternoon Micky was yelling at me, throwing furniture around, he just seemed ‘wild’.  There was a knock on the door, it was the Police, apparently a neighbour had called them.  They asked if I wanted to stay in the house or go elsewhere.  I chose to go to my parent’s home.

I was so embarrassed, I wondered how our love had gone so wrong, I felt like a failure.  I had left everything I owned behind – I felt so alone.  Then I discovered I was pregnant.  Micky was ringing all the time, telling me he loved me and had changed.  I told him about the baby and he said we had to be together as a child needed two parents.  My family were telling me that I had made the mistake once but was stupid if I made the same mistake twice, that I should get on with my life.  That Micky was no good.  Finally I decided that I would return to Micky as I believed that he had changed and all would be great again.

Once the baby was born all the abuse stated again.  He told me I was a rotten mother, that I should leave the baby to cry so I could talk with him, but then told me I was dumb as I could not stop the baby crying, I did not know what was right and what was wrong.  My family and friends would not speak with me. I was so alone.

The maternal health nurse came to my house for what she called a regular visit.  She asked me some questions, she was so kind.  She then talked with me about what violence in the family was, she talked about how it impacts on children’s emotional development.  I was scared.  She sat with me while she rang the Crossroads Family Violence Service.  I moved into their family violence refuge accommodation.

I stayed there and went to a group where I learnt more about family violence and my rights.  I applied for and was granted an intervention order, I had to do lots of paperwork and start to meet and work with other services as well.  Sometimes I felt so alone, no family and friends no father for my baby.

After a couple of months I was offered a transitional housing property.  It was all new to me.  My family had started talking to me again.  I could have them to visit.  Now 3 years later I am in housing I can afford.  I have been told I can live there indefinitely.  I have finished studying and am looking for my first job.  I go to playgroup with baby.  I have lots of support in my local area. 

Even though I do not meet with the family violence worker any longer I ring her every now and again to let her know what I have accomplished, they always make me feel proud of myself.  Things are certainly looking good now.

Britney is 6 years old.  She talks to us about where she lived with her mum, and what a safe place felt like to her ......

Well, there’s not really any safe places.  Nanny’s is a bit safe.

Well mum’s ex he used to come around to our house lots …. He used to come around the house with like, sometimes gap, no, cap guns. 

He would shoot around the house.

Once when mum was pregnant (with my little brother) she had to, oh I don’t know,  I was going to go outside and … I only put one step outside and then came back in because I felt frightened  – and then two minutes later there was a sound like a gunshot.  

I really think it was a gunshot.  I think I will be forever frightened. 

I don’t know why no one explains things to me.  Sometimes it feels like there are always monsters, but not on the telly in real life.

And I, and I, I will never, never, ever go just one step outside, not even one, without someone out there with me …. And I want my mum or my nanny, because they are the only really safe ones.

Su is 20 years old.  She was sponsored to Australia by her mother’s brother.  Soon after arrival in Australia she was told she would marry, but Su did not want to do so ......

Su’s parents died as a result of injuries sustained during civil war in their country of birth.  Su was only 16 years old at the time.  According to custom she was not allowed to work nor was she able to rent or access independent housing as she was a single young woman.  There was no welfare nor supported housing services in her country.  There was no other immediate family.  Su contacted her mother’s brother who was living in Australia desperately seeking help.

She was sponsored to Australia by this Uncle.  Soon after arrival in Australia Su was introduced to her second cousin and told she was to marry him.  She did not want to do so.  Her Uncle told her that if she did not marry the cousin she would be deported as sponsorship would be withdrawn.

During this time Su was not allowed to go out anywhere without her Uncle, she had to work in the family business but was not paid any wages.  Su was regularly screamed at and degraded verbally, she was often locked in her room and food was withheld for reasons that Su did not understand.  The abuse soon escalated and she was physically assaulted by both her Uncle and cousin.

Following one particularly violent episode Su ran into the street, she was bloodied and bruised.  A person was getting out of their car and came to her assistance, calling emergency services to her aid.

An ambulance arrived and took her to hospital.  An interpreter was accessed at the hospital as staff attempted to find out how she was injured.  While at the hospital the Police were called, who in turn contacted the Crossroads Family Violence Service.  A specialist case manager arrived at the hospital and worked with Police to assist Su make her statement.  Su then moved into young people’s supported accommodation.

The family violence case-manager continued working with Su to access income and supports including a lawyer who commenced working with Su to apply for a protection visa, this was eventually granted and enabled her to remain in Australia. 

Today Su has completed English language classes, joined a cultural women’s group, commenced studying at TAFE and finally she is living in her own safe and independent private rental unit.

Mrs. Golde is 80 years old and has been a widow for approximately 20 years. Her son, Sam, is 50 years old and has a mental illness.  Sam lives in his own flat and his income managed by Public Trustees ......

Over the past 5 years Sam has regularly gone to Mrs Golde’s home where he has repeatedly been verbally, emotionally and physically abusive.  These behaviours left Mrs Golde feeling alone, confused and scared.   She worried about her son’s future but also worried about her safety.  

The Police were called a few times due to Sam’s behaviours.  Each time Mrs Golde said she did not want to access an intervention order and said that she was to blame for Sam’s behaviours. 

On the fourth occasion the Police attended Mrs Golde’s home they sat and talked with her.  They then provided her with support to access the Crossroads Family Violence Service.   Mrs Goldethen met with a specialist family violence case manager.

Following a series of discussions Mrs Golde agreed to a Safe At Home intervention which included: the shrubs in her front garden being trimmed back to increase visibility from both within and without her home, locks were changed on all doors, mail redirection implemented and a mobile phone (including lessons in how to use it) were provided.  As part of the safety planning the case manager and Mrs Golde met with her immediate neighbours who agreed to call the Police if they ever heard anything that was worrying.   Other safety measures were considered and put in place.

The case manager and Mrs Golde met with Sam’s mental health team and a plan was developed.  In the agreed plan Sam and Mrs Golde would meet at local venues and have lunch together three times a week.  The mental health worker would also be the contact for Mrs Golde and Sam with the Public Trustee’s Office in relation to any financial matters.

An intervention order has been granted with the condition that mother and son can spend time together in public places, however, Sam cannot attend the mother’s home.

This all took a few months, but, now, it is some weeks later and there have not been any incidents of family violence which have threatened Mrs Golde’s personal safety.   Mother and son still spend time together and the safety plan has been reviewed and is still in place.