As a caseworker working with women experiencing Domestic Violence, I’ve learnt that there is no no one perfect road to safety. Sometimes it is direct and other times it’s a learning experience with various stops along the way.
Recently I was working with a particular client and the experience genuinely broke my heart.
“Everything about her was stripped.”
This woman had her 2 kids with her and when she came to us she was blacking out because of how hard he had hit her. She was receiving lots of threats from him. She was afraid to leave the area and was very scared. Her situation, like many others, was very complex.
She was a bright woman. She was educated and had been a teacher in her home country. She knew what she wanted in life, but her husband had stripped her of her independence and personhood. Everything about her was stripped.
She never drove a car and she wasn’t allowed to leave the area that they lived in. There was a lot of pressure too – he knew her family in her home country and constantly threatened them, and her, if she left.
“she didn’t realise that entering the outside world could also be so hard.”
When she finally walked out the door, after years of domestic violence she came to us. I think she thought leaving was the hardest part – she didn’t realise that entering the outside world could also be so hard.
During her marriage her life had become all about raising her children. She was always looking after them and was used to being able to cook for them all the time. She would say to us: “The children haven’t had a home cooked meal.” This took a huge toll on her, and we continued to try and tell her, “It’s okay, you are still feeding them. You are still meeting their needs, it’ll be better soon.”
We worked with her for literally 4 days non-stop to try and settle her somewhere safe. She was trying to be strong for her kids but she was so emotionally exhausted and physically exhausted. She had no help from her husband’s family members either. The exhaustion, stress and uncertainty was building. It was too much, and she decided to go back.
“I trusted that she did what she felt was right”
In that moment, I trusted that she did what she felt was right for her. And I know that we did the best we could.
When she is ready, she knows we will be here – with our door wide open. I hope her first experience with us will be valuable in helping her in her journey to safety.
Story by Mayssa, DVRE worker at Bonnies.
Illustration by Tennyson Sidney Nobel, @tennyson.sidney.nobel