Sometimes I find myself sitting in front of my wardrobe for an hour deciding what to wear for the day. Black pants? Nope, I wore that yesterday…jeans? Hmmm not very comfortable…grey trousers? Yes, I think that’ll do. The hour can stretch to two if I move on to researching café reviews, deciding where to have coffee. So, there are times when I’m overwhelmed with opportunities of choice.
Women experiencing domestic violence don’t have this freedom. So often their every move is controlled or monitored by the perpetrator.
Imagine living this nightmare – not having the freedom to choose how to live your life. And if you decide to go against this, the violence, whether physical, sexual, or emotional may grow much worse.
Through my work at Bonnie’s, I have walked with women at the refuge, listening to their stories and learning what it feels to be them. For some, every day they struggle with making choices: where to go, the friends they can see, what to spend money on, what job or education they can have and stay in, what to wear for the day.
This is why at Bonnie’s, there’s an understanding that any woman walking through our doors experiences freedom of choice from the first day. It usually starts like this: “Can I get you anything? Water? Tea? Coffee? How about a snack?” and over time, it develops into something like, “So, where do you want to live?”, “What would you like to study?” And then we help them find their way towards these goals. Because experiencing freedom is having the choice to make your own decisions and what’s best for you.
At Bonnie’s we empower women with choosing their life narratives and believing they have the right to this. So maybe it’s even as simple as choosing what they’d like to drink. Maybe it will be tea of their choice. This may seem like a small act although even the smallest ones count. It starts from here: baby steps, just so they can experience that moment where the possibility of a different life feels real.
As a student social worker at Bonnie’s, I may not have had the same experiences as the women in our refuge. But I feel so lucky to have met them, learning their struggles, and watching them find their strength. My freedom of choice has led to this and through this freedom I hope others can find their own.
Written by Jessie
Image via Canva