A little while back, I received a phone call from a woman. She was softly spoken with a hesitant voice, enquiring about obtaining support for her and her 2 children.
She had been physically assaulted and she was summoned to appear in court to testify. I invited her to Bonnie’s to hear more about her situation. Luckily she came.
She came bearing stitches and remained very quiet and composed. She spoke about suffering domestic violence for the entire length of her marriage and that initially, they had remained in her birth country where no assistance was offered for violence against women. They came to Australia where the violence continued. They stayed with her husband’s relatives and there was no support for her. She was hospitalised on occasions but did not disclose the domestic violence.
She previously had felt unsupported and unaware of her options. Now she had options. And support.
We had one transitional property available and it was large enough to fit the family. The property was away from her previous address and was safe. I discussed the possibility with her. The client had a real option.
She could not remain where she was. I asked her to go home and start packing significant items. She did this. She was now feeling conflicted and overwhelmed. She hesitated over the decision for the next few days, for a variety of reasons. One being her eldest child was in high school. We talked some more. She was given a few hours to think things over. She rang back within the hour to advise she wished to proceed. She’d decided.
We discussed her appearance in court. We offered childcare, removalists, transitional property and a support worker to attend court with her. We organised all of this support very late in the day, and many phone calls back and forth. I asked her to pack more items, bring them to our office and then return to pack more of her belongings and fill her car. There was a very real possibility that her husband would be released.
Every type of support was lined up thanks to a complete team effort; Environmental Officer, Program Manager, Family Workers, Tenancy Officers, Community Workers. Everyone jumped on board and quickly and efficiently assisted. We all worked towards the one goal – to keep this family safe. Everything was in place … now it was just up to her.
The next morning a Bonnie’s staff member came into the office at 7.30 am in preparation to accompany the client to the city for the court hearing. The client had left her children in childcare and went to court with support. The staff member familiarised the client with the court and explained the proceedings. The woman told the police officer that she still did not wish to make a statement. The staff member took her aside for a few minutes – they discussed the situation. The woman advised the police prosecutor that she’d changed her mind and would give evidence. (Happy dance was performed by all!)
In the witness box she remained calm, focused and consistent. She rose to the occasion. She gave her evidence in a controlled manner and looked to Bonnie’s staff member for support when she needed it. And all this, while in the presence of her husband – the assailant. She was now the one in control. The Judge commended her on her testimony. He deliberated and came back to say that they would be sentencing the assailant next week.
Meanwhile, the children were nourished with food and care by Bonnie’s staff who kindly stayed late to assist. And then pizzas were ordered for dinner!
After a very long and exhausting day, the woman and the Bonnie’s staff member returned to the office. It was dark outside.
The woman was now safe; two innocent little children were now safe.
The woman had been heard. Validated. And legally protected.
It’s a new beginning…
Written by Susan whose job as a community worker/intake officer can be stressful and emotionally challenging, but loves it because it is very rewarding – each day offering information and referral options for clients in need.