I grew up in Zimbabwe and there is no place like Bonnie’s over there.
I still remember my Mum telling me about a time she wrote to a famous Zimbabwean magazine column asking for help because of how my Dad was treating her. She waited months and months for a response, until she finally got her hands on a copy of the magazine she recognised as her own words in a story. The words of advice she received were;
“He abuses you because he loves you.”
That story has always stuck with me. I find it really unfortunate that this was the response she got, knowing how much courage it took to write to the magazine in the first place. I know if a place like Bonnie’s existed over there, my Mum would have left a lot earlier.
It was only when we arrived in Australia that we left the family home. We did so very discreetly, after my Mum found a house she liked. We waited until my Dad went to work, organised removalists for half of the furniture and just left.
As the eldest of my siblings, I’ve always felt the need to protect them from any struggles or harm. I think that’s what gave me the courage to stand up to my Dad. I remember one day when I was around 13 or 14 years old, I asked my Dad why he treated Mum that way.
He said, “Ebbe, that stuff is normal, it happens in every family. My Dad did that to my Mum.”
My response was, “Oh ok”.
At that time it must’ve made sense to me as something I should accept that was a part of everyone’s life. Now that I am older, I realise how my Dad was also impacted by the trauma he had experienced.
I have always been interested in how people who have experienced the same trauma have different responses and coping mechanisms. In my years of working and studying, I’ve seen different responses like, mentally spacing out, being overly polite and people pleasing, or being overly aggressive and easy to anger. I’ve seen each of these traits play out in my family, and have always wondered, how could we all be so different – when we experienced the same thing?
Being trauma-informed is so important because it teaches us that we are all having a human experience, and we’re all just trying to protect ourselves and each other. It allows room for empathy for everyone, and makes me realise, the ones who are the most aggressive or violent, may be the ones that are hurting the most.
It was this experience that made me want to work at a place like Bonnie’s one day, and help women and their kids in whatever way I could. Maybe even help men too.
Written by our Outreach Worker, Ebbe