Disclaimer: Readers are advised that the following article contains references to domestic and family violence, and violence against women.
This month there are many important dates coming up that highlight the importance of ending violence against women. This includes White Ribbon Day, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the 16 Days of Activism. These dates are a springboard to launch important discussions about what our society needs to do to put an end to violence against women.
Samaritans has several services that work tirelessly to support women who are facing or escaping domestic and family violence. This month we want to highlight the stories of resilience, courage and power of these women, and give a platform to their voices.
Their messages must be heard.
Rebekah* spent several months in a Samaritans women's refuge with her children across last Christmas and New Year. Rebekah was supported to move into a transitional property to build her rental history and create a home for her and her children.
Earlier this year Rebekah spoke to us about the difficulties of finding a private rental that was affordable for her, and she was included in the Samaritans Rental Affordability Snapshot release in April.
We caught up again with Rebekah last month to see how she's going and to ask what parts of her story she wants people to know.
The below is Rebekah's story in her own words, with an important message about what she believes will help see an end to violence against women.
"I just got news I got a job, I’m so excited. I really have to put it down to the help from Samaritans. If I wasn’t in the refuge and hadn’t been given a stable place to live, I don’t think I would have had the motivation to even apply for the job.
I haven’t had any luck finding a house yet but I know I have this place with Samaritans until I find somewhere.
The kids are going really well. Before we found somewhere safe to live, I was having trouble with my eldest going to school. Now, it’s unbelievable the change we’ve seen. He goes every day. I believe it’s from that stability we have at home.
With my experience of violence, people seemed to think you’ve got to have these constant bruises, and if you don’t well it’s not actually abuse. It frustrates and hurts me. People don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors.
The hidden bruises are the emotional abuse and the fear you feel when you become isolated. That’s what they do, they isolate you. Not at the beginning they don’t isolate you, but when they do, it’s too late.
The emotional abuse has done more to me, to my emotions and to my confidence, than what any physical abuse has done.
People think ‘why don’t you go out the door’ – but when you’re in the situation, you’re afraid to walk out the door because you see this side of this person that other people don’t see. There are a lot of hidden men that are abusive but they look like good family men. People don’t realise the suffering the woman is going through in trying to keep the family together.
I know with my experience, my ex-partner was someone who you’d never think was the person he was. My family didn’t even believe what I said at the beginning. So when people doubt you, you think well maybe he is good. But then by the time you realise and your family realise you’re in this trap.
There were many times I thought to leave, but I was isolated on a farm and hundreds of kilometres away from family. I had no way of escape. I also knew he could do anything to me and no one would ever find me. So one day I said I was taking the kids to visit family for the day, and we never went back. We left everything behind.
One of my family was saying just the other day how she cant believe how much I’ve grown and how much my life has come together since I left that man.
I’m in a really good place now. Samaritans not only changed my life, they changed my kids life. Things just look really good for the future. If everyone is given the chance that I got, this would be a great country.
We live in a society where men think they have to be strong or act a certain way. If we had a culture shift we could not only change a lot of lives but save a lot of lives too. Many men who abuse women do it because of what they’ve seen in their own life. A lot of them don’t have any other tools, violence is their only reaction to a situation. I know men in my life who have been violent towards women and have reached out to a program to get help. But the programs aren’t always accessible. We need to make these programs more accessible so more men seek help."
*Names and images have been changed to protect the identity of this woman and her family.