For years, domestic violence trapped the woman like a fog that wouldn’t lift.
Every part of her life, from home to work and her relationship with her teenage son, had been impacted by her abusive partner.
He was physically violent and he was emotionally abusive. He would monitor the odometer on the car to know how far his partner had travelled. He controlled the bank accounts. He refused to let her find work.
He was wealthy so he provided their son with gifts including a new car on his 16th birthday. And he isolated the woman from her network of friends. She hadn’t engaged with them for several years.
She had hoped the fog would lift when she left the abusive relationship for a new home and life. In that home, she was safe from the physical abuse but the emotional abuse continued. Her son stayed living with the father – the father saw this as a victory and told the mother.
The woman’s access to money became even more problematic. She needed a job but she had been out of the workforce for almost 20 years. She gained employment that paid little above the minimum wage. But she could not be choosy. The skills she had honed during her university degree were no longer valued and she needed flexible hours to ensure she could transport her son to places he needed to go. She regarded this as a critical way to spend some time with him, away from his father.
When she found the courage to seek a Domestic Violence Order against the partner, the court process was difficult. The father engaged excellent lawyers. The mother struggled to pay legal fees because she was still paying the private school fees that the father had threatened to end.
“Unfortunately, this is not an unusual situation,” Centacare executive director Peter Selwood said.
“Domestic violence can touch every part of people’s lives. The abused partner can struggle to escape it.
“We see women who struggle to be optimistic in any part of their lives, particularly when their access to children is restricted.”
Centacare has assisted women across all demographics when they have struggled with domestic and family violence. Some victims have been highly paid professionals, carrying on senior level of work despite the violence in their home lives. Others have been younger women with several children, isolated from family and friends and relying on government benefits.
“We can’t generalise a typical victim of domestic violence because there isn’t one,” Mr Selwood said.
“It affects every postcode and many different types of people. And there is no default coping mechanism for the abused partner.”
A Centacare counsellor said: “We often see coping mechanisms done to excess. We’ve seen the women who are so stressed that they don’t eat.
“We work with women to find ways to cope with the stress.
“For many, they will never have a more stressful period in their lives than this.”
Centacare has recorded a surge in cases in recent years as the awareness of domestic violence has grown through several campaigns, including the Archdiocese of Brisbane’s Rewrite the Story project.
“These campaigns have helped to raise awareness of the significant and ongoing harms that result from domestic violence and that’s been a good thing,” Mr Selwood said.
“We have had more people coming forward for help. Some of these people haven’t come forward before even though they have suffered years of abuse.
“We expect there are still many women who battle domestic violence on their own but they can be comforted with the fact that help is available.”
To find out what support is available for people experiencing domestic and family violence visit the Centacare website.
By – Michael Crutcher