A powerful book featuring women’s first-hand accounts of living with domestic violence and their escape to safety is now available as a resource for general practitioners.
I FIRST ran away from home when I was 16. I was a lone wolf, out to discover the world. I hitchhiked down to Sydney and got straight into a relationship with a man 10 years older than me.
I walked into this wild pub called the Empress Hotel and there he was.
He just seen me coming. Within a month, I had been assaulted by him twice. Stitches in the lip: Saint Vincent’s Hospital. He knocks me down but I get up and I just keep moving.
The Aboriginal Medical Service paid my plane fare home to Brissy. I get off the plane and my parents are there. My dad’s crying. Three months out of home and there I was, back with a busted mouth. How could it have been any other way?
Mum and Dad were deadset crazy. Dad was a habitual criminal, so he was in and out of jail. There was nothing that I didn’t hear as a child. I knew about Mum’s affairs, I knew how it felt when she got rejected by a man, I knew how it felt when Dad was the worst bastard on the earth. I had to ring the police on him more than once but I was always spoon-fed, ‘Dad loves ya’. That was one thing every one of us agreed. Through rain and storm, Dad loved me. How he loved me is another thing.
Deena’s Story, titled ‘Be loved’ opens the heartbreakingly beautiful book Home Free: Women’s journeys to safety from domestic violence.
Home Free was created by Bonnie Support Services (also known as Bonnie’s), a specialist domestic/family violence and homelessness service that assists women and children to escape domestic and family violence, and to secure long term housing so that they can establish a stable and safe future for themselves and their children.
The book features several different women’s stories of domestic/family violence and the turning points that led each of these women to a safe place. It also includes a list of resources for women experiencing domestic/family violence.
Bonnie’s Executive Officer, Tracy Phillips, said the book was created to present strength-based stories that women could relate to.
“We wanted stories that women could see themselves in – stories that would help them recognise, ‘this could be me’.
Ms Phillips added that they hope women will not only recognise the violence, but also see new possibilities, and in turn the stories will spark action towards stronger, violence-free lives.
The stories come from women representing different walks of life –
they vary in age, socioeconomic backgrounds, and cultures.
“We wanted a diversity of experience to reflect the reality of domestic violence, because it can happen to anybody,” Ms Phillips said.
Writer Moya Sayer-Jones was tasked to put the collection together – a process that took close to two years. According to Ms Sayer-Jones the stories were written from transcripts of conversations with the women. She spent many hours with the women ‘in lounge rooms, on verandas and at kitchen tables’ to draw out these raw accounts of courage.
She describes the process of putting these stories together “like a knitting exercise. You have to find the thread and pull it all together.”
In addition to providing stories of hope, the book also serves as a learning tool. Researchers from Western Sydney University are currently examining the book to find themes that will better inform domestic violence support workers of patterns of violence. The next step for the organisation is to distribute the resource to general practitioners across NSW, who they are hoping will use it as a resource and keep it available in their waiting rooms.
“Doctors are very often the first point of contact for a woman experiencing domestic violence,” Ms Phillips said.
“Sometimes a woman will share her experience with her doctor, or sometimes the doctor might recognise associated symptoms of domestic violence, which could be depression, anxiety, physical signs, and/or bruising. Also, doctors’ offices are often a safe place for a woman who is sitting in a waiting area, waiting to see her doctor and might just pick up this up book and say, ‘I can really relate to this story, this could be me’, or ‘this is me’.”