Article credit: ABC Midwest & Wheatbelt / By Brianna Melville

When Jane met her partner as a teenager, she saw him as a protector and one of the “rare decent guys out there”. 

However, the feeling of safety quickly left after the couple had their first child and her partner became violent.

Jane, whose real name has been withheld, said the abuse came in many forms and worsened over time.

She said his outbursts would involve him punching or strangling her.

“You can feel your breath going and you’re grabbing at his hands, you’re pulling his hands as hard as you possibly can, not even budging them,” Jane said. 

“And all your children are standing there staring at you, watching you come in and out of consciousness and you can’t do a goddamned thing.”

Socially isolated

Jane said her partner distanced her from her family and made terrifying threats to stop her from speaking up about the abuse.

She recalled a time he swiped at her with a knife, narrowly missing her stomach.

After that, she said she hid all the knives in the house when he began drinking.

Despite Jane being the only one who worked, her partner would find her bank card and spend money on lavish clothes or drugs and alcohol, leaving her with nominal amounts for the week’s groceries.

She said her early adulthood was spent in “survival mode” and constant worry for the safety of her children.

Jane recalled many times when, fearing for their safety, she put the children into the car so they could leave.

She said nights were spent driving aimlessly through suburbs, with nowhere to go and too scared to head home.

Other times, she said, she would run blindly into buildings in town, desperate to find somewhere safe.

Jane said she went to neighbours numerous times to ask for help, but to no avail.

“One lady turned around and said, ‘Why would I help you when I’m going through the same?’,” she said.

Four words that changed Jane’s life

Eventually a school teacher noticed concerning signs in Jane’s children and started a conversation with her that created a path out of her situation.

“She said, ‘I can help you’. I was like, ‘Yes please, I want the help’,” Jane said.

Jane also found Desert Blue Connect, an organisation that offered support and intervention to people experiencing family violence.

With that support, Jane and her children finally escaped in 2018. 

Her abusive ex-partner was jailed for a number of offences, including persistently engaging in family violence, after several years of court proceedings.

Jane said she and her children were now safe but wished someone had intervened earlier.

“If there were people in my life that noticed, nobody said anything,” she said.

“It’s like, ‘Your business is your business’, and that’s it.”

Jane said there were many times when somebody must have heard or seen her being physically assaulted.

She said the culture of “staying out of other people’s business” needed to change.

“Scream. Shout, ‘Hey, man. Get the hell off her. It’s wrong’, because it’s going to make them stop,” Jane said.

“How is it normal to bash your wife, or your girlfriend around, all because she doesn’t comply?

“Turning a blind eye to it is not the answer.”

Jane said she wanted raise awareness and help others who were experiencing family and domestic violence. 

‘Be an ally’

A woman with shoulder length black hair in a bright red blazer looks solemnly into the camera, from inside an office reception.
Ancy D’Souza says leaving an abusive partner is often difficult.(ABC Midwest & Wheatbelt: Brianna Melville)

Desert Blue Connect social worker Ancy D’Souza said victims of domestic violence often spent years and even decades with an abusive partner before they were willing, or able, to leave.

“There are significant barriers, especially for women if they have children together … loss of financial status and a stable home,” Ms D’Souza said.

“Shame is a big contributing factor.

“There is a stigma still around talking about family violence and acknowledging what’s happening.”

Ms D’Souza said controlling behaviour and social isolation were less obvious forms of family violence. 

“Social isolation creeps in gradually,” she said.

“And then they start to isolate themselves because the family and friends distance [themselves from the victim] when that happens, and there’s embarrassment.”

A blue pamphlet titled "What is Coercive Control" is held by a woman's hands. Her nails are manicured pink.
Controlling behaviour is a form of family violence.(ABC Midwest & Wheatbelt: Brianna Melville)

Ms D’Souza said it was important to intervene when people knew of a person who was experiencing domestic violence, or suspected something was wrong.

“Listen with an open mind. Offer support, not judgement,” she said.

“Rather than asking, ‘What do you do to make him angry?’, say, ‘How often is this happening?’.”

Ms D’Souza said she had seen friends or family members, or sometimes colleagues, come in and support a person who was experiencing family violence.

“It’s possible for you to help,” she said. “Be open to providing that support. Be an ally.”

Jane’s name has been changed due to legislative prohibitions around identifying children who are subject to investigation or orders. 

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