All across Australia, families are hurting as a result of domestic violence. The financial and health pressures caused by coronavirus, combined with recent lockdown restrictions, has only added to their worry and fear.
Beth* had grown up in an abusive home and was homeless from age 16. After years of couch-surfing, she eventually met Leo. At first, he was a romantic, caring and attentive partner – Beth couldn’t believe her luck. But after she became pregnant, he changed. Leo became jealous and angry very quickly. Leo would interrogate Beth every time she left the house or was on the phone. He would constantly insult Beth’s friends and family, saying they were out to get him because they were jealous of their relationship.
Over time Leo isolated Beth from her family and friends. None of this was her fault.
Leo became increasingly violent and controlling. He would frequently kick and pull Beth’s hair in front of the children. He would punch walls and throw the remote control at Beth’s head. At times he would drag Beth into their bedroom and tell her not to come out until he gave her permission.
Yet at other times Leo was a sweet, loving husband and father and would apologise for his violence.
This was confusing for Beth. She hadn’t grown up with good role models and didn’t know what a healthy relationship looked like. It’s why she stayed, hoping things would improve.
But things didn’t improve. Neighbours heard the shouting and violence and called the police. The police helped Beth obtain an Apprehensive Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) to protect her and her girls.
One night Leo arrived on their doorstep demanding to be let in. He started punching and kicking the door. When his attempts to get in the house failed, he tried to set the front door on fire. Fortunately, the police arrived and Leo was arrested and incarcerated.
Beth and her girls were referred to Moving Forward by a child protection caseworker. Beth was terrified that her ex-partner would be released from prison, find them and kill her and the children.
Moving Forward helped Beth and the girls to move to another house in a different area. They gave Beth vouchers to purchase baby formula and nappies for the twins, who were seven months old at the time, and food vouchers for her and four-year-old Lucy.
Moving Forward helped Beth get a washing machine and bedroom furniture for the girls so they no longer had to sleep on the floor on mattresses. Through its community partnership network Moving Forward was able to secure funds for Lucy’s school expenses including uniforms, school fees and stationery.
Beth and her family have undergone family counselling and they are living in safe, stable accommodation. Beth is studying community services at TAFE and takes her twin girls to playgroup. Lucy is overcoming the trauma she experienced and is now attending school regularly and being invited to playdates and birthday parties.
*Moving Forward shared Beth’s story with us, but names have been changed to protect her family.
Women and children face escalating violence
Front line workers and service providers have reported escalating and worsening violence in our country since lockdown measures were introduced. We know the level of domestic violence in Australia is unacceptably high, with one in six women experiencing physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner since the age of 15 (ABS). Learn more about how COVID-19 has impacted victims of domestic violence in Australia.
How does the Sisters of Charity Foundation help?
The Sisters of Charity Foundation has been supporting community organisations that help families for twenty years. This year the Foundation is supporting amazing organisations including Moving Forward, The Generous and The Grateful, The Sanctuary Women, Children and Pets’ Refuge and The Eve Project Ltd and other wonderful groups across Australia working on the front line to help traumatised families. Your kindness today will mean that other mothers like Beth can build a new life for themselves away from fear.