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.
Lucy had become hyper vigilant because of the trauma she had experienced at home.
Over the years her father Leo had become increasingly violent and controlling towards her mother Beth. He would frequently kick and pull Beth’s hair in front of the children. Leo would punch the walls and threw 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. Lucy began to know the warning signs and was always on the lookout for them.
Lucy had been struggling to learn because other children teased her about not wearing the full school uniform and bringing a worn old backpack to school.
Lucy was angry and anxious – and she was only in kindergarten.
Things escalated from there. 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 the girls.
One night he 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 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 their community partnership network they were able to secure funds for Lucy’s school expenses including uniforms, school fees and stationery.
Later, Beth completed a Circle of Security parenting program to strengthen her relationship with her children. She now knows the importance of playing and connecting with her children. Because Lucy was so traumatized, this means lots of cuddles and ‘time-ins’ not ‘time-outs’, and special mother-daughter time.
Beth is now studying online for a TAFE certification in community services and she and her girls still live in their affordable, safe and secure accommodation. The twins go to a supported playgroup with Beth.
Lucy attends school every day in her school uniform and brings a packed lunch. She has regular playdates with school friends and she now attends birthday parties.
*Moving Forward shared Lucy’s story with us, but names have been changed to protect her privacy.
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.