Domestic Violence victims in regional SA share their journey

SUPPORT: Anyone who is experiencing family, partner-based violence or has concerns for their safety or the safety of other family members or friends is urged to contact police through 131 444 or Triple Zero in an emergency. Photo: File
SUPPORT: Anyone who is experiencing family, partner-based violence or has concerns for their safety or the safety of other family members or friends is urged to contact police through 131 444 or Triple Zero in an emergency. Photo: File

This month Australian Community Media, owner of this publication, sheds light on partner-based violence services and statistics in SA in response to the state's reported increase of abuse found in domestic settings.

In acknowledgement, two women victims of domestic violence living in regional South Australia have stepped forward to bravely share their story.

Their names and their locations have been withheld.

Sophie's grateful to her family and police

Sophie, who is now removed from a partner-based violence setting is keen to point out that everyone's situation when dealing with domestic violence is different.

"It can be women with children, heterosexual relationships, some are women in lesbian relationships and some from men in heterosexual relationship," she told Australian Community Media.

Her unique situation involved a relationship with a man, 23, when she was aged 17.

"There were so many red flags at the start but being so young and I guess naive I just put the bad things aside and tried to make things work," she explained.

The new relationship soon led to her falling out with her family and as a result she was kicked out of home. Sophie also became isolated from her friends.

She explained how he was controlling, used mental manipulation and also physical and emotional abuse against her during their year as a couple.

Sophie admits to not recognising the signs of partner-based violence.

Ironically, it wasn't until the outcome of a witness who saw an assault made against Sophie by her boyfriend that she realised the situation she was in.

Her local police acted swiftly, taking a statement from Sophie and the perpetrator was arrested.

An immediate intervention order was put in place to protect Sophie. That order remains in place today.

Looking back, Sophie said the police gave her their full support.

"When the police took a statement from me and listened to everything that had happened, as I put it all on the table, they told me it was signs of domestic violence."

"I actually went home that night and searched up domestic violence and I just thought why did I not recognise this."

I actually went home that night and searched up domestic violence and I just thought why did I not recognise this.

Sophie, SA victim of domestic violence

But further admitted, even if she had, that night would have gone back home had the police not been involved.

"I would have pretended nothing had happened."

Yet the manipulation by her ex-boyfriend continued with the court case only being heard about a year on from the assault.

"It was my word against his. It was very hard as I was trying to put it in the past but at the same time you are still living in it," Sophie said.

"It wasn't until the court date that it all came out and he agreed to plead guilty to charges laid against him; when all this time he could have said from the beginning he was guilty."

"Looking at domestic violence and what it is characterised by it', this still fits into that category," Sophie said.

While she is aware of support services in her region and information available to victims of domestic violence, she said it's still difficult for her to open up.

"I know the support is there, it's just very hard to go and sit down and speak to someone that doesn't know you and then they ask you questions.

"I just felt like the whole counselling situation would have been overwhelming," she said.

Furthermore, she has chosen not to turn to friends for support.

"It was hard as a younger person," she shared. "You do feel like if you go tell your friends and they witnessed your relationship, only seeing the good times, they are not going to believe you or say she is just attention seeking.

"Also, as a younger person, when you think of domestic violence you tend to think of older people who are in relationships who have children. So for me, I haven't been able to talk to anyone besides my family.

Sophie said she owes much of her recovery from the situation to her family, where the connection remains strong, and also to the police for their assistance.

While the experience she says remains with her, she decided to put her career first and has since made a success of her chosen path.

"Family is also very important to me," she added.

Megan rebuilds life from domestic violence relationships

Having endured two domestic violence relationships, Megan says she credits her local support service which gave her the tools to heal.

They counselling service, she said, proved crucial after the breakdown of her hetrosexual marriage of seven years, followed by more than two years in a lesbian relationship.

"I knew I was in a domestic violence relationship, yet was too scared to get out," she said of her first relationship with children.

"He harmed us more emotionally than physically."

The worry for herself and children saw her confide in her mum, which led to her mother's protective instinct taking over and warning the husband.

"After that he stopped for a while," she said.

But his old habits soon returned.

"He would be great around both his family and my family but then when you got him by himself, even to the kids, he was an emotional abuser."

Sadly, Megan said he told her repeatedly that he also never wanted children.

"I knew it was all wrong."

Eventually the ongoing abuse led her to gain the courage to leave and create a new life for her and the children.

Soon after Megan fell into a new relationship, this time as a lesbian relationship.

Megan said she only noticed six months later that her partner was physically abusive.

"There were just no warning signs."

"She also became abusive towards her own child," Megan said.

In an attempt to support the children, Megan decided to take the abuse.

The pressure, she said, was intense and felt like she and the family were constantly walking on eggshells.

"And you knew the abuse was coming so I would push to receive it earlier than it was coming to cushion the family."

Shockingly, the family endured bouts of violence and aggression for two years.

And you knew the abuse was coming so I would push to receive it earlier than it was coming to cushion the family.

SA victim of domestic violence

Megan's love for her family gave her the courage to remove her partner from their life and put in place an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO)

"She also lost custody of her child."

However, the pain wasn't over as her ex-partner broke into Megan's home, but not before stealing her jewellery and destroying her contents.

Fortunately, the breach of the AVO led her partner to be arrested and she was given jail time.

Megan said while the apprehension order helped, she said it didn't stop her known perpetrator from returning to town.

And it was only by chance that Megan had discovered her partner had been jailed.

"I wasn't told anything and there was no communication between me and the police about this."

"I can only assume the AVO is still standing as I haven't heard from her or seen her."

Megan is hopeful her family's new location has helped.

Admitting to being a "mess" after the ordeal, she quickly sought help from her local GP for medication.

"I wanted it to calm me down because I felt like I had lost the plot," she said.

The doctor referred her to a local support group service which continues to assist people in DV relationships and marriage breakdowns.

On the first telephone call, Megan shared how she almost hung up after learning the counsellor had the same name as her ex-partner.

"However, she assured me to stay on the phone and said you can call me whatever you like."

"She was absolutely lovely."

Megan's counselling lasted for two years.

"I was seeing her every fortnight and at the end she said 'Megan we really need this to end here'...'You are okay, you've made it to the end of our sessions'."

While Megan still has moments where past events are triggered she continues to see a psychiatrist.

Importantly, she and her children now feel safe in the new relationship.

She has also turned her experiences into assisting others DV victims in Adelaide.

Support in South Australia

Anyone who is experiencing family or partner-based violence or has concerns for their safety or the safety of other family members or friends is urged to contact police through 131 444 or Triple Zero in an emergency.

Support agencies to provide support include 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732), and the DV Crisis Line on 1800 800 098.