These stories are those of women who have stayed at a Women’s Community Shelter. Bayside Women’s Shelter’s aim to help women like Maryam, Kylie and Evelyn.
These women could be any of us. Statistically- financial status, education, age or background, don’t prevent you from being abused. 1 in 4 women will be abused in their lifetime. At Bayside Women’s Shelter, we want to create a place of safety, respite and healing for women at their most vulnerable time.
*throughout – denotes that names have been changed to protect identities. Models have also been used.
Kylie's story ofdomestic violence
Kylie* moved to Sydney from her Aboriginal community in far-West Queensland in her teens and soon met and fell in love with Jim. Jim had some issues with alcohol and drug abuse and at first, they enjoyed indulging in these substances together, that is until Jim became violent towards her. They lived with his cousin’s family and Kylie was really scared of Jim. His cousin saw this and referred her to a local DV service, but she didn’t have anywhere else to live. The cousin felt torn between protecting Jim and wanting to help Kylie.
The only way for Kylie to be safe was to get out of there. She was ashamed of her situation and thought her family wouldn’t understand or help her get home. She couldn’t get private rental due to a lack of work opportunities and stability. Kylie desperately needed a safe place to stay where she could get back on her feet and get her life back on track.
Kylie arrived at the Women’s Shelter sober, and continued her addiction support while staying at the Shelter. Kylie’s caseworker helped her to enrol in a barista class to improve her work opportunities and put her in touch with charities that helped her gain a full time job in a coffee shop, and borrow money for a deposit on a flat.
Maryam's story ofdomestic violence
Maryam* is in her 30s and has a son aged 11. She is from an Arabic background and has experienced abuse at the hands of her husband since they came to Australia. She didn’t really understand her rights here and abuse in marriage was something she accepted. She thought disobeying her husband was a betrayal to her family and responsibilities and Maryam was concerned about the implications for her family back at home. He threatened to have some of her family members murdered if she didn’t obey him. She was really scared of Hussein and her son was also increasingly fearful, which was impacting his school work and attendance. He was scared to leave her at home with his father. When Maryam accessed domestic violence counselling she became aware of the huge impact the abuse was having on her son and his anxiety over this gave her the motivation to want to escape. Maryam thought of trying to leave Hussein but didn’t know where to go. Her visa didn’t allow her to work or claim any benefits and many homeless refuges didn’t take women with no income. Maryam needs a safe place to stay and fast.
She stayed at a Women’s Community Shelter initially for 3 months, and during this time received support and legal services to help her live and work in Australia. Her son was also able to receive counselling support and is back to full attendance at school.
Like many women who experience domestic violence, Maryam returned to her partner several times, before finally cutting ties completely three years later. She was offered a place to stay each time, along with a supportive environment to help her decide, what her next steps for the future are.
Evelyn's story ofdomestic violence
Evelyn* is in her late 60’s and has been a carer for her husband Harry for some years. Harry has some health and mobility issues and regularly beats Evelyn up with his walking stick when she is helping to dress him. Evelyn is referred to the local DV service by social workers at the local Hospital Emergency unit as she has had several admissions there resulting from Harry’s attacks.
Evelyn wants to leave Harry but has no family in Australia and doesn’t know where to go. She also has medications and personal effects she wants to collect from their house, but Harry’s children see her departure as an opportunity for them to protect their inheritance and won’t allow her access to her home to get her things. Harry’s children have also reported Evelyn to Police, saying she has been abusing Harry, and they have issued an AVO against her. She is sleeping in her car on the street and has nowhere to go.
Like many of the women who come to us – her case is complex and felt very overwhelming. Evelyn was assigned a caseworker who helped her to put together a plan for the future and work out what she needed to do, and how she was going to achieve it. Evelyn’s caseworker helped coordinate legal services, and Centrelink payments to help her get her back on her feet and in control of her finances. Just as importantly, her caseworker organised for her to have specialised counselling to address the anxiety and issues caused by years of abuse. Evelyn is currently in the process of divorce, and is enjoying the freedom of living by herself in a rental property.