Everybody's Business

words by Glyn Scott | art by Shannon Willings | oct 27, 2016 | mindful

Family and Domestic Violence and why it is everybody’s business.

The threat of FDV has the potential to enter anyone and everyone’s personal life. No matter who you are, or where you come from, it can affect you.

1-2 women per week and at least 1 child per fortnight die from FDV in Australia. We know this, only because it has finally become something that is being acknowledged and talked about. Sadly, many are still too scared to speak out against partners who abuse them and their children. This issue is of epidemic proportion and must be stopped.

FDV is about power and control. It comes in many forms: Physical, emotional, sexual, mental, financial, cultural, religion, manipulation, isolation and secrecy.

My story began when I was 14. I was alone and fleeing from a life of childhood abuse, both physical and sexual as an orphan.  The man who I began to trust and thought was going to help me, violated that trust when he raped me. After years of suffering I thought he was someone who really loved me. As a young girl alone and pregnant, I was forced to marry him, so as not to bring shame to those who had vowed to look after me.

What followed was a life of torture, murder, isolation, and many near-death experiences for me.

He raped me before he took me to the hospital and I spent the next four days in the final stages of labour drifting in and out of consciousness, given blood transfusions and encased in an oxygen tent to keep me alive. I was refused a caesarean because they said I was too young. I spent a month in the hospital after a mid-cavity forceps delivery, which ripped me apart inside and out. Internally they stopped counting at forty eight stitches and I had nineteen externally. Due to an infection cause by hospital negligence, I had to be operated on and restitched again before leaving the hospital a month later.

The day I was to go home, the doctor removed every alternate external stitch and sent me home to return a week later for the rest to be removed. But the night I came home from hospital my husband raped me again and broke all the stitches that were left.

At my six weeks check-up two weeks later, I was told I was pregnant again. From that time on I was constantly beaten and raped on a daily basis. My baby son suffered deliberate burns inflicted on him by his father from cigarettes, matches and cigarette lighters.  When my son was ten months old, I gave birth to my second son. My husband not only murdered my baby son, but sexually abused my ten month old boy. I tried to leave, but had nowhere to go, no money, and no one wanted to know what had happened to me.

The hospital, police and doctors turned a blind eye and he got away with it. I wasn’t even allowed to bury my baby son, because my husband’s word overrode mine. He allowed the hospital to ‘dispose of him’ was what they said to me. I had to grieve alone and try to protect my small son.

It took many years for me to find out where my son was buried…in a mass grave. A tiny cement disc with a number on it, set in a sea of dirt, was all I had to identify him.

I was beaten, raped and tortured, burned with boiling water poured over me, tied up to the bed head by my hair for hours while he raped and beat me, tied to chairs or a door for days on end.  Only allowed to be free to get meals and clean, while he stood over me with a knife, threatening to kill me and my children.

I was constantly ill, with pneumonia and infections from the burns, cuts and broken bones that he inflicted on me. Due to the daily rapes, I became pregnant for the third time.

During that pregnancy I became very ill, and eventually was seen by a caring doctor, who rushed me to hospital for an emergency caesarean.  I gave birth to a little girl. Life was very uncertain for both of us at that time, as neither of us were expected to live through our ordeal. While I was in the hospital my husband was alone with my three year old son to physically and sexually abuse him – and he did both.

When I returned home, I made plans to leave, and I did so on many occasions. But I was always forced to return, because I had nowhere to go and no money to feed my children.

Eventually I did leave, determined no matter what, I wasn’t going back, because by this time my baby daughter had also been physically and sexually abused by her father. 

From my decision to never go back, we were on the run for over five months. Lining up to get emergency money, only to be told there wasn’t any for us. Having to sleep in parks and curled up under trees. I cuddled my children to sleep, protecting them from the cold, terrified by fear that he would find us and force us back once again.

In those months I did sometimes get enough money for one night’s accommodation, but back then it was either rent a house, which was too expensive for us, or settle for a single room. This proved very difficult as people who wanted to rent a room didn’t want any kids brought in. After many knockbacks I wised up and hid my kids down the street a little way, rented the room for myself only, then we walked the streets or sat in a park until it was dark so I could sneak my children in for a warm bed to sleep in. Then we’d have to leave next morning before dawn, so as not to be caught.

Many times, I found a shop early hours of the morning, where the baker and milkman had left their wares at the back door, because the shop wasn’t open yet. Sometimes I took a small bottle of milk and a half loaf of bread, to feed my starving children. I hated having to do it, but for too many days they went hungry and I had nothing to give them.

In five months we moved seventeen times. He always found us. A woman on her own with two kids is easy prey when there is nowhere safe to go. I found that out the hard way, he stalked us and during the next few years I was hospitalised many time from his unrelenting beatings. My son was also hospitalised from his beatings and suffered physically and mentally from the ordeals.

I did finally get away, but not before I had a life threatening hospitalisation that left me with a disability I will carry for the rest of my life. My children were traumatised constantly and suffered with anxiety and depression from a young age. My son found it hard to cope and was mercilessly bullied at school, his low self-esteem continued, and eventually he committed suicide. He just couldn’t take anymore. My daughter still suffers from depression and has become a recluse.

I grieve every day for the loss of my children, and what they have suffered. But in 2012 I finally got the opportunity to have my ex-husband charged. It was a relentless and traumatic experience dealing with the legal system. But we all need to stand up, speak out and do something positive to not allow these perpetrators to continue torturing our lives.

My case went all the way to the High Court of Australia and changed the law, paving the way for other women to seek the help they need, so that they too can fight back.

It is my aim and mission to support other women and children to live a life free of fear, to do this I have started a foundation, ‘Love, Hope & Gratitude  Inc.’  in honour of my two sons whose lives were taken so tragically. My team and I are building a shelter for women, children and their pets so they can feel safe until they are able to gain strength to stand tall again.

We advocate, support, mentor and counsel anyone who needs help to live without fear, homelessness and persecution. 

If I can help you… please contact me through the WOW Foundation. 

This epidemic needs all individuals and communities to become aware of the danger women and children face every day.  The time to act is now!