I had dedicated the majority of my career to assisting those impacted by domestic and family violence, managing a large team of professionals.
Many years later finding myself in a violent and abusive relationship was unexpected, therefore it highlights that no one is immune from these encounters. I felt so trapped, fearful and ashamed that I never spoke up about it to those closest to me. I was terrified to leave.
It was on the final assault, when my former partner’s violence escalated rapidly and he had chocked me to the point of almost rendering me unconscious with my four-month-old daughter laying distressed screaming in her cot in the very next room, that I realised we would die if we stayed.
When I eventually disclosed to my friends and family about the torturous life we had been living behind closed doors, I think they felt guilty that they didn’t recognise the signs and they were shocked.
People can find it hard to understand why it is so difficult to leave, as they don’t always understand the complexities of family violence. Having support and starting the conversation helped me not to feel ashamed anymore and realise it was the perpetrator’s shame to carry.
These days, I continue to dedicate my life to working in the area of domestic and family violence, and driving social change. We all have a role to play in preventing and ending this scourge, organisations, employers, employees, colleagues, can all play a greater role.
I recently worked with NAB on their new “Join Together” campaign against domestic and family violence. This has resulted in the bank extending their existing domestic and family violence support policy, so that now NAB employees who are the family members of survivors, or are living with survivors, can also take paid leave to support them. We also want everyone to become more educated about domestic and family violence and where to gain support. You may know somebody who is experiencing violence or abuse.
These are 14 of the signs a person experiencing domestic and family violence may show in social and work situations:
- A change in voice, or one that is raspy or croaky, from strangulation.
- Wears lengthy clothing (tops, skirts, pants) on a hot day.
- Weight loss, tired and exhaustion.
- Hypervigilance or over startling responses.
- Bruises, markings or grazes (although often calculated assaults occur and the victim survivor is able to cover injuries with clothing).
- Withdrawn personality and social disengagement.
- Often displaying emotional responses that are out of the ordinary and not able to focus or complete tasks.
- A heightened sense of adrenaline, always busy or reluctant to engage in conversation.
- Constant down playing of the situation or makes excuses.
- They say that their partner demonstrates jealous behaviour, their partner attends their workplace to check on them, or they receive excessive calls from their partner on the office phone or a mobile.
- Has had numerous absenteeisms, unusual sick days, attending the doctor or hospital.
- Coming into work early or leaving late to avoid their torturous home life, also displaying anxiety when finishing work or taking lunch breaks, which may also be a sign of physical or technology stalking.
- Receiving frequent gifts or flowers at work with no known explanations.
- Experiencing threats to harm, kill, intimidate, control or use a weapon.
This list is not exhaustive or definitive, and all experiences are different but it may just help to start a conversation with a work colleague, a friend or someone in your family or community. I wish those who surrounded me had picked up on the signs I was displaying when I was feeling too unsafe and ashamed to speak out. Starting these conversations and offering support can change and save lives.
1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.