THIRTY-years-ago Dina-Marie Mitchell escaped her husband with just $20 in her purse and a suitcase of saris.
Since then Mrs Mitchell of Burswood has transformed her life and now shares her experiences in an unhappy marriage to a man for 17 years in the hope it will help others.
Her commitment to this cause saw her set up Welshpool-based WA Fairhaven, a not-for-profit organisation helping people struggling with domestic issues.
Mrs Mitchell said had she known the true character of the man she met in India and married when she was 18, she would not have done so.
After her husband obtained a job in Australia, they moved from India with four young children.
“I continued in the relationship because in our culture divorce was unacceptable,” Mrs Mitchell said.
“You think I am supposed to be the wife, I have to be submissive, I give him all the power because he makes the decisions. He will decide what school the kids will go to. He will decide what food we are going to eat and he will decide what to do with the money.
“As I grew up I was not allowed to have an opinion. When I bought the groceries he would say ‘why did you buy cordial you don’t need cordial’ or ‘why did you buy two tins of fish, you really only need one tin of fish’. He would look through how much money I had spent.
“As the kids grew up and I wanted to bring some changes in, I couldn’t. I didn’t have any power. He made all the calls. He decided what was happening.”
Mrs Mitchell started getting angry about the way she was being treated and clearly remembers the day when she decided to leave.
“I was getting angry and I would take out my anger towards the kids,” she said.
“One day I thought to myself ‘I can’t do this anymore, I am not doing to do this anymore’.
“Staying in the relationship was not healthy; it was not good for my children.”
When she left her husband she was depressed, had very little money and had to stay with a friend before moving to a two-bedroom flat so her children could visit.
“I was really poor. I used to eat Weet-Bix and cornflakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner because I had to save my money for when my four children came on the weekends,” she said.
Mrs Mitchell found a job as a cleaner in a nursing home and from there rebuilt her life.
She completed her high school studies at Canning College, obtained a Certificate III in Human Services and went to university eventually completing a Masters in Counselling.
Mrs Mitchell is now happily remarried.
She said every woman had opportunities to rebuild their life after a failed marriage.
A series of free workshops for men funded by the City of Belmont aims to teach skills including how to communicate positively with children, partners and work colleagues.
Workshops: Men Making Changes – eight-week program
When: Monday, June 12 to July 31
Topics: Respectful communication, resolving anger issues, exploring options, building positive relationships
Location: Centenary Park Community Centre, 105 Daly Street, Belmont
Time: Mondays 10:30am to 12.30pm
Bookings: WA Fairhaven 9351 5828 or complete the online form at www.wafairhaven.com.au/contact-us
All ages welcome.