WOMEN who experience domestic violence have to ‘walk on eggshells’, writes Orana House general manager Mel Rowe.
Orana House is a family and domestic violence service located within the City of Bayswater which provides women and children with safe accommodation, advocacy and holistic support to enable them to move to live safer, happier lives.
We see many women who have injuries as a result of experiencing physical and sexual violence.
But we also know that there are many more hidden types of abuse that most people, and often the women themselves, don’t recognise to be part of the coercion and control that is family and domestic violence.
Women at Orana talk about the fear they experience caused by their abuser, the way they have to ‘walk on eggshells’ all the time to try not to upset him.
They speak about intimidation and threats that harm them, their children or other family members, pets, valued possessions or for the abuser to harm himself.
These are part of the emotional and psychological abuse a perpetrator uses to control the victim and make them do as he wants. Women often speak about social or spiritual abuse, being stopped from seeing their family or friends, not being allowed to get a job or to study or to participate in their cultural or religious practices.
They often experience constant phone calls and texts wanting to know where they are or what they’re doing, even after they have left the situation.
Women also talk about financial abuse, having little or no access to money and having to account for everything they spend.
Many of the women we see have been left with enormous debts which they have no way of re-paying.
Our work at Orana is to enable women and the wider community to understand that family and domestic violence encompasses so much more than physical and sexual violence.
We also enable women to understand that perpetrators deliberately do all these other things to undermine the victim’s confidence, make them feel stupid or even to believe they are going crazy as this renders them less likely to seek support or leave the relationship.
The women Orana supports gradually learn that they are not to blame for what has happened to them and their children and understand that the responsibility for all the abuse lies firmly in the hands of their abuser.
If you or someone you know needs advice or assistance, call Orana House on 9370 4544 or the National Helpline 1800 RESPECT. For information, visit www.orana.net.au