Wanneroo mother wins unsung hero competition

Jessie-Lee Benson.
Jessie-Lee Benson.

A WANNEROO woman’s story of surviving domestic violence and helping others has won her a picnic, which she will share with people who inspire her.

Jessie-Lee Benson received the prize organised by Boho & Prosecco owner Sharon Foster in July, which will include goods and services from 13 local businesses.

Miss Benson said two friends nominated her for the ‘Unsung hero’ promotion, which attracted more than 250 nominations, and she planned to hold the picnic in November at her grandmother’s herbal farm in east Wanneroo.

“I’m also allowed to bring along 11 friends however I will be inviting people that have inspired me, endured their own horrific experience or need to be acknowledged,” she said.

Jessie-Lee Benson when she was surprised with the prize.

The nominations acknowledged the mother-of-three’s kindness to others as well as her experiences of domestic violence, which included being in a car with her then-partner and their children when he drove at a concrete wall stopping just before impact and abandoned them in the car in the middle of the bush.

He had also tried to run her off the road, smashed her windscreen with his bare elbow and breached violence restraining orders after she fled in 2015 with her two children, one of whom has autism, cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

The other child has central processing auditory disorder and hip issues, and Miss Benson now has a baby with her current partner.

Her friends nominated her because, having been through all she had, Miss Benson still managed to be the person who knocked on the door with food parcels when someone was down or dropped everything to help others.

Miss Benson said the people she wanted to share the prize with included her cousin, whose son had meningococcal as a baby and now lives with disabilities as a result, as well as her sister-in-law whose daughter has autism and a hearing disability.

“Another girlfriend had a drunk driver drive through their home narrowly missing her child and herself but unfortunately hitting her husband, injuring him,” she said.

“Another friend (local teacher at Wanneroo Primary School) goes above and beyond for every student that walks in her doors.”

Miss Benson said she also wanted to include a mother and daughter she heard about from nominations who were badly burnt when an outdoor heater exploded.

She said she would also include her mother, who raised five children and cared for her husband who used a wheelchair after a motorbike accident left him paraplegic.

Her best friend, who nominated her, would also be part of the picnic because they supported each other while their FIFO partners were away.

I am forever so grateful to receive this amazing prize Saturday night 🥳It has left me feeling so loved & with the…

Posted by Jessie-Lee Benson on Monday, 29 July 2019

 

Mother shares journey of living in fear to finding freedom

Miss Benson opened up about her experiences of domestic violence as part of her journey from fear to freedom.

“Leaving my children’s father due to domestic violence and drugs was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do but one of the best decisions I have ever made,” she said.

“I have dealt with threats of all sorts from verbal to physical: ‘I will burn the house down, slit your throat, I will kill myself, I will kill your family’.

“It was like living with a ticking time bomb.

“I spent countless nights crying myself to sleep hoping by morning he would have disappeared on the way home from wherever he was or come home and end the relationship.”

Miss Benson said one day he got physical, pushing her up to the fridge and raised a closed fist to her eye before stepping back, then smashed belongings and slammed doors until she called for help.

She said she left that day, hoping it would be the last time he would frighten her, but she continued to receive messages and calls as well as threats to make a scene in public if she did not let him have the children on Saturdays.

“One Saturday night he failed to return the children,” she said.

“Panic set in as he was notorious for falling asleep anywhere from days on end from not sleeping.

“I drove to the house and entered to find the kids asleep on the couch in a very hot room.

“After yelling out for him I heard groaning only to look and see him passed out on the kitchen floor.

“I scooped both the children up and headed for my car.

“He stood in front of my car with a park bench in his arms so I couldn’t pass. I kept reversing ‘til slowly I could get away.

“Seconds later he was trying to side swipe my car with another car we owned and run me off the road.

“He drove up in front of my car forcing me to stop. I did a u-turn and took off again. I called my mum in panic and my old neighbour to call for the police.

“Pulling up again at our old house he pulled up and stormed out of his car making threats at my front window.

“I could see my neighbour in the house on the phone to the police and her in-laws were out the front trying to calm him down.

“He stormed up again and smashed my windscreen twice with his elbow cracking it to bits.

“He was charged with two counts of criminal damage and (received) a seven-month suspended sentence.

“I was granted a violence restraining order against him days later, but this didn’t stop him from making more threats via calls, messages and visits.

“He was arrested five more times and pleaded not guilty to the ‘alleged breaches of his VRO’ all while in the presence of the children and in community surroundings.”

Miss Benson said her former partner eventually pleaded guilty a year-and-a-half later and spent 10 months in jail.

She said counselling and women’s support services helped her and the children overcome the experiences and she hoped sharing her story would help others make changes to live happier lives.

Visit www.whiteribbon.org.au for information about domestic violence support services.

  • 1800RESPECT is a 24-hour national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault. Call toll-free 1800 737 732.
  • Lifeline has a national number to help put people in contact with a local crisis service. Anyone across Australia experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide can call 13 11 14.
  • Men’s Referral Service from No to Violence offers assistance, information and counselling to help men who use family violence. Call 1300 766 491 for help with male behavioural and relationship concerns.