Podcasts

There’s No Place Like Home Episode Five: Khadija

By Kate Neroni

Podcasts

By Kate Neroni

INTRO: This series comes with a content note for anyone who has been through abuse or knows someone who has. Statistically, that is a lot of us. Some of what you’ll hear in this podcast is distressing. Although we know it’s important to hear directly from victim-survivors about what they’ve been through, this content may be confronting and won’t be suitable for everyone.

Please check the show notes for phone numbers you can contact to receive confidential support.

There’s No Place Like Home is a Future Women podcast supported by our proud partner, Commonwealth Bank; supporting long-term financial independence for victim-survivors through CommBank Next Chapter.

We acknowledge that we produced this series on what always has been, and always will be, Aboriginal land.

KHADIJA GBLA: Make it make sense, privilege. There is no equality in the way we are treated. The layers of marginalisation that some women experience be it racism, ableism, transphobia. You cannot ignore or discount these issues when dealing with DV. And sadly, as a nation, as the conversation continues, we are not intersectional. We are still prioritising certain lives, we are still putting women in positions that make them vulnerable.

TARANG CHAWLA: My name is Tarang Chawla, and I am a writer, lawyer and anti-violence advocate. I’m also the host of There’s No Place Like Home, a podcast about family violence that puts the voices of survivors at the centre of the story.

Today, you’re going to meet the incredible Khadija Gbla.

KHADIJA GBLA: When you come to Australia. You have rights. You are safe. I remember the ad couple of years ago, Australia says no to violence. There is this implication of if you’re in Australia, you do the Australian thing. We’re told, you know, we abide by the law. But when we experienced violence and we go seek safety, we are further harm by those who are meant to protect us to their bias, their prejudice, this systematic discrimination.

TARANG CHAWLA: Khadija, as you’ll hear, is a force of nature. She is passionate and purposeful. She is brave and beautiful. She is smart and she is a survivor… in more ways than one.

KHADIJA GBLA: I was actually three when the war broke out in Sierra Leone. So I became a refugee at the tender age of three. And that’s huge. That’s it, my child is six now and I look back at our childhoods, and they couldn’t be more different.

TARANG CHAWLA: Khadija is one of an estimated 200,000 Australian women who have been subjected to female genital mutilation. She and her family moved to Australia as refugees, when Khadija was thirteen. 

KHADIJA GBLA: My mum being African and this is quite a I think it’s an ethnic thing across ethnic cultures, girls, you’re not allowed to date. She made it very clear. You ain’t dating, go to school, get an education, get a husband, somehow dating is removed from this equation. Even outside of school, I had interactions with people of the opposite sex. It still, I was, I was aware of dating that was happening but that I wasn’t allowed to have a boyfriend or have a relationship. So I was known brutally back in the day for being very savage when it comes to saying no, don’t even say hi, Khadija.

TARANG CHAWLA: I know from my own community that migrant families can be particularly cautious when it comes to their children starting to date. Perhaps that’s why, when Khadija did fall in love with a young man from her community, they kept the relationship a secret.

KHADIJA GBLA: It’s now my, the person we are about to talk about who I had this intimate relationship with, which ended up being domestic and family violence. He approached me from the perspective of offering a friendship.

I was volunteering at this time having you know, come to Australia sort of suffered from complex PTSD with the war stuff that had happened and the FGM and then dealing with racism in Australia, and my mum while she was unhealthy, a lot of abuse at home.

He offered to be a friend, came along to my volunteer stuff, walk me home at night, just to listen. And we bonded over both coming from refugee backgrounds, challenging homes, single parents who were not healthy in their parenting.

TARANG CHAWLA: Research shows that women who are physically abused in childhood, like Khadija says she was, are at increased risk of victimisation in adulthood.

A study in the United Kingdom, found that severe childhood beatings by parents or carers was closely associated with the experience of domestic violence, rape or other trauma in adulthood.

KHADIJA GBLA: So this secret relationship ensued. Which are very common in ethnic communities, because of this, this predominant notion of girl should not be dating.

I know a lot of teenagers in my community to have secret boyfriends and secret girlfriends and the conversations that are still going on years later of why we can’t openly date which I think will be safer, rather than the secret relationships, which I think do create a vulnerability.

TARANG CHAWLA: The latter teenage years are an important developmental stage during early adulthood and can set a pattern of expectation for how people are expected to behave in a relationship.

Positive family experiences and role modeling influence the development of healthy young adult romantic relationships. Conversely, where young people don’t see examples of respectful romantic partnerships growing up, that can shape their own experiences in later life.

KHADIJA GBLA: It started lovely, it was very supportive and building up, then it started changing. Slowly be nitpicking, I don’t like the way you talk. Why can’t you talk like other African girls? Why do you have to sound so smart Khadija, like, well, I am spending a lot of money to have an education. I would hope I sound smart. You know, why? Why do you think you’re right? I don’t think I’m right, I’m just giving my opinion, because I have thoughts and feelings to what you’re saying.

TARANG CHAWLA: Hayley Boxall works as a research manager with the Australian Institute of Criminology and you’ll hear her speaking now as part of a webinar for the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

She’ll help us put Khadija’s early experiences with her former partner in the right context.

HAYLEY BOXALL: So many women who experience coercive control talk about feeling like they’re in a washing machine or that they’re being constantly dumped by waves in the surf and they don’t know what their reference point is. They don’t know where the surface is. So in these kind of contexts in can be really difficult for women to identify a pattern of abusive behaviour.

Coercive control can be difficult to identify and difficult to name particularly by women who are still in the midst of it and are being told that they are the ones who are crazy, they are the ones who are in the wrong and they are the ones being unreasonable.

TARANG CHAWLA: What Hayley Boxall describes mirror what Khadija’s told us about her own life. When Khadija called out her former partner’s conduct, she in turn was subject to accusations of behaving and reacting inappropriately.

HAYLEY BOXALL: What we have certainly found is that the risk of experiencing coercive control is concentrated within particular communities in Australia. The odds of experiencing coercive control are 1.4 times higher for women from non-English speaking backgrounds compared to English speaking backgrounds.

KHADIJA GBLA: So when people use your cultural identity to attack you, so I have been pinned as being a white woman now. Because I have values of equality and, and people of different genders should share roles at home equally, and all these upcoming grand ideas that are only for white people.

So he will use that, that you’re not African enough, you don’t have to don’t fit into this rigid box of what an African woman and I didn’t fit into it. And that was to get me knowing very well, it will hurt me. Because why would I? I mean, why would I be happy with somebody telling me I am not ethnic, I’m not cultural enough, when that’s my culture, and who are you to pinpoint which version of that I should be. My version is just as valid as the next person’s version of being an African woman.

DR SUSAN CARLAND: I am Susan Carland, I have a PhD. And I am currently a Decorah and Churchill fellow in the Faculty of Arts at Monash

TARANG CHAWLA: Dr Carland’s teaching and research expertise are in gender, sociology, contemporary Australia and the Muslim experience. Her 2017 book Fighting Hislam considered how Muslim women in Australia are left fighting sexism and defending their faith simultaneously. Dr Carland calls this particular predicament “the double bind”.

DR SUSAN CARLAND: So the way the double bind works, it’s so insidiously clever. It requires women who are victims of something like domestic violence or other forms of sexism in general, to be wedged . So on the one hand, they will often want to speak quite openly about their experiences, what they think needs to be done to address it, you know, just speak openly about the issues that they’re facing in this area and, and really wanting to air that, that experience.

But then if you take the example of, say, Muslim women or women in the Muslim community, they may have people within the Muslim community saying, Why are you airing our dirty laundry and letting all these non Muslims know what’s going on? This is quite shameful. You’re embarrassing us. They may also be criticized with being quote unquote, Western feminists who are bringing these outside Western ideas in and again, this is very shameful and wrong and external. So there’s this pressure from inside the community that you need to stop talking about this.

TARANG CHAWLA: Dr Carland’s work has focused on the Australian Muslim community but the double bind could apply in any group whose cultural norms and expectations differ from the majority. Especially those who might be unjustly maligned by the mainstream.

DR SUSAN CARLAND: The double bind is not unique to Muslim Communities, you will find pretty much any minority community you can find will have some sort of experience of the double bind. And then of course, obviously, domestic violence is not unique to the Muslim community. We know this is a scourge across Australia.

KHADIJA GBLA: He was perpetuating the very rigid gender stereotype or cultural value of this is what it means to be an African woman is what it means to be a woman full stop. And by being bicultural, we now know we live in mainstream community view of womanhood. So you have these two views of human in a cultural one. And then the external mainstream version of it, what he was wanting, which I also observed with my uncles, again, in my community, what somebody who was submissive was subservient.

Even with all the education and awareness, we were still being told as young girls, when you’re around the opposite sex, you need to deem your light, deem your intelligence so you can be more attractive.

He was tapping into that. Why are you not subservient? Why are you not submissive? Why don’t you dim your light for me so I can feel more masculine? Because I need to feel masculine you are, you’re emasculating me by being you, by being smart. Having thoughts and, and standing up for yourself.

I have heard that echoing in my own home in the community and people saying, Khadija I don’t know if anyone’s gonna marry her, all that intelligence, all that. She just, she’s just too much.

DR SUSAN CARLAND: Then there’s also this challenge from outside the Muslim community where people sometimes well, meaning sometimes not, will see that Muslim women speaking about sexism and say domestic violence is actually just reinforcing the negative stereotypes there are about Muslim women as victims and Muslim men as violent perpetrators. 

So when Muslim women say, say, for example, you’ve got a Muslim woman that says, Look, I want to speak to the media about my experience with domestic violence. They’ll be non Muslims who say that and go, I knew it, of course, all Muslim men are like this, and that poor woman. And it’s her religion that makes it this way and her backward culture that reinforces this, no matter how loudly this woman might say, but actually, my religion condemns this, my religion actually provides a solution to this. This is against my culture. This isn’t the best of my culture. So it reinforces those negative stereotypes.

TARANG CHAWLA: Just as Dr Carland describes, Khadija felt trapped between the cultural expectations she was facing at home and not wanting to bring ill will towards her community publicly.

KHADIJA GBLA: At home it was making me suicidal. The cultural pressures were huge. There was just no room for, for anything. Community wants people to back up that kind of behaviour. She’s your mum, you know, what do you expect? You just need to be more understanding, there was all this gaslighting and explaining away her behaviour, which was not okay, but everyone just sort of justified it because after God she is your mum and you know, well, she carried you for nine months. So you know, she brought you to Australia what you know, whatever you want like well, she is abusive, though. So it was that parallel? And I would choose what I believe to be the lesser of two evils.

TARANG CHAWLA: Khadija’s partner had asked her to marry him before and she refused. Their relationship continued however and eventually? Khadija made the – frankly, strategic – decision to say yes.

KHADIJA GBLA: Then when he asked me again, while I was at uni, to marry him, this time around, I give it more thought. I sat down as a young woman with the knowledge I had available to me at the time, and said, you can’t get, you can’t leave home without be married. That’s cultural. I can’t actually leave home unless I was married. So if I get married, I can get away from home.

I had that hope, hope that he will change. Hope I could manage that situation. Hope he’s better than my mum. He was definitely the better, the lesser of two evils. So I said yes, yes, yes, yes. Let’s get married. And as you know, speed up. It’s a very speedy process. His family came and asked for my hand in marriage. My mum said yes.

TARANG CHAWLA: Khadija got married in December.  By January, her relationship had become physically – and dangerously – violent.

KHADIJA GBLA: I will never forget the first time he slapped me, it came out of nowhere, who just having a conversation or disagreement. And his hand just pow slapped me. I was in such a shock.

The honeymoon period kicked in. I’m sorry. It will never happen. I love you. You’re my queen. You are the best I’m so lucky to have you. I’ll kill myself if you leave me. I literally will hurt myself. I will hurt myself, please don’t you know nobody loves you like me. Nobody. I’m here I’m the only one here for you. I believe that but okay, so my accident is a fluke. It wasn’t a fluke.

He assaulted me, assaulted me enough for the neighbours to call the police. the hope was  dashed. It left my body. That hope was gone. I remember not going to the police because I had a speaking engagement.

This was the night before getting the guest doing that engagement. compatibilizer this incident, coming home and then calling DV hotline. I took myself into the shelter, and checked in. I remember feeling very alone. Very confused, ashamed. And feeling locked in somehow.

TARANG CHAWLA: That Khadija was unable to find the help she needed, reflects the challenge of making support services accessible and inclusive. People who are victims of intimate partner violence are not a homogenous group. They require specialised services that are culturally appropriate.

Helen Silvia is CEO at the Women and Girls Emergency Centre in Redfern, who support victim survivors from a variety of cultural backgrounds, including First Nations women.

HELEN SILVIA: We know that the incidence and the prevalence of domestic violence with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and the sort of is a lot higher for women who come from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. We see a lot of those women in our services and those who are on temporary visas where they don’t actually have any sort of access to Universal services in Australia but don’t have access to Medicare to any of their housing or Centrelink services. 

And they’re often very ill informed about what their rights are, particularly when they’ve been under a Spousal Visa, or they’ve been under a relationship where that user of violence has really withheld any information from that woman, are very vulnerable. And those women who come from lower socio economic backgrounds who don’t have community or family support, have fewer resources to draw on. 

So the impacts of violence on marginalised communities on those who experience higher rates of poverty, or don’t have those other kinds of threats, social and economic resources, have a much harder time navigating the system and being able to move through the experience of violence and recover from trauma. It’s a very difficult path.

TARANG CHAWLA: Khadija is an Australian citizen with refugee status. She is acutely aware that mainstream support services are not designed with the linguistic and cultural needs of migrant communities in mind. For her, this was a major barrier to getting help.

KHADIJA GBLA: The shelters were not culturally inclusive. So you’re there as this black culture or woman and everything is white as white everything. Everything is just white. Not culturally inclusive, not culturally conducive.

They are not culturally appropriate in their response to us, further endangering us leaving us with being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Women are punished. We are the ones who suffer the consequences. What I would love to see is the whole DV sector overall to be more inclusive, more safe, more intersectional.

TARANG CHAWLA: Helen Silvia says that, particularly for people from marginalised communities, there is a lot of misinformation and distrust around both support and the system.

HELEN SILVIA: That’s a real struggle for someone to hedge, you know, that their rights diminished within that relationship, and then to kind of come out and they just want to be able to get on in their life and to, to, you know, to the exercise the right to live freely and raise their kids the best they can but the system’s not allowing that.

KHADIJA GBLA: I came home from the gym. My car had petrol, he’s put petrol there. I said to him, thank you for the petrol. He said see, this one I don’t like about you, you behave that way. Like what I just said, thank you for putting petrol in my car. That is what set him off.

The next thing I knew I was being kicked, punched, choked. fighting for my life against this person who says they love me. Oh, but that love has sailed. He started that downstairs of our apartment. I managed to get away from him, go upstairs to get my phone and call the cops as I’m on the phone. Trying to tell him where I am. He has a studded belt. He stopped with the hands and went and got a studded belt.

They went inside, they found him, the cops came and the ambulance came doing laundry. They found him doing laundry. That’s what he decided to do. Outside bleeding hurt. Clothes. Decimated. They took me into the ambulance to the hospital. The police said you want to call a family member, I said I’ll call my mum.

TARANG CHAWLA: I want to hit pause on Khadija’s story – just for a moment – and introduce you to my friend Arman Abrahimzadeh.

Arman is Deputy Lord Mayor of the City of Adelaide and passionate anti-violence advocate.

ARMAN ABRAHIMZADEH:  Every community does think differently, and every community shows a different reaction. When they deal with family in domestic violence. I can say this with the Middle East and community. When you, when you have a woman, and possibly in some cases, children when they leave an abusive home. Sometimes they are branded as the troublemakers they’re looked at as the ones who have torn apart a family home. The focus isn’t really on the perpetrator here.

TARANG CHAWLA: 12 years ago Arman’s mother Zahra was murdered by his father in front of 300 people at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

ARMAN ABRAHIMZADEH:  She was a so-called typical mother in terms of someone who fusses over you, someone who wants to feed you all the time, someone who wants to make sure that you’re being looked after.

Everything that she did, whether if he was putting up with the abuse for over 20 years, or you know, packing up a few bags and chucking it in the car and fleeing that family home she did everything for her kids. And unfortunately, she died for her kids.

TARANG CHAWLA: Arman knows, first-hand, how damaging community stigma can be… because he faced it when he, his mum and his sisters fled their abusive home.

ARMAN ABRAHIMZADEH: The community broadly was on my father’s side, even though he was the perpetrator of violence. Out in the public and the broader community. The talk was still about us as a family in terms of my mum, both my sisters and I. We were the ones that left the family home. We were the ones that broke the family apart. And because of that my dad got very angry and he did what he did in terms of killing my mother.

Yes, he was a pillar of the community. He was a community minded man, but he was also an abusive man and an abusive father.

TARANG CHAWLA: Khadija is familiar with being a victim who is treated as complicit in her own abuse. She claims that’s exactly how she was treated by her mother.

KHADIJA GBLA: She says stand up Khadija. No ‘how are you?’ She says stand up, stand up. Take your clothes off. Let me see. She wanted to see the damage done. She looked at me like okay, she goes to the other room and picks up the phone and starts calling everyone crying. how horrible this thing had happened to her. The money she spent on our wedding. Oh my god, all that money wasted on a wedding. She was the victim.

So as the aunties and uncles are barging into my house, calling me then saying, you know, they’re gonna use this against us, aren’t you? You know, they’re gonna say we are violent now. You know, they’re gonna say our men are violent, you do know that, but that’s what you’re doing. Khadija, that’s what you’re doing. You’re hurting that boy, you’re gonna ruin his life. 

Now, they are going to say, we are violent and abusive. So we don’t settle in Australia properly. See, this is what they’re going to do, this is why we tell you women not to go report. This is how this plays out. You want to damage your community Khadija. Do what you want to do.

TARANG CHAWLA: We know that it’s not unusual for people from cultural minorities to be caught in the double bind. Trapped between their love for their community and the pressure that same community puts on them to stay silent about violence.

Dr Susan Carland interviewed a number of Australian Muslim women as part of her PhD. And the results are broadly applicable to other communities that tend to be marginalised or demonised in the media.

DR SUSAN CARLAND: I think the first thing to know is that and this might be frustrating to hear is that there are no quick fix solutions. There’s nothing that some of this is painfully slow work.

What the women did say can be really helpful is, and it was actually really reassuring for me, my research is that they said one of the most useful things is having male allies. And when I spoke to the women, I said, you know, who was some of your greatest critics, and often they would say, various Muslim men in the community. But also they want to ask them who have been your greatest supporters, invariably, they would always say, a certain Muslim man, their dad, their Imam, those kinds of things. So we know that having influential Muslim men as part of the solution, certainly helps.

TARANG CHAWLA: Jessica Harkins works with Settlement Services International as a domestic and family violence specialist. Among the projects in her portfolios, is Building Stronger Families which is a men’s behavioural change program. Jessica says that programs like these, delivered in culture and in language, are having enormous positive impact.

JESSICA HARKINS: There are so, there are so many things that we all take for granted every day that are completely culturally bound. And, and there are all these things where you know, what we do, and that our services do that do not even recognize that it might be different culturally elsewhere, for other people. And so our services are very, I mean, I think most people know this, our services are very Anglo Australian.

TARANG CHAWLA: Australia has a long history of migrant and refugee settlement. We are home to more than 7.7 million people who were born outside of our shores. Migrant communities have had a foundational impact, shaping the social, cultural and economic fabric of our country.

One survey of around 2000 of those refugees found that 89 percent had experienced traumatic events prior to migrating. Around 75 percent said they did not understand English well or at all before arriving.

The scale of Australia’s migration program – and the personal challenges faced by some cohorts – shows just how important appropriate settlement services are. And yet Jessica Harkins says services should be better tailored to the cultural needs of migrants…

JESSICA HARKINS: One example might be our services are very individualistic. So if you look, if you even go, if you go anywhere, and you have to fill in a form, it’s all about you individually, and then it might just be about your, who you’re married to, if you’re married, and if you have children, it won’t be about it doesn’t really allow for any other type of family structures, other than that kind of nuclear family and that’s who lives in your house. I mean, that’s Western, that’s a Western concept.

TARANG CHAWLA: Being culturally appropriate and inclusive isn’t just something that our settlement services need to prioritise. The Migrant Resource Centre says that mainstream service and legal systems are generally not generally equipped to respond to the specific needs of migrant and refugee survivors.

KHADIJA CHAWLA: When I went to the station to do my statement for the incident, I sat across a white cop. And I started explaining what had happened. Because I needed to complete my statement from the hospital that just didn’t get done. He said to me, aren’t your men more violent? This white cop said to me, an African woman, a black woman, aren’t  your men more violent as I am explaining and trying to complete my statement, victim statement. In that instance, I am trying to say this is what has happened to me to complete my statement which is what is what the white system says I must do. I’m doing this because you say, call us, we’ll protect you, press charges, so we can find justice.

JESSICA HARKINS: This is what we mean about working in culture. So if we’re working in Tamil, I’m not a Tamil person. But all of our staff working in that program are Tamil. So they understand the cultural markers, they understand the cultural boundaries, they know the norms. And it’s not to say that everyone, it’s not to say that culture is static, or that everyone in one culture is the same or that culture can’t change. Of course, it does come within cultures, you have differences across gender, sexuality, class religion. But there are these sort of common markers and common norms and common boundaries that people generally recognize.

TARANG CHAWLA: There are many factors that prevent migrant and refugee survivors from seeking help and reporting violence. These range from a distrust of law enforcement, to language barriers and inconsistent access to interpreters.

Some migrant women have reported not considering violence committed against them as ‘serious enough’ to report and some migrant men may well take the same view.

While these same factors exist across the Australian community, cultural stigma and fear of social ostracization only exacerbate these challenges for people from migrant backgrounds. 

KHADIJA GBLA: When we talk about intersectionality, white women don’t have to negotiate their safety with a community interest because they don’t have a community. The way we do. It’s not the same. They don’t have to have that added layer of other people’s interest in factor like we have to in those instances, they don’t have to worry about when they go to the police station being racially profiled or their community being racially profiled. They don’t have to deal with microaggression racism. These are elements that are to that burden.

TARANG CHAWLA: Justine Reid is from Central Queensland. She’s worked in government and in non government organisations combating family violence. And she’s been on the frontline of prevention, as well as holding senior leadership and policy roles.

JUSTINE REID: I’m a victim survivor myself.

I’m an Aboriginal senior policy advisor. And it’s an identified role. I’ve worked in a lot of Aboriginal controlled organisations for that very reason. Because I do want to work with my community.

TARANG CHAWLA: Justine says that feelings are cultural too. She explains that the way a white woman experiences shame is quite distinct from how an Indigenous woman might experience the same emotion.

JUSTINE REID:  All women experiencing domestic abuse, or victim survivors will talk about the shame. But shame in Aboriginal culture is, I guess, it’s, it’s something we feel really It’s ingrained in us like not to bring shame on our family not to bring shame on our community not to. So it’s kind of, I guess, twofold. There’s the shame of being a victim survivor. And then the shame of, you know, being bringing that shame on community and, and then you’ve got the fact that is Women’s Business and as men’s business, and you know, it’s often not seen as appropriate for women to talk about women’s business with men and a lot of police officers are men.

If you’re not a First Nations person, you’re going to have no understanding of the importance of culture and community and the kinship systems that operate for Aboriginal communities. You know, it’s something that our community and our culture brings us so much strength and resilience. And were taught from such a, an A lot of First Nations, cultures, and communities are like this, you were taught from such a young age to care for each other.

TARANG CHAWLA: A one size fits all approach doesn’t work to combat family violence. 

That’s why the federal government’s new National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children places a stronger focus on diverse and intersectional needs.

The plan, which was in its draft stage at the time of recording, draws heavily on Our Watch’s national, evidence-based framework, Change The Story.

OUR WATCH CHANGE THE STORY SNIPPET: Change the story is based on a rich body of evidence from 40 or 50 years of scholarship on domestic and sexual violence. And what Change the story does is synthesises that, it kind of tells a coherent, evidence-based story.

We’ve woven in an intersectional approach in a lot more detail. So, of course, we’re still focused on the way in which gender inequality is the key driver of violence against women, but we’ve talked a lot more about racism and homophobia, and colonialism, and so on, and how they intersect to drive violence against women.

TARANG CHAWLA: Justine Reid isn’t afraid to get personal in her work. The fact that she is Aboriginal herself means that, when she’s worked in frontline services, she’s been able to communicate with clients and develop trust in a way that others might not have been able to do.

JUSTINE REID: It’s about removing the barriers and the power indifference that exists when you know, people of colour and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are accessing mainstream episodes because these services are set up for white people, and have a history of, you know, internalised racism that goes, you know, across healthcare, lots of different spaces. So it’s about removing that, that power differential. So putting yourself, you know, I’m, I’m not the worker, and you’re not the client, like, we’re here on an even playing field. 

When you are working with Aboriginal communities, and Aboriginal people we’re so straight up, so straight up. So if we feel like you’re, you know, hiding something from us or not being honest, like, especially within, you know, white systems, we’re going to pull back and disengage, which is absolutely the worst thing that can happen if you’re trying to support a victim survivor, to leave a perpetrator or to keep engaging with services to keep building safety and stability for themselves and their family. 

So I will often self disclose, and I have disclosed, you know, many times that I’m a victim survivor, and, you know, in being able to normalise a lot of the things that they’re feeling, and going through, and being able to sort of, almost be able to tell them, like yet we’ll get better at being really, really bad at and being like, it’s kind of take a lot of time back.

TARANG CHAWLA: Like Dr Susan Carland, Justine reflects on the double bind. The experience of Aboriginal survivors who are subjected to violence but don’t want to report because they’re afraid of reinforcing unfair and damaging stereotypes about Aboriginal people.

JUSTINE REID: And then there’s, yeah, there’s that notion of just bringing shame on your family, and, you know, things should be dealt with, you know, within the community is a lot of a lot of times the, the, I guess, the mentality of you don’t want to bring shame when you community, our communities are already so, so much stigma around being Aboriginal anyway, and being seen, as, you know, no good. You know, just get, you know, all the, all of the racist stereotypes that Aboriginal people get you, you know, being seen to, I guess, contribute to that in any way isn’t, you don’t want to do that for your, for your community.

TARANG CHAWLA: For Khadija, the decision to go to the police about her husband’s violent behaviour, has cost her family relationships that she once held dear. 

It was an impossible choice, yes, but not a theoretical one. In the real world survivors – who are overwhelmingly women – make these impossible choices every day.

KHADIJA GBLA: Women culturally linguistically diverse women, non white women as taught between a rock and a hard place. Our communities don’t back us up when we experience Divi. They put us in a position to have to negotiate our safety and the interest of not having white Australia be racist to them to be protected as a community and not be stigmatised. mainstream services, white mainstream instruments of the police, the law, all of that they perpetrate racism against us when we reach out for support, they are not culturally appropriate in their response to us, further endangering us leaving us being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

JUSTINE REID: It’s that real notion of like, as people of colour, and I very much acknowledge that I am white passing, but as people of colour. And you just, you can’t just do good, you have to do better than that your white counterparts to make up for the fact that, you know, you have to be outstanding to get the recognition. So if you’re then in a situation that I guess is, you know, involves police and that is negative, and that is bringing shame on your community. It’s just you don’t want to talk about it. You don’t want to put it out there. And you’re the risk, the fear of losing your babies, is so deeply ingrained in us so deeply ingrained in us that you just you just don’t seek out the help a lot of the time because you think they’re gonna die, you think they’re going to take your kids, they’re going to take your kids.

TARANG CHAWLA: Australia is a truly diverse and multicultural country. A nation of immigrants that is also home to the oldest continuing culture on the planet. This is something to be proud of but it also presents challenges for our legal, policing, welfare and social support systems.

We have to work together to build a country in which all victim-survivors are empowered to seek help when they need it, to be listened to and believed, to be supported and protected. And doing so requires that we tailor our services and our approaches to the needs of survivors from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds.

This is a work in progress thanks to policy advisors like Justine Reid, researchers like Dr Susan Carland, advocates like Arman Abrahimzadeh, and survivors like Khadija…

Today Khadija is doing well, in fact she’s thriving. She is raising her daughter as a single mother and working as an equality advocate and public speaker. Her Ted Talk, titled ‘my mother’s strange definition of empowerment’ has had more than 3 million views. Khadija describes her healing as both an act of revolution and an act of liberation.

The final word belongs to her.

KHADIJA GBLA: There is no equality in the way we are treated. The layers of marginalisation that some women experience, be it racism, ableism, transphobia. You cannot ignore or discount these issues when dealing with DV. And sadly, as a nation as the conversation continues, we are not intersectional. We are still prioritising certain lives, we are still putting women in positions that make them vulnerable.

TARANG CHAWLA: Next time on There’s No Place Like Home, we look at how perpetrators are weaponising Australia’s court system. Next week – Eleanor’s story.

ELEANOR*: He’s still able to see all my bank statements through financial subpoena. And so he can see where I get my coffee each morning, he can see where I shop, he can see exactly what I’m buying when I’m buying it, which restaurants I go to. It’s another level of invasion, there’s no privacy.

TARANG CHAWLA: See you next time.

OUTRO: There’s No Place Like Home is a Future Women podcast supported by our proud partner, Commonwealth Bank; supporting long-term financial independence for victim-survivors through CommBank Next Chapter.

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For more information about There’s No Place Like Home, or to join the movement, please head to futurewomen.com.

This episode was produced by Jamila Rizvi, Sally Spicer, Tarang Chawla, Fleur Bitcon, Ella Jackson, Ruby Leahy-Gatfield, India Bailey and Kate Leaver. Editing by Bad Producer Productions. Artwork by Patti Andrews.