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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 in collaboration with 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.
MAY*: I started to run out of money, and became homeless, and was sleeping in my car, often feeling safer in my car, because I knew he would know where I was.
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 May, but that’s not her real name.
She’s a mum of two and we’ve changed her name for privacy reasons. As a First Nations woman, justice for Aboriginal people is close to her heart. May is currently working on the treaty process in Victoria.
MAY: I’ve been working with the Elder’s Voice. My grandfather’s Aboriginal, so there’s personal connection. It’s about social justice and wanting something better for a group of people that have suffered so much.
And the Elders seeking out all their wisdom, but there’s, it’s through the stories, you know, there’s so much pain, but the resilience and the strength is what attracts me.
TARANG CHAWLA: May is a highly educated, confident and accomplished woman. She is anything but the stereotype of a person who might find themselves homeless after fleeing a violent relationship.
And that’s just the problem. Stereotypes are not only harmful but often redundant when it comes to both family violence and homelessness. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all problem and that is a challenge for policy makers and support services alike.
Domestic violence transcends age, race, education and socioeconomic status.
LEILANI FARHA: What I’m trying to get people to understand is when they see a homeless person on the street or in a shelter, or in an informal settlement – what they’re seeing actually is the failure to implement the right to adequate housing by all levels of government.
Rather than look at the individual and say ‘oh the individual landed there because of some personal characteristic or trait’, what’s really at play there is the failure of governments to implement their human rights obligations. So a homeless person has nowhere to live and therefore nowhere to sleep but perhaps rough on the streets, and that is becoming a criminalised act. A homeless person has nowhere to eat and so they eat on the street, and that’s becoming a criminalised act.
MAY: It is such a quick thing that happens. It’s like one day you’re fine. And then literally overnight, you’re not. And it could be anybody doesn’t matter what demographic you come from, what experience you have, what knowledge of these systems, whatever, what income bracket, it can just be gone overnight, for women, particularly.
TARANG CHAWLA: The link between violence and homelessness is strong. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare says 42 percent of the specialist homelessness service clients have experienced family violence.
Family violence is the main reason that women seek the support of homeless shelters. In Victoria, where May lives, there are nearly 50,000 people on public housing waiting lists. While there are more homeless men than women, among the fastest growing cohorts of homeless Australians are women aged over 55. The number of older homeless women, nationwide, increased by more than 30% between 2011 and 2016.
And this was before anyone had even heard of COVID-19.
MAY: And I mean, the most terrifying part of that, for me is women leaving violent relationships, to have the courage to do that, to face homelessness and no superannuation. Like, why would you leave, like, I really understand why women stay.
TARANG CHAWLA: To understand how May ended up homeless and fending for herself as a new mum, we need to go back to the beginning of her relationship with her abuser. She met him when she was living and working in Morocco.
MAY: We met, he was a friend of a friend in Morocco. And I met him in Morocco. And he was showing me around that kind of thing.
When you’re in a developing country, coming from the west, you get quite dependent on the people that you connect with there, because it’s so foreign. And it’s so unfamiliar, and particularly being a female that was so unsafe.
TARANG CHAWLA: Let’s call May’s partner Ethan. May and Ethan moved into his sister’s apartment in Morocco, while she was away in France. That apartment was May’s home in name only. It was somewhere she never felt safe or secure.
MAY: He made me so terrified to go outside, like, he would tell me things like, if you go outside, you’re gonna get raped. Even if you just walk down the street to get bread and milk, you’re not gonna make it, like you will get, you’ll get attacked and raped, just doing that in the middle of the day. So you know, he really manipulated into me staying in this apartment, and I felt very, very unsafe. And then there was times when he would padlock me in there, as well. So he, he would lock the door and padlock it and say it was for my safety. And I can remember, just feeling so incredibly trapped, I felt like I was going crazy
TARANG CHAWLA: May was physically and emotionally trapped by Ethan. She was on the other side of the world, away from her family, friends and her support networks, so she was especially isolated and feeling vulnerable. May was only able to escape with the help of some kind strangers.
MAY: There was some German tourists walking by, and I threw rocks at them to get their attention from the window. And I was like, you got to help me, you got to help me get out of here. And they did. And we packed everything up, got me out, went and stayed with them.
He found where we were. And I don’t know how, like Morocco is odd like that people know people and they’re all sort of watching. He found where we were, he came in the middle of the night, was this huge drama, dragged me out.
TARANG CHAWLA: May went back to Ethan because she didn’t have any other choice. Women who experience violence from their partners often attempt to leave unsuccessfully, sometimes they’ll try on multiple occasions.
I’m going to bring in Nicole Yade now to help us understand why. Nicole is the Director of Client Operations at the Women and Girls Emergency Centre, which supports women and children impacted by homelessness, domestic violence and systemic disadvantage – and advocates for societal change.
NICOLE YADE: We do talk a little bit about, about little leaving, and big leaving. And we know that it takes the average woman leaving several times before they make that big leaving step and, and don’t go back.
I know myself as a victim, survivor, you know, it was many, many times I left before I left for the final time. And even when I left for the final time, that makes it sound way too neat and tidy. I wish I could say it was this moment of heroism where I stood up and said absolutely no more I accept this, I’m going, but it certainly wasn’t for me.
It’s embarrassing for me to talk about it. It was many years ago for me.
TARANG CHAWLA: Even after 20 years working in the sector, Nicole finds it devastating when she meets women who are trying to end volatile, potentially dangerous relationships.
NICOLE YADE: It’s still heartbreaking to me when I meet women who are trying to end really difficult and sometimes violent relationships. But they’re the ones who have to leave their house, they’re the ones who have to, you know, put their life into a suitcase, get what their children need, into the back of a car, we’re thinking about taking our kids out of their rooms and taking them away from their preschool or their school. Even though there’s some great emergency accommodation, you know, it fills up very, very quickly. And sometimes we’re sending people to the other end of town to have somewhere safe to stay, it’s not really always making it easy to go back to school or see your friends or, you know, see your local doctor or any of those kinds of things. So it’s really, really challenging to leave, and it takes a lot of courage.
TARANG CHAWLA: Australian workers are entitled to five days of domestic violence leave. But there’s no requirement that it’s paid leave. That means a whole bunch of survivors aren’t financially set up to take advantage of that leave and many of them don’t know if they’re eligible.
The consequences of abuse are complex and far reaching, and it takes time and money to deal with them. Moving to find a new, safe place for yourself and your family can cost as much as $20,000 and take more than 140 hours.
That’s why some organisations are campaigning that domestic violence leave needs to be paid leave.
AUSTRALIAN UNIONS VIDEO: To escape a violent relationship, you have to take time off work. Without paid leave, women simply don’t have time or resources to find a new safe place to live. We see how hard this is. And we understand how much it costs. To leave, you need leave.
TARANG CHAWLA: The Fair Work Commission is currently examining whether paid domestic violence leave should be something that every employer is required to offer. Increasingly, companies are recognising the importance of extending paid leave to their employees.
More and more are voluntarily responding to the call for employees who experience domestic violence to be paid leave. They include Qantas, Mirvac, BHP, Rio Tinto and CommBank – which provides unlimited paid domestic violence leave.
Let’s return to May, who now had yet another reason to escape Ethan’s abuse.
MAY: I got pregnant with my daughter. So that’s my daughter now. And then again, he used manipulation to trap me – he said, you know, you can’t fly, you’ll kill the baby, blah, blah, blah, like, you can’t get on a plane anyway, no one’s gonna give you a ticket, you’ve got no money, like he just completely isolated me. But I eventually just on the sly, got out and left. And I think I had a whole, I think I got out on a whole bunch of frequent flyer points or something.
TARANG CHAWLA: May finally made it home to Melbourne, and started getting ready to become a mum.
MAY: At this point, I was about three and a half months pregnant, I came home, went to my family’s home. I picked up a contract job for three months and I didn’t tell them I was pregnant because I didn’t want to be discriminated against. Had this three month contract, earned some money had enough money, then I just saved because I was like, well, I need somewhere to live. And so I moved into my own place in Melbourne closer to where my friends were. And I just worked and worked and worked and worked and saved and saved and saved.
TARANG CHAWLA: Then, something unexpected happened.
MAY: The time just before my daughter was born, he turned up at my door, which was really awful, and shocking. And he wouldn’t leave my house. And I had friends coming, trying to get rid of him. And it was just a nightmare.
TARANG CHAWLA: Ethan kept putting her life in danger. This is a common tactic of abusers, to escalate violent behaviour when a partner is pregnant.
MAY: And then, in the middle of labour, he had an outburst of his anger. And I was literally in the middle of labour, and there was no one else there. And he left. And I remember thinking, oh this is it, I’m just gonna give birth, like a dog on the ground in my kitchen. And, like, I’d planned a homebirth, but not like that. Not like that. Not feeling that scared.
TARANG CHAWLA: To this day, May doesn’t know exactly how Ethan managed to find her home address from another continent. Karen Bentley is the CEO at Wesnet, Australia’s peak body for specialist women’s domestic and family violence services.
KAREN BENTLEY: 10 years ago, our Member Services started coming to us and talking and saying that they were noticing that more and more of the victims and survivors of domestic violence were starting to be tracked or followed to their services so that, you know, abusers or perpetrator were actually increasingly turning up outside refuges.
We’ve always known that the most dangerous time for a woman is when she’s planning to leave a relationship or shortly after she has left a relationship.
What we’ve seen with technology is, and one recent survey found that, they interviewed 15 survivors, and 100% of them found that the technology facilitated abuse increased or started at the end of the relationship. So when, when, when a controlling, abusive person loses control of their victim, and they can’t keep physical control of them anymore by, you know, being in the same location with them, then sometimes I will turn to technology as a way to, you know, stalk or harass or monitor.
TARANG CHAWLA: Technology facilitated abuse means using social media, mobile phones or tracking devices to harass, intimidate or harm someone.
It might sound like the stuff of television police dramas but it’s so common, because it’s inexpensive and dangerously easy to do.
KAREN BENTLEY: That can be particularly dangerous for people who are trying to put some distance between themselves in their abusive partner. You know, 20 years ago, you used to be able to move interstate, and pretty much disappear. But with technology, and we’ve all got, you know, phones and email accounts and Facebook accounts that we keep in touch with our loved ones, and, you know, to be employed, especially in during times, like COVID lock downs. And increasingly, you know, they can be used, or misused, really, as tools to try and track people.
TARANG CHAWLA: Technology facilitated abuse can include hacking into a victim-survivor’s email and social media accounts, monitoring or restricting their internet use, using GPS devices or phones to track their movements, recording private phone conversations, taking intimate photos without permission, posting abusive messages or images on social media, or even enabling access to an otherwise secure building.
As you can imagine, this kind of abuse makes survivors feel like their abuser is everywhere and that they will never be safe.
KAREN BENTLEY: I think the most important thing for women who are experiencing technology abuse is that, you know, a lot of the advice that people get or give is to get off the technology and that’s a really difficult thing to do. So you know, getting off the technology is not really practical in today’s society, like you actually need to be connected so that you can, you know, stay connected to your family and support and also reach out to services. So it’s really important to stay connected. And I also think that you know, if you’re advising friends or family on police, who advise people, women to get off technology, it’s it’s the same as don’t go out after dark don’t wear you know, miniskirts because you have to protect yourself from the abuser. We actually need some messages, which start to sort of recognize that it’s the abusers behavior, that’s the problem.
TARANG CHAWLA: Another form of technological harassment that has become more prolific in recent years is abuse in transaction descriptions. Here’s CommBank’s Group Executive Human Resources, Sian Lewis, explaining how they initially uncovered this problem.
SIAN LEWIS: …A member of our team that while dealing with a victim of domestic violence, discovered that their abuse partner was using a pay ID to send abusive messages with transactions of one cent. So constantly bombarding the victim with abusive messaging via our payment platforms. We then thought, well we need to find out the size of this issue. And horrifically, in a three month period, we discovered 100,000 messages that could be classed as abusive. 100,000 is a lot to actually try and conquer and address. So we actually used our artificial intelligence capability to apply machine learning to that 100,000, and we identified 200 unique individuals who were consistently sending abusive messages to their victims.
TARANG CHAWLA: So how can banks stop this kind of harassment?
SIAN LEWIS: We put stops on people sending those. We can remove people’s Pay ID et cetera so that people can’t use their ABN or Pay ID to send these horrific messages. We can set up safe accounts for victims. And we also have a process now where we can cease banking perpetrators who won’t desist as a result of warning letters.
TARANG CHAWLA: While this work to stop technological stalking and abuse is positive – and necessary – for May, the damage was already done.
MAY: I started to run out of money, and became homeless, and was sleeping in my car, often feeling safer in my car, because I knew he would know where I was
TARANG CHAWLA: By this stage, May wasn’t alone in her car. She had a baby girl who was only a few months old.
Sound of a baby crying
TARANG CHAWLA: A baby she was responsible for. And a baby, that while she loved with all of her heart, made the labour involved in setting up a new home and a new life nearly impossible, especially while May had limited access to resources.
MAY: As a result, because of the stress, I wasn’t able to produce any milk for her. And I had no idea because I was so in survival mode and stressed, stressed out to my eyeballs that I had no idea there was no milk, and she just got increasingly skinny and started to look like a very unwell baby. So I took it to the children’s and the pediatricians like, yeah, she’s really underweight, you have to start feeding her bottles and doing all these other things around expressing. Like every mother who’s had to deal with breastfeeding things will know how difficult this is, like it’s every three hours you set an alarm, you’ve got to express and then you’ve got to feed and then I was trying to breastfeed through a little line and trying to store the breast milk when I had no refrigeration and i don’t know how I did it. I really don’t know how I did it.
TARANG CHAWLA: Family violence is the leading cause of homelessness amongst Australian kids. This has serious consequences for children’s development and wellbeing, far beyond the period of homelessness.
Research shows that babies and toddlers raised in homeless environments could have delays in mental and physical development. Older children experience high levels of anxiety, loss, and grief; presenting with high rates of mental health problems.
Experiencing homelessness as a kid is a contributing factor to that person becoming homeless as a teenager or in adulthood.
Helen Silvia is the Chief Executive Officer of the Women and Girls Emergency Centre – WAGEC for short. The need to advocate for, and look after children living with family violence, as well as adults, is something that she knows well.
HELEN SILVIA: In the sector, we often talk about that kids are the silent victims in Divi. It’s really important that we work with moms, we work with the victim survivors of domestic violence, and that we attend to this whole of family needs. But equally, we need to ensure that we’re providing targeted services and programs and we’re resourcing the needs of kids who have witnessed violence, or who’ve experienced violence in the home.
Because we know that domestic and family violence is one of the key aces or adverse childhood experiences. And we know that the more adverse childhood experiences that a child has the lifelong trajectory that they’ll have into adulthood will be fraught with often complex health and other kinds of issues, whether that’s about their physical and mental health, incarceration, homelessness, poverty, and a range of other things.
So when we look at kids now, we need to be providing targeted intervention and support for our kids now for them in the here and now because they suffer equally, when they’ve been subject to domestic and family violence. But we also need to be putting in those interventions as a early intervention, because if we don’t we know that those long term sort of lifecycle trajectory will be costly.
TARANG CHAWLA: So much of who we are as people comes from feeling like we belong. Anyone who’s had that taken from them knows how painful it is – at any age. But when a child is made to feel rudderless, to feel disconnected, it can affect the course of their life and even the person that they become.
International studies show that continuity of schooling in particular, is a predictor of wellbeing later in life… missing school can have a major ripple effect on the person that you become.
Let’s return to May, who, as you will remember, was sleeping in her car with her newborn daughter and struggling to breastfeed. She was desperately trying to get help through a range of services, both government and not-for-profit, that could hopefully help her get back on her feet – and keep her and her daughter safe.
MAY: I had the privilege of that behavior in me plus all the resource knowledge that I knew and even still, I still could, was hitting walls everywhere. There was no homelessness service was going to help me because I didn’t have an address. So like, Oh, you don’t have an address, so we can’t put you on the system. Like well, that’s absolutely ridiculous. I’m homeless.
And there were so many systems that failed me during that time, like even using mental health services, they wanted an address without an address, you can’t get the Medicare rebate, you know, and you can’t see somebody, it was just a nightmare.
I started to really understand how people end up, you know, rough sleeping for so long and I was with this tiny little baby who was so vulnerable. And I was hyper hyper vigilant. Because I was so scared all the time. What would happen?
TARANG CHAWLA: Between 2019 and 2020, almost 120,000 people seeking help from specialist homelessness services… were experiencing family and domestic violence.
Alarmingly, in the past year only three percent of those who approached a homelessness service, who had experienced domestic and family violence and needed long-term housing, actually received it.
Here’s Nicole Yade again. Before she was with WAGEC, Nicole was with Lou’s Place, which is Sydney’s only daytime refuge.
Lou’s Place is a low barrier service that works with women and girls as long as they need.
NICOLE YADE: And we find that that’s really, really important. Because many of the women that we work with, fall through the gaps of the existing service system or may have received, you know, some intensive case management support for a period, but they’re still needing a bit more support, and a bit more care. It’s not all kind of neatly wrapped up and finished just yet.
TARANG CHAWLA: Hardeep Saini has spent most of his working life in the homelessness space. Recently, he worked with Launch Housing, who provide short term rental assistance to homeless Australians.
HARDEEP SAINI: Look people who are first time homeless, they are the one who are in most shock because unfortunately, people may have had a different expectation from the service sector that they might actually get ahead are a safe place to go. But that’s not the reality. Unfortunately, that’s why the first time presenters, they sometimes tend to walk away, they tend to try to explore the options within their own support circle that could be family or friends.
TARANG CHAWLA: Hardeep says that some families will come in seeking assistance, and part of the challenge for staff is to find a way to speak to women alone. Once a victim is out of earshot from their family, they’re more likely to disclose that yes, their whole family is homeless but that they are being subjected to violence.
HARDEEP SAINI: People who we see repeatedly in the cycle of family violence and the cycle of homelessness, they tend to be more realistic, that a motel is actually is a viable option at this given point.
And the other family violence specialist services, they have come a long way. But if you spoke with any one of them, the number one limitation would be that they don’t have suitable accommodation, so that they have to work with the survivors and the presenters who are seeking the services. And they have to sort of, unfortunately convince them that unfortunately, this is what we can offer.
TARANG CHAWLA: Having a safe home is a human right. It’s also a real foundation of the social order our society is built on. The home is where we entertain our friends, and where we spend time with our families and where we go to relax.
But you also need a home address to apply for a car loan, or to pay your phone bill, or to enrol your children in school or even register for a Medicare card. And this was exactly the predicament that May faced.
MAY: This was that point when I was going to service after service after service, being turned away, going we can’t help you, you don’t have an address. And what do you mean? Like, that’s insane. And I was desperate and I had the whole list, you know, I had the handout with the list of services, I was ringing and ringing and ringing and going from one to the other to the other.
TARANG CHAWLA: May was finally able to get support from Launch Housing, where Hardeep Saini works…
MAY: And then I finally got on to somebody at Launch, who, who said, hey, we’ve got this, this program running at the moment, and this package of funding that can get you you know, your first month’s rent and bond, regardless of whether you have an address now or not. And we’ll help you. And they did. So they, they organize removalists, the first month’s rent and bond. And without that I wouldn’t have, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. Because I had no resources and my family had no resources. So there was not nobody to back me up.
TARANG CHAWLA: The housing and homelessness sector is in crisis, and has been for some time. Successive Australian governments have failed to invest in affordable housing and social housing, at the same time as house and rent prices have skyrocketed. Owning a home is a dream that’s now out of reach for many Australians.
The most recent census data estimated that there were 116,000 homeless people in Australia on any given night. Of those, less than 20 percent were living in supported accommodation.
HARDEEP SAINI: What I discovered that people who, women especially, who were looking support, because they had to flee, or they are thinking about fleeing, because of family violence or at risk of family violence, they would come to the entry point and someone like me, who will try to, you know, give them a 10 minutes educational tool around what is available in homelessness, and what is the limitation of homelessness sector.
And often you won’t have a house or a unit to offer to the families or to the women, you would offer them a motel, which is not a very good fix for someone who actually have to flee their family home.
HELEN SILVIA: Yeah, so the lack of affordable housing and housing outcomes spanned across the housing spectrum, we know that there is not enough social housing. You know, there’s in excess of 60,000 people in New South Wales on our social housing waitlists.
Many women who are experiencing DV may not even qualify for priority housing on our social housing waitlist, and those wait times could be anywhere from two years to four years. And that’s a good outcome. We know within the affordable housing policy that we have within this, within New South Wales, that typically relies on a woman having a sustainable income of about 60k a year, so really looking at working mums, which a lot of our women aren’t able to sustain full time or unable to sustain sort of low to moderate incomes, particularly if they’ve got young kids. So it precludes them from accessing affordable housing.
Experts advise that Australia should focus on prevention and early intervention. They recommend a move away from crisis accommodation to a ‘housing first’ response to help move people into appropriate long term accommodation.
Homelessness is a solvable problem. With the help of Launch and the Mother and Baby Unit at the Austin Hospital in Melbourne, May…. found a safe home. She was able to give her daughter somewhere to live and a life that felt safer. She even found love again.
MAY: Yeah, we met online. And then it just all happens so fast. So fast, like it was full gaslighting, you know, moved from his house where he lived with his wife of 15 years into my house. And telling me it was just temporary while he was moving out. But he just didn’t leave, he ended up staying and then the kids moved in. And so it was just like this instant Brady Bunch family.
It was so seductive in the sense of, you know, I yearned for family again, to know what it was like, because I’d always had just me and my daughter on my own, I had no idea what it was like, to feel loved and supported and cared for as a family. I had no idea what that felt like. So I just wanted it and I just said yes, and lent into it.
TARANG CHAWLA: Devastatingly, that relationship also became violent.
MAY: There was only a few incidences of physical violence with him before I left because I’d been through it and I’m like, there’s no f**ing way I’m doing this again. There’s no way.
TARANG CHAWLA: May tells us about one occasion, on which her new partner became horribly violent in front of their children. Please be warned that this audio is distressing.
MAY: He was screaming at me and I was screaming back, telling him to stop, like I just wanted him to stop. I was just screaming and begging him to stop screaming at me really. And then the kids were all watching and he jumped up and pinned me against the wall, punched a hole in the wall next to my head and held me by my throat.
And all I can remember is thinking about the kids, because they were all screaming.Three little children under five like absolutely terrorised screaming like, daddy, daddy stop you know, because my daughter called him daddy too. And I just remember thinking this is it. Like there’s absolutely nothing I can do. There’s no way I can fight this for all the warrior, I think I am, I have no control right now. And I remember like him raising his fist and I just shut my eyes and was waiting for the… I was just waiting for the end.
TARANG CHAWLA: An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report found that people living in remote and very remote areas are 24 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of family violence.
MAY: What do I do? And because I was in this little town where I didn’t know anyone there was no one to reach out to and we were even physically quite isolated, like on a property with not really any neighbors and it felt very, very scary.
I called some friends and was like, we got to get out. And a friend came with a van. And we grabbed as much s**t as we could and got his children to their mum. And I left and that was it. And never went back. I think I went back to get my stuff.
TARANG CHAWLA: This is why we so desperately need more safe housing options in regional and remote areas of Australia, as well as those in our cities.
Look, for women who have children with the violent partner, they’re always gonna be at risk of being discovered with the live. Because obviously, they will have relatives and children and children schooling. So often, often She is always on the run, she is looking behind.
HELEN SILVIA: If we had more women being able to get directly into safe their own independent accommodation, we could bypass a lot of crisis accommodation, or if they were staying in crisis accommodation, shorter periods of time, and being able to gain access to their own housing, we’re going to free up a lot of the sort of throughput issues and the demand issues that we’re seeing at that front end.
So I think anytime I talk about demand for crisis accommodation in this country, I can’t talk about that without talking about the bigger issue of access to safe and affordable housing full stop, because without that, we’re going to just continue to see women and kids placed further and further, at vulnerable risk and safety issues.
TARANG CHAWLA: For May, the idea of having a safe home to come home to has become an obsession. For so long she has been running from something or someone, desperate to find somewhere that she could lay her head down at night, where she belongs. Somewhere to plant her feet and build community. It has understandably taken a toll on her mental health and her long term wellbeing.
MAY: I constantly think about, it’s like an obsession I have of looking for somewhere to go, to feel like I can belong and feel safe and have a community, because I don’t have it anymore. Because I’ve had to leave so many times, I don’t have those long relationships with friends. And a lot of my friends here in this community left, and then during lockdown more of them left. So there’s really no one. I sort of stay because my family are close by and I have a partner here now as well.
It’s really unsettled me. It’s really hard to feel like I belong anywhere. And to do that for somebody else, my children. There’s a lot of overthinking, and stress and anxiety that goes into decision making, because I just don’t know. And I don’t trust my ability to make choices anymore, because I made so many bad ones. And see I still blame myself…
TARANG CHAWLA: You may have wondered, during the retelling of May’s story, why the police weren’t able to help her. While many family violence survivors receive appropriate support from police – May’s experience help was not at all positive. It left her deflated, disappointed and unsafe.
That’s why, next week on There’s No Place Like Home, we’ll hear about what happens when the police can’t protect you. And we’ll introduce you to Nina.
NINA*: And I remember that meeting. And I just had to, you know, sit down in front of this man, and he told me, don’t worry, we’re taking care of it. We’re looking into it. We’re investigating, you know, you just need to trust us. And I said, How can I trust you and at that point, like I really knew I really understood the situation that like, this man should have been arrested. And none of these other things would have happened to me.
TARANG: See you then.
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.
For help or advice, please check the show notes for phone numbers for confidential support.
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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.
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