Violence against women from a partner or ex-partner remains a prominent issue despite growing awareness.
As a survivor of domestic violence, I made the news in 2018 as part of the government’s 16 Days to End Family and Domestic Violence campaign.
The article (inset above) was titled ‘Flight to Safety: Top WA Businesswoman reveals how she fled Sydney in fear’.
Telling my story was not easy but I participated to show that domestic violence happens to women in all parts of society. I did it to save women’s lives.
This year’s campaign, from November 25-December 10, comes at a time when violence against women from a partner or ex-partner remains a prominent issue.
I was not destined to be in a violent relationship; it just happened.
I never suffered violence growing up at home. I was raised in a progressive household where Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch was well-thumbed and regularly discussed, as were the rights of women.
I was encouraged to be my own person and became fiercely independent.
But things happen in life and when devastating events come one after the other, our ability to be the best version of ourselves becomes impossible.
The abuse I suffered was both mental and physical. It went on for five years and brewed during a perfect storm of life-defining moments: dropping out of school; moving out of home; and the death of my beloved grandfather, who had been my father figure.
Any of those things in isolation would be considered big: moments in time when you need to draw upon your resilience as well as rely on support and positive guidance.
I simply did not have enough of any of it.
Instead, I was in a relationship with a man who wanted to control everything I did and everyone I did it with.
He played a long game, slowly luring me in until I had given myself over to him completely.
When I said I needed to learn to drive, he replied it wasn’t necessary as he took me everywhere I needed to go. When we bought a house, I paid the mortgage, which left me almost no funds of my own. When he took me to the train station to buy my weekly ticket, he would put his hand out for the change.
I ceded control because it was easier and safer.
He liked to show me off in restaurants and at parties, only to be enraged with jealousy that would boil over in public and had consequences when we got home.
Following abusive incidents, he would make grand public gestures including unexpectedly arriving at work with expensive gifts over which my colleagues would gush what a lucky girl I was.
I told no-one how violent and menacing he was.
My escape took time and planning. In the months that followed I was fuelled by a self-devised mantra: ‘Staying with him ruined five years of my life, I will not let him ruin one minute more’.
Wanting to feel safe, I moved to Perth and became what I term a ‘domestic violence refugee’.
Yes, I am a survivor of domestic violence, but I have thrived in the years that have followed.
I am fortunate to have had the chance to create a new life.
Domestic violence has no place in our society, yet it occurs every day and often with devastating consequences.
According to a study by academics at Melbourne University “In Australia, women are three times more likely to experience intimate partner violence (IPV) – physical and/or sexual – in their lifetime. It stands at 23 per cent compared with 7.3 per cent of men.” That violence can be physical, emotional and/or economic.
The figures show that what happened to me happens to women everywhere, including those we work alongside. Women who live in fear, scared of partners or ex-partners, and who have little or no control over their lives. Women who have lost their lives to violent men, such as barrister Alice McShera and water polo coach Lilie James.
Workplaces offering domestic violence leave and support are to be commended. Recognising that employers play a role in dealing with this issue is but one of the many awakenings that is required.
From my point of view, boys need be raised to respect women. Men simply need to. As a society we must call out any lack of respect.
• Marion Fulker is an adjunct associate professor at UWA
Women's Domestic Violence Helpline 1800 007 339
Men's Domestic Violence Helpline 1800 000 599
National Helpline 1800 RESPECT