“Drink, drugs, woman. I didn’t care what he did to me but when he started to pick on my daughter Lisa, who was two and a half at the time…”
For years Stacey* was a victim of domestic violence. She was beaten, threatened and abandoned for days on end. She said that the worst part however, was the harm he did to their daughter and two twin baby boys.
“He just picked her up and said ‘oh you f***** little shit you’re like your mother’ and he put her back over his head and he threw her.”
“She hit the edge of the window and bounced off onto the floor, so I went over, picked her up and was trying to quiet her down, then he took off and I never saw him again for three days,” she said.
“Basically he would come home so rotten drunk and he would just be sick into the kids cots.”
After years of abuse, Stacey finally got out with the help of her Uncle and friend, after hearing her husband was going to leave her with everything.
“What made me finally get out was my Uncle, he came around one night and was the best person you could ever wish for. He said to me ‘you’ve got to listen you’ve got to take this on board, you’ve got to get out he’s planning on leaving you with everything.’”
My Uncle had been down to the pub and he [the husband] was bragging about how he was going to leave, what he had done and what he was going to do before he got out,” she said.
After hearing the news Stacey rang her parents asking to come home with them and then the next day was in touch with a lawyer.
About 15 years later, after many court dates and struggles, when Lisa was in high school, he finally stopped harassing them.
It was at this point she had started doing counselling and parent-line work with the Welfare to try and help women and children who were in the same situation she once was.
Stacey would take in children as her own, from parents who were unable to look after them due to drug abuse and domestic violence.
For 8-9 years Stacey would house different children in her own home and treat them as one of her own, until they were ready to be united with their mother or father again.
The motivation for Stacey to help others, was due to the lack of help she received when she was a victim herself.
All Stacey wanted to do to help, was to make sure children were safe, protected and out of harms way.
“I just think it’s so unfair for the kids to go through something like this and that’s why I wanted to help others, I mean it’s to late for me, but the kids shouldn’t be getting bought into it as well.”
“Because the parents couldn’t get the help they needed, it was better to take the kids out of it and then the mother or father has got the time to sort themselves out,” she said.
“If they can get out they can get out on their own, and I was in the same boat.”
The protection of children in these harmful situations was what drove Stacey to do the work that she did.
“That’s what I often used to think, if I didn’t have the kids well then I would say ‘okay you can get out,’ and that was the only way I thought I could help.”
“So hopefully I’ve helped at lease one person,” she said.
There are organisations today who do similar work that Stacey did to help women and children suffering from domestic violence.
DV Connect is a not for profit organisation that provides special helplines for men, women and parents with children.
Their 24/7 state-wide crisis telephone response service provides people experiencing domestic violence a gateway to finding help, and getting out of the situation safely.
They offer professional and non judgmental support, which is also what Stacey did for women who just needed someone to talk to and feel safe around.
The CEO of DV Connect Diane Mangan said that they are very involved in the practical safety of women and their children as well as over the phone support and help.
“We do make notifications to child safety and we do involve police. So everything we do is based around safety, immediate safety.”
“If a woman phoned us, we would get the police to go and get her and the kids, or get a taxi to pick her up,” she said.
“Or we would have a place lined up for her so that when she did pile the kids in the car she had somewhere to go straight away.”
Diane Mangan said that nowadays these types of situations are dealt with quite differently than what they would of been years ago.
“There is no set rule. Once upon a time there was a set pattern you could expect, but that’s not the case these days.”
“When the police arrive on the doorstep they’ll assess the situation themselves.”
“So if they don’t believe the children have been harmed they may not take them, but they may say to the guy, ‘look mate we are going to take her and the kids’, it just depends on the police officer and the circumstance.”
“Just as many men get awarded custody of children. So those days of women having automatic rights of the children under the law are over.”
The safety of a child in violent situations is the most important factor to consider for any parent.
As in Stacey’s case, the perpetrator will often say things such as “their my kids I can do what I want,” which makes it a lot more complex to leave because the father has rights to the children as well.
Psychologist Sharen Curtis said that helping women get out of a violent relationship is hard already, while adding kids makes it even more complicated.
“I think is way more complex to leave once there are children, it is obviously more important you do so but it is more complex.”
“The husband might be okay with letting her go, but very few men will be okay with letting the children go, so I think once there are children involved it becomes way more complex,” she said.
“Unfortunately a lot of women originally leave without the children and it’s almost like they will go back for them, then they have to fight to get them which is the difficult thing.”
As a professional psychologist Sharen said there has to be a lot of sensitivity in the the process of helping the woman leave, because usually women rely on the perpetrator for financial stability, and a roof over their head.
“So it’s not as easy for us to say ‘get out’ there is so much to consider.”
“That’s why there needs to be a considered response so that we’ve got time to work on where this person and children can go and feel safe,” she said.
“Even when you talk to women about leaving half the time they know staying there is really dangerous, but it also provides them with a roof and security financially.”
Stacey’s final words were advice for woman who are experiencing any kind of domestic violence.
“Talk about it.”
“Find someone you can talk to and there is plenty of people that that aren’t going to judge you and a problem shared is a problem halved, she said.
“Once i started talking about it I felt so much better. Find someone else that might be on their own and just see and ask them questions, then they might open up then you think ‘ok maybe i am not the only one like it.’”
*Names have been changed to protect the people who have experienced domestic violence.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call out for support.
In an emergency dial 000
DV Connect: 1800 811 811
Mensline: 1800 600 636
Sexual Assault Line: 1800 010 120