Earlier this year, the ABS released new analysis around the characteristics of most recent physical assault incidents. Research showed women were more likely to have been kicked, bitten, hit with a fist or choked when the perpetrator was a male partner compared with another known male (such as family member or friend).
Physical injuries were also sustained at a higher rate from partners than other known males. And only one in five women sought advice or support from a GP after being assaulted by a male partner^.
Beyond the overwhelming statistics of domestic abuse are the hearts, minds and lives of the real women who experience the violence. At BaptistCare HopeStreet, we witness women living in distress every day, terrorised and vulnerable.
When our team first met Natalie*, she hadn’t showered in a week; she was homeless, and living in a broken-down car with her abusive partner – who had caused her permanent disability two years ago, blinding her in one eye.
“When I first went to HopeStreet, I’d never asked for help before. I didn’t like the thought of people going out of their way for me. Everyone there made me feel very comfortable,” said Natalie.
BaptistCare HopeStreet provides practical and personal support including fresh clothing, a hot shower, and a hearty meal to those in need. On first contact, our team did the same for Natalie.
Christina, who would later become Natalie’s Client Support Worker, said every time Natalie walked through the door she received a warm welcome. “We could see she was hurting. Natalie would cry every time we were kind to her. I think she had been made to feel very disempowered and made to feel invisible.”
Natalie’s naturally positive disposition allowed her to view life as an adventure even in the hardest times when the rest of us see only helplessness and despair. She had left Sydney with her partner, Jacob*, for the promise of a new life and a well-paid farm management position. There was hope this opportunity would set them on a new path, but their vehicle blew up on the highway.
“I often wouldn’t know where I was sleeping that night, whether I’d be stuffed into the car, in a hotel or couch surfing. The experiences were absolutely horrible. But even when I had to sleep in a squat I could convince myself it was like camping,” said Natalie.
When the mechanic came back with a quote they couldn’t afford and they missed their window for the job, Jacob started using drugs. “He thought he was Superman, he thought he was God. His addiction got so bad he started stealing for the drugs,” said Natalie.
Natalie says she was lenient on Jacob due to everything she knew; his mental health issues, his upbringing, and his family history.
Jacob is now serving jail time for just one of the many times he physically harmed Natalie.
Beyond personal and practical support, we were able to connect Natalie with the local Assertive Outreach Team who found her secure temporary accommodation, and then a long-term rental flat. Our team provided Natalie with everything she needed to create a home, from linen and towels, to cookware, books and furniture.
For the first time in a long time Natalie feels safe, independent and happy. “The BaptistCare HopeStreet team helped me so much. It was overwhelming, I cried and cried. When you’re in a place where you have no hope and you’ve hit rock bottom, it’s important to have those people around you.
BaptistCare HopeStreet comes alongside women to help them have new choices and rebuild their lives. You can, too. Visit hopestreet.org/donate today.