Rebuilding confidence in a traumatised mother
After what she describes as six years of ‘dying everyday from verbal, emotional and spiritual abuse’ Maira*, born overseas, fled her abusive partner with her children. She had only been in Australia five months, and had just ten dollars to her name.
While she was struggling with depression and panic attacks after leaving, Maira’s young children were also not doing well. They themselves were victims of violence both directly and as witnesses, but their own trauma was not addressed while the family initially lived in a series of confined, cooped up motels. There was only infrequent phone contact from support staff and the family moved several times. Halal food was not available. Maira felt there was no space for grieving, and recovery from what she saw as spiritual abuse.
One of Maira’s daughters began taking on the abusive traits of her father and became rude and disrespectful to her mother, adding to the distress and tension within the family in the claustrophobic motel setting.
‘I told my case manager everything, and one by one she referred me’ – Maira
After weeks moving from motel to motel, the traumatised family came to a McAuley refuge, and began getting the help they needed as well as the space to come to terms with all they’d experienced. The children were linked to day-care, with McAuley workers helping to navigate their admission and liaising to explain their circumstances and the children’s individual needs.
Maira believes day-care built her daughter’s confidence by ‘50%’, and the behaviours which had become a concern were able to be addressed.
Maira was also supported by McAuley through difficult legal processes. Her husband was applying for custody of the children and Maira’s case workers helped her prepare by documenting the violence and working with child protection to ensure that this history was taken into account. She also began an education skills course at a local community centre.
‘I didn’t know a single other person going through what I was’ – Maira
Maira had lost confidence in herself as a mother and was extremely lonely and isolated. Just as important as the practical support were the opportunities to connect with other women. She began cooking as a volunteer at McAuley House’s weekly community lunches, and was relieved to know her sense of belonging within McAuley would continue even after she was supported to move into longer-term housing. In her early time at McAuley, Maira sometimes felt she would have no choice but to re-unite with her abusive husband, but with support around her, she now feels she and her children have a future.
*Maira is not her real name.