Yasmin’s story: ‘Baby steps’ to a new beginning
Looking around today at her new, permanent apartment in McAuley’s Wilma’s Place development, Yasmin describes it as ‘a dream’. Yet since migrating to Australia seven years ago with her husband, much of her life was more like a nightmare.
There had already been warning signs and acts of violence in her marriage in her home country, located in south-East Asia. But when the couple, who were both professionally educated, arrived in Australia with residency visas, things rapidly deteriorated.
‘He was angry and frustrated that he couldn’t get work in his field, and instead had to do factory work. Money was always a problem,’ says Yasmin. ‘We were isolated, and had no family here – plus there was just the shock of a new culture and way of life.’ Then the pandemic hit, intensifying the tensions, and the violence became more terrifying and frequent.
Yasmin says, ‘I knew in my heart that his behaviour wasn’t right. There were so many red flags, but then things were in a cycle and sometimes he would be okay to me or promise to change. Of course, he never acted that way in front of anyone else’.
‘The ups and downs made it like walking on eggshells. But I started to realise I might actually be killed.’
Yasmin had noticed the 1800 Respect crisis number on a fridge magnet with other emergency phone numbers. It was a huge decision to make that first call and then head to a police station before being offered a place in a refuge.
Though physically safe, the weeks which followed were distressing. Her husband filed a missing persons report in an effort to find her location. Meanwhile Yasmin recalls this as ‘a very bad time in my life. The loneliness was overwhelming. I somehow felt guilty, and sorry for him, so stupidly I went back.’
Yasmin can now recognise the abusive and manipulative pattern of her husband. ‘He was on his best behaviour when I went back. These men are very clever. But they don’t change.’ Soon enough the violence returned. Yasmin again reached out for help. ‘This time I had a different plan. And I left forever.’
Yasmin found her local Orange Door very supportive, and they offered her the chance to return to her home country. Yasmin took up this opportunity but it wasn’t a happy experience. Her mother had dementia, and her husband was bombarding relatives and friends with false accounts of what had happened and exerting pressure for her to return to him.
Yasmin decided her future lay in Australia where she had previously been able to get work, but on return found herself homeless and couch surfing. A stay in crisis housing was not safe; with males present and incidents such as a door being kicked down, Yasmin said she was just in survival mode when the opportunity arose to move to McAuley House Footscray.
‘They really helped me to recover,’ she says. ‘Everything I needed was right there. I had serious health problems and injuries, and there were a nurse and help with dietary advice to manage my condition on site.’ She was also helped to access specialist trauma counselling through a Flexible Support Package, and took part in yoga, meditation and art classes, producing beautiful work such as pictured on the right.
After a few months there and gradually healing both mentally and physically, Yasmin was offered a new, long-term lease on a new apartment within Wilma’s Place. She is now working as well, and through McAuley’s legal assistance partner WEstjustice, is taking steps to divorce her husband.
She encourages others who might also be alone and not sure where to get help – or whether what they are experiencing is family violence – to make that first call to 1800 Respect.
Looking back at her journey and the difference her new home has made, Yasmin says: ‘It’s great here, very peaceful. I know it will be a slow recovery. I’m just taking baby steps.’