Part of a series of 16 stories featuring women we have accompanied through the Finding Safety Project, shared for the 16 Days of Activism.
As a member of a minority group in her home country, Rona* was at the forefront of her people’s struggle for equal rights. She faced integration, forced imprisonment and sexual and gender-based violence (‘SGBV’) at the hands of security forces.
Due to the stigma attached to SGBV in her community, Rona carried deep shame and guilt about this experience. She did not feel comfortable confiding in her husband.
Nevertheless, Rona continued to work hard in her role at an NGO, and took an opportunity to attend a training program in Australia. Rona’s family sold household items to purchase her flight to Sydney, hoping this could be a chance at a new start for their family.
When she arrived in Sydney, Rona felt lucky to be hosted by a family from her country of origin, although that came with some challenges.
Rona felt pressured to attend the host family’s church despite having a different religious background. Rona would do so, despite feeling deeply uncomfortable, because she felt guilty about her dependence on the family given she could not afford to contribute financially to the household.
This prolonged period without agency and without a voice in the wake of surviving targeted sexual violence, deeply affected Rona’s mental health.
It was not until Rona was introduced to the Finding Safety team that she was finally able to safely disclose her experiences and begin the journey of supporting herself to move forward.
Rona was connected with a specialised SGBV caseworker who was able to offer Rona counselling and refer her to further health, immigration and legal support.
Creating opportunities for a woman to rebuild her life after experiencing SGBV is crucial. The Finding Safety Project was able to help Rona take these steps by providing financial assistance and material aid, including to help Rona acquire identification documents, open a bank account and purchase a mobile phone.
Additionally, Rona was offered accommodation in a granny flat at a substantially subsidised rate. This financial assistance was provided to support her until she found meaningful employment through the JRS Employment Program.
The JRS Women’s Space also provided Rona with a safe place to participate in community activities and build social connections with women who could empathise with her experiences. Rona was able to find joy in the company of friends and develop a renewed sense of belonging.
Rona has expressed that the support she received from the Finding Safety Project was an important lifeline for her, at a time when very few other avenues of assistance were available.
“I don’t know what I would’ve done without the support I received from you. I must’ve done something good in my life to deserve this.”
*name changed to protect story-teller’s identity
16 Days of Activism
JRS Australia is participating in the call to action presented by the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women and Girls. This story has been shared as part of our “16 Days, 16 Stories” Campaign for 2023, focusing on the work we do through our Finding Safety Project to support women on temporary visas who have experienced or are at risk of sexual or gender-based violence.
We sincerely hope that reading these stories, and learning more about the important work our Finding Safety Project does in the absence of any other coordinated or government support, will inspire you to invest in us, invest in the women we serve, and invest in a future where women and girls are free from all forms of violence.
Visit our 16 Days, 16 Stories campaign page to learn more.