Part of a series of 16 stories featuring women we have accompanied through the Finding Safety Project, shared for the 16 Days of Activism.
Wijdan*’s country of origin is heavily impacted by war. These conditions exposed Wijdan and her community to interpersonal and structural violence.
When Wijdan began experiencing violence in her home, there was limited support available, and no access to safety. Wijdan made the decision to flee to Australia in pursuit of a better life.
On arrival, however, Wijdan experienced new threats to her safety and wellbeing.
Like many people in Wijdan’s position, she hoped to create a safe pathway for her children, but Wijdan has not seen or heard from her children for many years after their father cut off contact. Her children remain with him in Wijdan’s country of origin, and the legal system does not recognise her right to reunification.
Eventually, Wijdan remarried in Sydney, but within months she found herself again subject to life-threatening domestic violence perpetrated by her new husband.
Wijdan was able to escape by seeking refuge with her sister-in-law, and took the necessary steps to secure an Apprehended Violence Order against her husband, which resulted in his arrest.
Due to deeply held cultural norms, Wijdan faced serious pressure from her family to drop the charges against her husband despite the risk he posed to her life. This pressure was compounded by Wijdan’s dependence on her family-in-law for accommodation and financial support.
When judges refused to dismiss the case, Wijdan was blamed by her family and asked to leave her sister-in-law’s home. After facing homelessness, Wijdan had no option but to return to live with her husband once he was released on bail.
When the violence escalated again, Wijdan contacted the police who broke into their home and arrested him.
Despite ongoing threats from her husband and his network while he was in remand, Wijdan was not given any opportunity or support by the justice system to move to a safer location, such as a refuge.
Once Wijdan contacted the Finding Safety team, we were able to provide her with accommodation and immediate financial assistance.
Wijdan was also connected with free legal support and a counselling service which she accessed through our dedicated Women’s Space in Western Sydney. These wrap-around services supported Wijdan to navigate the legal practicalities of her situation, while addressing the mental and emotional implications of experiencing violence.
The JRS Women’s Space also provided Wijdan with a safe environment to participate in community activities, where she was able to meet women with similar experiences and break through the isolation that is commonly experienced by survivors of abuse.
Wijdan’s story is an example of how violence against women is entrenched through a lack of safe alternatives. The Finding Safety Project attempts to bridge this gap specifically in the context of women on temporary visas.
*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.