‘I am independent’: Women create safety and autonomy after experiencing violence

29 April 2023

domestic violence - stock image
Stock image

It was a proud moment when Clarise (not her real name) received her student visa. She had worked hard to secure admission into a master’s program, and the visa was the first step in her academic journey that she hoped would lead to a fulfilling career in Australia. It was an exciting time and life felt full of promise.

When she arrived in Australia, she brought a few of her belongings in her luggage along with a commitment in her heart to work hard. This was her opportunity and she was not going to let it go.

But before long, her partner became violent and she and her child had to flee.

Dealing with a violent partner is difficult for anyone, but when you are on a student visa with limited income and no family, your options are fewer and your difficulties greater. This is where JRS Australia stepped in to help Clarise.

Her ex-partner’s family started making phone calls to pressure her to return to him. But Clarise was determined not to let anyone hurt her or her child again. She could not return to her country of origin, though, because she has no support there and would be at risk of further violence as a punishment for escaping the violent relationship.

Another organisation that had been providing her with financial aid referred Clarise to the JRS Australia’s Women’s Space. Our case workers quickly identified the many ways that the violence Clarise had experienced was impacting her and her son’s lives.

‘JRS helped me very much financially because I was bankrupt. I told them my needs and they listened and supported me immediately,’ Clarise recalls.

Clarise’s difficulties are many and inter-related. Clarise wants to work, but because she is not entitled to the childcare subsidy, she cannot afford to put her son in childcare. As she cannot work without childcare, she needs ongoing financial support.

But our case workers also saw that she was determined to create safety and independence for herself and her son, and they committed to help her.

I feel I have the capacity to be who I am, I am myself, I am independent. JRS has helped me be the best person I can be. I feel comforted and respected.

Unable to maintain a private rental with the financial assistance she had received, Clarise had to seek other living arrangements and eventually, with the support of her JRS caseworker, she and her son were able to move to a women’s refuge, where they are staying safely.

‘When I got evicted from my home, JRS helped me settle in my new place. I felt safe and secure with my son.’

It is not her preferred place to live, but she knows it is only temporary until she can become more financially secure. She also knows that JRS Australia will continue to walk with her on her journey to independence. ‘Sometimes things got tricky in my new home, but the case workers helped me to advocate for myself and my son’s needs.’

JRS Australia’s Sexual and Gender-Based Violence case workers helped Clarise successfully apply for the Status Resolution Support Service (SRSS), a federal program that provides support to people who do not qualify for Centrelink, JobSeeker or other social safety net payments.

Clarise no longer requires financial aid from JRS Australia and can concentrate on her recovery and the next steps towards a safe and happy life with her son.

Recently, Clarise had to go to court to extend the judge’s order for her and her son’s protection. She was nervous to see her ex-partner again, but she had built up enough self-confidence to attend and was pleased to report that the court extended the protection orders.

‘I feel free to be able to concentrate on other things, like going to court which is very foreign to me. The caseworkers helped me build confidence and strength to face the courts and be able to give my evidence.’

This gives Clarise a sense of relief and a freedom to continue taking steps towards her goals of employment, financial stability and her own choice of accommodation for herself and her son.

‘I feel I have the capacity to be who I am, I am myself, I am independent. JRS has helped me be the best person I can be. I feel comforted and respected.’