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Forms Of Abuseimages from the stories

Sharin

Once we had legal Australian marriage I thought things would get better, but he was always eating my confidence. Always criticising my dressing, my cleaning, my ugliness… He made me feel unworthy all the time. But then the verbal abuse became physical. One day I would not apologise to him when he again said that my cleaning the house was not to his liking. He became very angry to me. He pulled me off the couch and he pulled me on the floor to the kitchen. When we were in the kitchen he put his knees on my arms. He put his hand at my throat and his other hand he was holding a knife; screaming. His face was red… veins… and his spit. I remember his spit falling in my eyes. I was in so much terror I could not speak. I… I’ve never… ever… felt fear like that. I will never forget it.

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The best way to explain what my husband – my ex-husband – did to me is to say he made me a prisoner – of information. From the first time, flying to Australia as a fiancé, I was completely dependent on him and his family, to help me with the culture shock. I was happy, happy for him to teach me about our new country, teach me how to be a good wife, in our new life here. In my country I was studying. My family are educated… all of them. But here, I knew nothing… how to catch a bus, how to pay a bill… and I knew no-one else. And he used my ignorance as my chains.

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We had a religious wedding in my country, but that is not legal here. So I was travelling on my fiancé’s visa. But we lived as husband and wife, him always putting off the civil marriage, always saying, ‘oh, it’s just a legality’. But he knew, and I did not, that this means I have no rights, as we were not married according to your laws. So, when I began to question his restrictions, his treatment of me, my only option if I wanted to leave him, was to leave the country. And he knew I could not do that. The disgrace to my family would mean I could no longer be taken back into our culture. So I was stuck. The only way I could think to make him marry me was to become submissive wife. Show him, show him I could be ready to make the sacrifices, to make a good marriage. And I was confused, you know, because in the beginning I did love him. I wanted to make good marriage. But slowly… slowly I began to realise how small my life was, to be with him. Because when I tried to find out how to continue my studies or manage a small amount of money, he was very resisting. I was not allowed to drive a car or talk to anyone, without him beside me. Answering, all the time, for me. I was so lonely… confused… When he said I could no longer speak with my family, then I began really to feel I am an exile.

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I tried not to speak back but I was so frustrated. We still had argument… And then, from then there became the pushing, and the shoving… And him always saying, if you don’t like my way, you can go home. It was a threat, hanging above my head.

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I was confused at the station, with all the questions the police was asking me, to get a restraining order or maybe get him out of the house. ‘So many people talking at me, I didn’t understand. I remember a woman police. She said to me, ‘never go back’. But I wasn’t ready to accept and I returned. Then, he made me, in front of all of the family say it was my fault, that I had made him so angry to bash me. And after that I wasn’t allowed speaking to anyone, except for my sister-in-law; my mother-in-law. When I tried to tell them, he is forcing himself on me, they would just say, ‘it is your duty, you are his wife’.

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In the end, he gave me the key to my prison, without knowing it. I asked him if I could study English at the TAFE. It was a way I thought we could make some extra money; maybe find a small job. He didn’t like it but he could see it was a good idea. I was only allowed to go when he could drop me and pick me up, so I couldn’t talk to anybody. But the teacher, she could see, after a few weeks, those of us who were troubled. And she was very kind and smart. And she arranged for referrals for social workers, to speak to us in the class, so no husbands would know.

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After a time, my English, and my confidence, was growing… And finally, with the help of different agencies, I went to the court, and I got a restraining order. It was probably as frightening as it was being in my marriage. They pushed me in the procedures and some of my community turned their backs on me. But at the multicultural agency there were woman there, no Australians, other women from other countries who understood, who supported each other to not go back. We became friends. We meet, we have coffee, we chat. It’s good.

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When I tried to get my own residency, migration was questioning me, saying, ‘how could this relationship be genuine, if you already knew he was violent?’ Why would you go and be married to him. They said that I married him just to stay in the country. I think maybe he knew this, as well. He had me trapped. But the ladies at Legal Aid, they helped me. They helped me to stay in this country…