Learning to live and give again
"Melinda" is able to trust again after overcoming prolonged domestic violence.
“MELINDA” describes herself as sensitive and caring.
She was always quick with a sympathetic ear and was easily trusting of people.
But eight years ago her former partner took advantage of that personality.
Melinda, not her real name, now carries a scar just above her eye and is working hard to rebuild her life after an intense six months of daily physical and psychological abuse.
“It started off with very subtle gestures,” she said, recalling the start of her partner’s abuse in 2002.
“He would mention how he didn’t like my friends. He said that they scared him.
“Then when we went out with people, he would just keep quiet and give me this mean look when I was talking.”
Melinda’s finances were next.
“He made me give him all my bank cards and my bank details,” she said. “I was working full-time but all the money went to him. On a good day he would give me about $10 a week to spend.”
Melinda would visit charity services for a meal and winter clothes.
She wasn’t surprised when the slaps and punches eventually arrived.
After each battering her partner would often revert to the same excuses.
“He would always tell me that I pushed him, I provoked him and he would say ‘look at what you made me do’,” she said.
The incident that pushed Melinda to seek help was after a particularly brutal episode where her partner threw a chair at her, gashing her face just beneath the eye.
After he stormed out she called her friends who begged her to call the police. Her partner was arrested and put on a good behaviour bond.
Melinda changed cities and started a new life. She remarried two years ago and recently gave birth to a child.
As the Whittlesea Leader reported last week, reports of family violence in Whittlesea rose above the stage average this financial year to 704 per 100,000 population.
The Victorian average is 604.
Kildonan Uniting Care’s men behavioural program co-ordinator Brett Tomlinson last week said a combination of poor communication in the home and rising financial pressures contributed to domestic violence. But Melinda disagreed.
“Domestic violence is not about tight finances,” she said. “It’s about power and possession. If it was simply about money then every single man would be beating their wives right now.”
Melinda believed that, since Whittlesea had a high number of families, instances of domestic violence were often unreported in favour of preserving family unity.
“You look at the (Whittlesea’s) demographics and there are a lot of couples,” she said. “It does cultivate that community attitude of ‘we must try to make it work no matter what’, which is really a methodology for disaster.”
Last week, State Parliament introduced the Family Violence Protection Act. Victoria Police will now have new powers to remove spouses and parents from abusive homes for up to three days.
Melinda applauded the new legalisation and hoped it would give the legal protection to women that was unavailable to her.
“I did go to counselling. It took me a long time to trust somebody again,” she said.
The Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service runs 24 hours a day on 9373 0123.