**TW// discusses details of domestic abuse**
Life can sometimes take a turn for the worse.
Without warning, suddenly the guardrails are off and we find the things we have taken for granted have gone.
Hope seems a distant, unattainable goal, while isolation presses in like a prison cell.
But no, we’re not talking about the pandemic. We’re talking about Steph*.
Like most of us, Steph was young and trusting when she met her partner. She had no reason not to be. They were both studying at university, and he was charming. Life was … ‘normal’. She had no idea he would become a violent man who she no longer recognised.
The trigger was Steph falling pregnant with their first child. It was only then that life became a rollercoaster. He was adamant they move to New Zealand to be closer to his family, and that they had to get married. His family heaped on the pressure for that too. They were warning signs, but Steph eventually gave in — to ‘keep them happy’ and because her lack of residency made her vulnerable.
It wasn’t long before his controlling behaviours began to emerge. It didn’t help that they were living with his family, whose lack of support for Steph left her feeling isolated.
But it was when he punched his young wife that life really took a turn. He’d accused her of cheating on him, and ‘lost the plot’ when she denied it.
“Often what should have been normal conversations between us would suddenly turn into an attack,” Steph says, articulating what for so many people is often the hardest thing to take — the loss of a ‘normal’ life.
And Steph is not alone. Sadly, many women are in Steph’s position and have feelings of fear, anxiety, vulnerability, uncertainty, isolation, lack of self-worth and loss of hope, as a result of suffering through violence.
“He became so aggressive and temperamental that I was scared every time I knew he was due to come home,” Steph reflected. “I was constantly tiptoeing around him, trying to keep him happy, and whenever I tried to suggest we part ways, or even make an attempt to leave, he would reel me back in, telling me that he wanted us to still be a family and making things seem like they would be okay.” At the same time though, he told Steph she was useless and that he wanted her to move out. The one time she followed through and tried to leave, he punched her in the stomach — two weeks after she had given birth!
Help give hope to victims of domestic abuse today
Life was intolerable.
But through a random encounter with a social worker, who recognised the warning signs, it was suggested Steph contact Shine, a charity that is there to support victims of domestic violence.
“I arrived in the refuge just days before I went into labour with my third baby, and immediately they helped me make a birthing plan,” Steph says. “They provided baby clothes, bedding, and everything I needed for the new baby and my other two children.”
Counselling through Shine followed, and Steph’s children were offered counselling through KIDshine, a specialist programme for children who have been exposed to domestic violence. They stayed at the refuge for four months, putting the pieces of their lives back together and forging a path towards a more hopeful life.
Shine has been giving hope to vulnerable women since 1990 through its multiple services, such as the helpline, advocacy, KIDshine, safety programmes, and, of course, the Shine refuges. But they don’t happen without financial support — and that’s where you come in — you can make a tangible and lasting difference to the lives of families who have experienced domestic violence.
Please consider making a gift today so that we can continue to provide hope to the people that need it most.
*Name changed to protect identity.