People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds

Cautionary note: some people may find reading these victim experiences distressing or traumatising.

These de-identified victim experiences summarise the content of interviews undertaken with people who have experienced domestic and family violence and legal system engagement. The interviewees’ names and some minor details of their narratives have been changed to protect their identities. In many cases the names have been selected by the interviewees.

The key words align with the contents covered in the National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book.

  • Angelina was born overseas and English is her second language. She met Barry after coming to Australia on a student visa. She was working to support herself; and studying to improve her English skills and have her foreign professional qualifications recognised. Barry had a responsible job. Neither had been married or in a long-term relationship. They soon started living together as a couple, and Angelina applied for a partner visa with Barry as her sponsor. They registered their defacto relationship and separated after nearly twelve months. There are no children.

    Early on in the relationship, Barry urged Angelina to get a different job that didn’t involve night and weekend shifts so that she could be home to take care of the cooking and house, and available to go on short breaks and holidays with Barry. Angelina however enjoyed her job and was happy to work hard for good pay. Barry kept insisting until one day when Angelina was leaving for work, he hid the car keys. Eventually, he gave her the keys, but told her it was ‘the last time’ he would allow it. Barry tried, and failed, to find Angelina a full-time weekday job for higher pay, so she was forced to give up her shift work and become a ‘housewife’ to Barry. While bored and frustrated at home, she applied for countless positions without success. Barry pushed her to apply for roles that she had not yet qualified for; she resisted.

    Barry took more and more control of their daily lives. He scheduled weekends away according to a strict timetable that didn’t suit Angelina; he took her on long car trips that Angelina found unpleasant, and wouldn’t allow her to listen to the music she likes; and he chose destinations that she didn’t enjoy. Angelina would not tolerate being dictated to, and they argued frequently. Often, Barry reminded her that he controlled her visa, and threatened to write to the immigration authority withdrawing his sponsorship. Barry had all of Angelina’s immigration documents and details in his possession.

    In time, Angelina got another shift job that she was reasonably content with. Barry was angry because she was earning less money and he complained that her English was getting worse. Barry demanded that Angelina transfer all of her wages to him, and he would then put an amount each week in a joint account that she could access to pay for groceries and household expenses. Again, Angelina questioned these demands asserting that she was happy to share, but was also entitled to her own money to buy, for example, gifts for him. Barry never deposited enough money in the joint account, and Angelina had to regularly ask for more, which she found humiliating. Meanwhile, Barry was free to spend his wage and the balance of Angelina’s wage as he pleased.

    Angelina was made responsible for cooking and household duties while also working and studying. He criticised and belittled her efforts around the house. He bought her clothes that she felt were age inappropriate and uncomfortable. Sex occurred on Barry’s terms without any regard for Angelina’s wishes. He told her she was required to sleep with him as a condition of the visa, and if she didn’t, he would report her. He also told Angelina that Australian women manipulated men so they could have children, and acquire the majority share of income and assets before divorcing them. Angelina concluded that Barry had pursued her because he believed he could take advantage of her visa dependency.

    When they first met, Barry spoke to Angelina of his many friends; however, the only person they ever saw was Barry’s mother. Barry refused invitations for them to spend time with some of Angelina’s close family members who lived nearby. He monitored her phone and internet activity. Barry objected to Angelina speaking her first language. On one occasion when she was on the phone to a family member in her home country, Barry wielded a knife demanding that she end the conversation and cook dinner. Angelina was aware that Barry also kept rifles at home.

    Angelina was becoming increasingly isolated, demeaned and depressed by Barry’s abuse. She started working more to get away from him. Barry then set up a whiteboard in the kitchen recording her rosters; he would ring and text her repeatedly at work demanding to know her shift times. Angelina says she felt like a slave: working long hours, being constantly monitored, and relinquishing her wages.

    The situation became intolerable for Angelina and she left to stay with a friend. A family member encouraged her to get some advice from the support service at the local Magistrates’ Court. She was referred to other services that helped her with her visa application and recommended she apply for a protection order. She also started seeing a psychologist as her emotional health and confidence had deteriorated markedly.

    After separation, Barry went to Angelina’s workplace and spoke with her employer more than once, embarrassing Angelina. He followed her; and Angelina believes he broke into her relatives’ home and stole goods. Barry went to Angelina’s home and took photos of her and the car licence plate. It was at that point that she rang the police, and then proceeded to obtain a temporary protection order. Police advised her that Barry had tried to avoid service. On the hearing date she felt pressured to accept a two-year undertaking for Barry to be of good behaviour towards her. Barry’s lawyer told her it would be sufficient, and that a protection order wasn’t necessary. She therefore offered an undertaking and Barry’s lawyer agreed to it on behalf of Barry on the basis that she provide a reciprocal undertaking. Angelina felt humiliated by this tactic; she refused to provide the undertaking and insisted that the matter be heard. Barry gave the undertaking and the matter was dismissed. She felt the Magistrate was understanding of her circumstances and could see that Barry was an untruthful opportunist.

    Barry has made no contact with Angelina since the court date. Angelina left the relationship with only her clothes and personal possessions. She is entitled to be reimbursed the wages she earned and to retrieve furniture she purchased, however she would rather forgo her rights than have any further involvement with Barry. Angelina is on medication to cope with the depression she has suffered as a consequence of Barry’s abuse. She is trying hard to re-establish her family and social networks, and to complete her studies.

  • Celina and David grew up in the same country of origin, however at the time they met through an online dating website, David had been living in Australia for 7 years, and Celina was still living in her home country with her mother. Celina also has a sister and family living in Australia. Both Celina and David have been married previously, are professionally qualified and aged in their thirties. David has a primary-school age child who lives with his former wife and spends regular weekend and holiday time with David. After Celina and David married overseas, David promptly returned to Australia and Celina applied to Australian Immigration for a joint visa for herself and her mother, with David as their sponsor. When the visa was granted, Celina resigned from her professional employment and travelled to Australia to live with David; Celina’s mother followed a few months later to allow them some time to settle in together.

    Celina speaks fondly of her early days living with David. She described him as gentlemanly, respectful, loving and enthusiastic about showing her the sights of the exciting city she had moved to. Celina had experienced stigma in her own culture due to being a divorced woman, and felt that her marriage to David restored her dreams for a good life and a family. She was committed to supporting David in caring for his child, and believes she made a genuine effort to build a relationship. When the child was staying with Celina and David, Celina would take care of the child’s needs, prepare meals and do the housekeeping while David went to work. This was not a lifestyle Celina was accustomed to having been employed and independent for many years. Celina was unable to get employment while on a temporary visa and was therefore entirely financially dependent on David.

    One evening, around a month after Celina arrived in Australia, David’s behaviour towards her changed abruptly. It was the child’s birthday and they had planned to collect the child from the mother’s house and go out for dinner. Celina had prepared and wrapped presents. David refused to allow Celina to travel in the car on the basis that it would upset the child’s mother. Instead, she was dropped somewhere close to a big junction on the way and was pushed out of the car by force. In the middle of an unfamiliar area, she walked down the street and stopped at a supermarket and decided to wait there as it was getting dark and she didn’t know where else to go being still new to Australia. She was left for several hours until David eventually collected her. Celina found herself highly distressed, at night in unfamiliar surrounds, and confused and hurt by David’s inconsiderate treatment. Not knowing what to do, she rang his parents and her own mother (all living overseas) seeking their advice and comfort. She pleaded with David’s father to contact David and ask him to collect her. David’s mother told her that David had a bad temper but he couldn’t afford to have another marriage fail. Celina’s mother advised that she must try hard to make the marriage work. When David collected Celina later that evening, he shouted abuse at her, claiming that she was trouble and had ruined the child’s birthday, and that he didn’t want a woman who wouldn’t obey him. Once home, David left Celina in the car crying for half an hour then returned and grabbed and shook her violently. Considerably smaller than David, Celina felt scared and weak and asked him to stop; he then dragged her out of the car and pushed her away. Celina fell and hit her head on the concrete driveway resulting in a painful bump to her head and wounded right foot. David dragged her into the house where she laid crying and shaking on the floor while he had a meal. Seemingly to revive her, David began slapping Celina repeatedly on both cheeks, and then tossed a bucket of water over her face. Some hours later, Celina managed to get to her feet and make her way to their bed; however, David had gone to sleep in the child’s bedroom, which Celina was shocked by so early in their time living together. In the days following, David apologised to Celina, but remained angry about her contacting the parents and sharing details of their marriage, which he believed should remain private.

    Over time, David demanded that Celina take on more and more of the household duties and child caring responsibilities. David began scolding and verbally abusing Celina in the presence of the child who mimicked his father’s behaviour towards her. Celina was not allowed a phone of her own; instead, David would give her his personal mobile while he was at work and he would use his office mobile to call her incessantly through the day, principally to tell her what he wanted done and to get details of the meals and snacks she was preparing for the child. When David returned home, he would check the activity and search history on his personal mobile and inspect the food in the fridge and cupboards. So demeaned by this suspicious conduct, Celina decided to document meals and activities through the day by taking digital photographs and loading them on David’s Dropbox so he could inspect and verify them. David only ever gave Celina small amounts of cash to cover public transport costs to and from the child’s school; otherwise, she had no access to any funds. He also accused her of secreting spare coins for her own use. They argued daily about David’s demands and Celina’s resistance to comply. David would often skype his parents and complain to them about Celina being a bad wife, aware that Celina was listening.

    Not long after the incident on the child’s birthday, David had an argument with the child’s mother at a changeover occasion and, in full view of the child, tried to strangle her. The child’s mother called the police who subsequently issued a protection order against David. Celina believed that he was also charged with assault and the matter would go to a hearing. At the same time Celina’s relationship with David was deteriorating, David was putting pressure on Celina to provide a character reference (character evidence) for the court. He told her it was her chance to do something for him and to save the marriage. His lawyer told her that a strong reference from her as David’s wife would be highly persuasive to the court. Celina made a number of attempts to write a favourable reference, but felt conflicted and wronged given David’s ongoing abuse. She kept the reference to herself, unsigned, knowing that the hearing date was still some months away.

    As planned, Celina’s mother travelled to Australia with David after he had been on a brief visit to their home country. They were to live together in the same house, and Celina’s mother was to share the child’s bedroom. David however insisted that the child sleep between him and Celina while the mother stayed in the other room. Celina tried to talk with David about alternative and more comfortable sleeping arrangements, but he wasn’t amenable. One night, Celina was left with so little room in the bed that she fell out and injured herself. David handed her over to her mother and went back to sleep. Celina and her mother were forced to sleep together in a very small bed. Thereafter, they spent most nights on the couches in the living room. The marital relationship soured and sexual relations ceased, yet Celina continued to make an effort to look after David’s child and keep the household going despite suffering diarrhoea, headaches, muscle and back pain, and feelings of stress and depression.

    Another evening (in the presence of Celina and her mother), David skyped his parents, again complaining about Celina. During the conversation, Celina tried to correct David’s claims and explain her experience of his behaviour. David called her (in their first language) a prostitute and accused her of having sex with her mother because they slept together. He then wielded a coffee cup as if to throw it at her when Celina’s mother physically intervened. Later, as he became increasingly intoxicated, he told them both to leave the house before he turned into an animal; he said he would refuse them food and drinks and get rid of them if they caused trouble with his child. He threatened to separate them and send Celina’s mother back to her home country. When David was asleep, Celina and her mother went to a neighbour who called the police. Celina believed the police were sympathetic to her situation and could see that David was volatile and dangerous. While Celina and her mother were at the police station, David arrived and began arguing with the officers in an aggressive manner. The police returned Celina and her mother to David’s home as they were unable to find emergency accommodation for them due to their not being permanent residents; again, David began arguing with the police, whereupon the police told Celina and her mother to pack their belongings and leave David’s home as soon as possible. Soon after the police left, David destroyed the wedding photographs hung on the wall by smashing them in front of Celina. Celina and her mother were left totally helpless. Using the neighbour’s mobile phone, Celina contacted her sister who was living interstate and sought her help. At that time, Celina destroyed the character reference she had written in relation to David’s assault proceedings.

    The police initiated a protection order application on Celine’s behalf and, at the first mention date, secured a temporary protection order. Soon after, Celine and her mother relocated interstate to stay with the sister. A second mention date was set, however the police advised Celina that it wasn’t necessary for her to appear in person. When she contacted the police after the mention, she was told that the application had been withdrawn because she had moved interstate.

    Celina and her mother began living with the sister, however it was soon apparent that the sister and her family didn’t have the financial resources to support them, and they were forced to leave and find alternative accommodation. Celina sought advice from a local domestic violence support organisation which she says provided them with advice and access to support when she and her mother were desperate and homeless. The service arranged refuge accommodation for them both, provided transport to the refuge and financial assistance to cover their ongoing needs, referred them to psychiatric counselling to cope with the stress and depression they were experiencing, and gave Celina advice and assistance in applying for a protection order on the basis of David’s abusive and threatening behaviour. Celina and her mother also applied for and were granted the Centrelink Special Benefit soon after they moved interstate. Celina obtained a temporary protection order, however service was delayed as David’s current address and whereabouts are not known. When eventually the matter was heard by the magistrate, Celina was unrepresented, whereas David had a solicitor and barrister acting for him. Feeling pressured, Celina accepted a written undertaking from David that he would not contact her, and would be of good behaviour and not commit any act of domestic violence towards her for one year. Celina and her mother sought advice from a community immigration lawyer, and have now been granted permanent residency status. They are now both housed, safe and supported, and Celina is studying. Celina is not sure of the outcome of David’s assault charge; however, she believes he pleaded guilty and was placed on a good behaviour bond.

  • Ingrid and Scott met overseas in Ingrid’s home city. Scott was taking a break from a job that he said had caused him post-traumatic stress disorder and a persistent back injury, for which he received benefits and self-medicated using marijuana and medicinal painkillers. Ingrid has post-graduate qualifications and was working in a well-paid position at the time. The relationship developed quickly and Ingrid was soon pregnant.

    During the pregnancy Scott resigned from his job while Ingrid continued to work. Ingrid found that she often had to ask Scott and his friends not to smoke marijuana near her. After the birth, they lived with Ingrid’s mother who helped with the baby. Ingrid received part-paid maternity leave, which she used to support the family. Scott refused to make any contribution to rent or other living expenses and, when asked, would angrily yell and throw things, including a computer on one occasion. Ingrid felt fearful of these early behaviours, but didn’t react, trying not to hurt Scott’s pride or add to the damaging effects of his job.

    Scott persuaded Ingrid to move to Australia where he grew up. He went ahead alone to prepare for the family’s arrival, and Ingrid and the baby were to follow when Ingrid’s visa issued, and the baby was around nine months old. Scott did very little in that time: he lived off friends, failed to look for a job and eventually sought help from his father to find accommodation. Scott then insisted on returning overseas to collect Ingrid and the baby.

    Once back in Australia, Scott pressured Ingrid into paying off his credit card debt, which she was not liable for. Ingrid’s maternity leave money soon ran out. Ingrid also understood that Scott had or was due to receive a significant lump-sum compensation payment from his employer for his post-traumatic stress disorder but he kept the detail from Ingrid. One day Scott fell in the kitchen, further injuring himself, resulting in his increased use of marijuana and painkillers, which Ingrid observed made him angry and depressed.

    Increasingly, Scott would verbally and emotionally abuse Ingrid and damage household property. Ingrid felt isolated with a very young child, no family or friends nearby, and no car licence. Scott made frequent sexual demands of her that she found distressing and painful.

    In time, Ingrid was employed again, Scott enrolled in a university course, and the child went to day care. Scott also began rehabilitation for his injury and psychologist appointments for his post-traumatic stress disorder. Ingrid felt that life had become more normal and bearable until one day Scott threw a piece of furniture around the kitchen in a rage about medical expenses that had to be paid to treat a condition Ingrid had developed. Ingrid took the child into the bedroom and locked the door. Scott never struck Ingrid or the child, but would raise his hand menacingly in anger. Scott was well over double Ingrid’s weight.

    When not at university, Scott spent more and more time during the day and night drinking and taking drugs with his friends while Ingrid worked and cared for the child. Without asking Ingrid, Scott invited a female friend to stay because she needed somewhere to live. Scott’s drug taking made his behaviour more abusive and irrational. He would accuse Ingrid of lying about her whereabouts, and, despite her resistance, his sexual violence towards her escalated. He wrote her a letter complaining that the child was taking up too much time and that she was not paying him enough money.

    Ingrid reached emotional breaking point and sought psychological help through her employer. She moved into another bedroom and they began living separately under the one roof. Scott discovered from reading Ingrid’s emails that she had made a male acquaintance. He became very aggressive, repeatedly texting her (and the male friend), demanding that she leave without the child, reminding her of his weapons licence, and threatening suicide. Ingrid could not afford other accommodation and refused to leave the child in Scott’s care. While she had no intention of leaving her job and uprooting the child from day care – and in any event had no funds – to return overseas, Scott had hidden her passport, which she managed to retrieve before finally leaving.

    With the help of support services, Ingrid and the child were housed temporarily in a motel then moved to a shelter. Inevitably this caused upheaval with work and day care, but Ingrid was grateful for the assistance she received with visa matters and an application for a protection order. Initially acting for herself (while Scott had a lawyer), Ingrid was unable to obtain a temporary order and the matter went to trial, for which she was granted Legal Aid. Ingrid describes an intimidating courtroom experience where: during cross-examination, she was yelled at by Scott’s barrister, and the Magistrate was unable to respond effectively; she was not allowed to give evidence of the sexual violence because she was told it could no longer occur due to separation; and she was told that because there was no physical violence or harm, the texting, suicide threats and reference to a weapons licence were minimised and not considered sufficiently abusive to establish domestic and family violence. The court dismissed Ingrid’s application and she was denied a protection order.

    Despite strict security controls, Scott was able to locate the shelter where Ingrid and the child were living. Concerned about the risk to the shelter and its other residents, and the complications associated with moving to another shelter, Ingrid decided to stay with friends. Again, Scott revealed to Ingrid an address in the vicinity. Distraught, Ingrid searched for an explanation, and then discovered Scott had sewn a GPS tracking device in the back of a doll that he’d insisted Ingrid take for the child. Ingrid went immediately to the police and gave a statement. Initially police told her she couldn’t get a protection order because there was no physical violence, but she persisted and the court granted a temporary protection order. At the final hearing, Ingrid was unrepresented and Scott’s lawyer offered a protection order without any admission of facts. Ingrid resisted because she knew that Scott’s behaviour was abusive and he should be held responsible. The Magistrate declined to make a final decision on the basis that Family Court matters were pending; and instead extended the temporary order. While an interim parenting order was put in place for shared care, there are multiple problems regarding changeover and other arrangements and Scott flouting the order. The matter was referred to mediation, however precluded from proceeding due to risk of domestic and family violence.

    Scott soon sought a cross order against Ingrid fabricating evidence of her beating and raping him, which at the final hearing she was able to resist using audio and social media records she had diligently gathered, and ultimately was granted a final protection order, however the child and others are not listed as protected parties. Before the hearing, Scott had also tried to run Ingrid over in his car. Scott continues to breach the good behaviour provision of the protection order and the terms of the parenting order. Scott has never been charged with breach, or with any criminal offences relating to the stalking and monitoring, attempting to run over Ingrid, or the false affidavit evidence.

    Ingrid agreed to settle final parenting orders with Scott, avoiding a trial. Ingrid finds changeovers distressing and demeaning: Scott yells commands at her. She is concerned about how they will jointly manage ongoing parenting decisions and arrangements in the best interests of the child while she endures ongoing abuse. Scott is still unemployed and demands that Ingrid pay him child support. Ingrid would like to visit her home city with the child, but expects that Scott will take any steps to prevent them from going. They were together for only three years, and yet Ingrid feels she and the child will live with Scott’s abuse and its harmful consequences for many years yet.

  • Leah and Ethan were both born overseas, share a country of origin, and speak English as a second language. They are both tertiary educated. While they didn’t know one another, their respective families decided they were a good match and so they married. In a sense, it was an arranged marriage; Leah says she proceeded with it out of respect for her parents, and was too young to have any idea of what marriage involved. Sometime before the marriage, Ethan had come to Australia on a student visa and was later granted permanent residency. Once married, Leah travelled to Australia on a tourist visa and was later also granted permanent residency. Leah and Ethan were in a relationship for five years, however continued to live, separated under the one roof, for a further five years. They have two children, the older born overseas, the younger born in Australia.

    Leah and Ethan married overseas according to certain traditions and customs. These influences had not been strong in Leah’s upbringing, so she found the experience strange and unfamiliar. She recalls being derided publicly by Ethan’s family about dowry and other issues. Following the wedding there were numerous events and ceremonies over many days. Ethan made no contact with Leah during that time until he approached Leah’s father to advise that he couldn’t look after Leah for a while as he needed to sort out visa problems.

    Eventually Leah and Ethan travelled to Australia. They lived in a motel until they found a house to rent. Leah felt insecure, nervous and isolated. Ethan left for work each morning, and told Leah to lock the house and not go out. Ethan did not give Leah any money; rather, he would take her to the shops to buy the groceries and he would pay. Leah had no experience of cooking or cleaning or running a household; if she were in her home country, she would have received a great deal of help and support from her family. Leah tried to learn about housekeeping on the internet. Ethan monitored her internet usage, and kept the passwords. Ethan wouldn’t buy a vacuum cleaner and made Leah pick up dirt with her hands. He was angry often, complaining that the house wasn’t clean and Leah was a burden. Leah was rarely allowed to call her parents, and when she did, the call had to be on speaker. Ethan bullied Leah about being a vegetarian, and told her they couldn’t have a relationship if she didn’t eat meat. As a result Leah began to eat meat, but when she ate meat Ethan would call her a ‘pig’ and ridicule the way she ate.

    On one occasion, Ethan went on a work trip which was meant to be for two days, but he didn’t return for ten days. He left Leah with no money or phone access. Leah had only enough packet noodles to eat once a day. She was terrified of being alone for that period; she stayed up all night in front of the television and tried to sleep during the day.

    Leah and Ethan travelled overseas for a month when Leah was in the early stages of her first pregnancy; it was a work trip for Ethan. Leah was unwell with morning sickness and unable to leave the hotel room. Ethan would not allow her to order food claiming it was too expensive. She went for days without food, was exhausted, and lost a significant amount of weight. Leah then went back to her home country to stay with her parents for the balance of the pregnancy and the birth. They were extremely worried about her health, but were unaware at that stage of how Ethan was treating her.

    After the birth, Leah and the baby returned to Australia to live with Ethan in a house he had purchased. Leah describes herself as a slave throughout the relationship. Ethan called her from work multiple times a day to check she had showered, cleaned the house and done the other chores he required. He stipulated who Leah could and could not have contact with, and what she was able to wear, insisting that Australian dress was not appropriate. Leah did however become more assertive regarding matters affecting the child’s wellbeing. Ethan refused to spend money on a pram, car seat and other usual baby items, and resisted when Leah asked for money to buy baby food and other essentials. Ethan would verbally abuse Leah in the shopping centre and, when home, would push her, pull her hair and grab her around the throat. Ethan would also rape Leah regularly despite her cries for him to stop. On one occasion he dragged her by the hair and violently raped her while the youngest child was sleeping alongside the bed. Leah never wanted Ethan to come near her; she had no contraception, nor any understanding of it. Leah rarely left the house, and even within the house, she stayed mostly in one corner of her bedroom near the television, going to the kitchen only when required to cook. She never went to the upper level of the house.

    Leah’s parents visited for a few months during and after Leah’s second pregnancy. Leah told Ethan that she needed the help and her parents would pay for most things. The parents were shocked to witness first hand Ethan’s treatment of Leah. Her father was distressed by what he felt he had allowed happen to his daughter and suffered a long period of depression.

    Despite the debilitating effects of Ethan’s violence and abuse, Leah looked for opportunities to become less dependent on him. She studied and gained a further degree, got a job, opened her own bank account, and paid for the groceries from her own money. Ethan objected to Leah’s new independence and suspected she may be planning to leave. He stopped work so he could be at home to monitor her. He hid recording devices and sensors around the house. Leah confronted Ethan, asking him to explain his behaviour, and then turned off or broke the devices.

    Over time, Leah did gather the courage to leave. She knew she had to be careful as Ethan was likely to become angry and violent and would try to stop her. Leah sought advice from a community legal service about applying for a protection order. Whenever Ethan was out, she began shifting her belongings to the neighbour’s house. She organised alternative private accommodation and, while her parents were still visiting, in a single day, got their help to move in and look after the children so she could attend the Magistrates Court. The legal service had prepared the necessary documents and a solicitor met her at the court ready to apply for a temporary protection order. When Ethan discovered Leah and the children had left, he called and messaged her repeatedly, threatening to report her to the Federal Police. Ethan agreed to a one year protection order. He also had Leah put on an immigration watch list to prevent her from leaving the country with the children.

    Ethan organised mediation to make contact arrangements. Leah felt that Ethan manipulated the mediator, and that the mediator did not listen to her requests or concerns, including that she did not want to be in the same room as Ethan during the process, despite the mediator being aware of the protection order. Leah was not happy with the outcome allowing Ethan contact for 11 nights across 28 days, but she agreed nevertheless. Ethan rarely complied with the contact arrangements. Leah instructed a lawyer and a hearing date was set in the Federal Circuit Court to deal with property matters. Meanwhile, Ethan continued to message Leah about getting back together. Leah ignored his pleas, but was concerned that he would use the children to continue controlling her.

    Leah says the protection order was effective as Ethan’s harassment by text stopped and she was otherwise free from any form of contact with him. Leah did not seek to apply for another order on its expiration as she believed she would need to engage a lawyer, which she couldn’t afford. Leah remains frustrated and concerned by Ethan’s care of the children; in particular, the younger child does not want to spend time with Ethan. The older child, a mature and independent teenager, moves freely between the two houses. Ethan is unreliable and rarely confirms arrangements with Leah. The older child tends to be the liaison and buffer between them.

    Property matters have now been settled by consent. Ethan was reprimanded by the Federal Circuit Court judge for his failure to disclose his financial position. While Leah was represented by a lawyer, she felt she must settle as she did not have the resources to fund the matter to a trial. Ethan is required to sell the house they lived in, and the profit along with superannuation is to be shared equally. Leah received a much smaller sum than she expected from the sale of the family home and most of it will be spent on the considerable debts and expenses she has to discharge including legal fees.

    Leah experienced years of physical, sexual, financial, emotional and social abuse. The abuse was seriously detrimental to her sleep and health. Now that she has left the relationship and taken steps to protect herself, she feels safer however, she believes Ethan is spying on her and that he has made contact with her neighbours. She also believes that Ethan tries to control her through the children. Leah has had to retrain as her previous employment was beginning to cause health problems. She cares for herself and the children on a part-time wage and minimal welfare while she is studying. Ethan pays no child support. Leah is determined to improve her circumstances and build a good life for her children. She believes that because of insufficient funds she was unable to achieve fair results through the justice process. She has immense praise and gratitude for the assistance she received from the community legal service and social workers.

  • Leyla is 15 years old.

    Leyla moved to Australia from Iraq when she was 12 years old. Leyla lives with her parents, siblings and uncle.

    Leyla’s mother told Leyla that arrangements had been made for her to marry an older cousin in Iraq. In preparation for the marriage, Leyla’s family travelled to Iraq and paid a dowry. Leyla’s parents told Leyla that after the end of the next school term, she would no longer be going to school. Leyla’s older brother told Leyla she didn’t need to go to school now because soon she would be married. Her new role would be to look after her husband and their home.

    Leyla did not want to get married. Leyla wanted to keep going to school. She likes school. For Leyla, it feels very important to her that she finishes her education.

    Leyla told her mother that she did not want to get married. In response, Leyla’s mother told Leyla that she was bringing shame on her family. Leyla’s mother slapped Leyla in the face and pushed her, causing her to hit her head against the wall. Leyla’s mother took away her mobile.

    Leyla told her teacher about her family’s plans to force her into marriage. Her teacher made a report to the child protection agency, who contacted the Australian Federal Police.

    Leyla left home with the assistance of the Australian Federal Police. Leyla now lives in youth supported accommodation.

    Once Leyla left home, she also disclosed that her uncle had been sexually inappropriate towards her, including exposing himself to her. This allegation was investigated by police and child protection.

    The Australian Federal Police referred Leyla to Legal Aid. With the representation of Legal Aid, Leyla made an application to the Family Law Court for orders placing Leyla’s name on the Family Law Watch List and restraining her family from removing her from Australia or from forcing her into marriage.

    Leyla’s family have made ongoing threats to Leyla. Leyla’s brother sent Leyla a message over Facebook saying “If you don’t come home soon, then Dad will have you killed”. With the assistance of Legal Aid, Leyla reported this behaviour to the police. Police applied for a protection order to protect Leyla.

    Living in supported accommodation, Leyla feels very isolated from her religion, culture, family and friends. Leyla has struggled with her mental health; and at times, has felt suicidal.

  • Mira and Thomas met overseas through their work. Mira was born overseas, with English as her second language; and Thomas is an Australian citizen. They married and had their two children overseas. From Mira’s perspective they were together for approximately fifteen years, however Mira says that Thomas is likely to believe that they are still together. Mira now lives in Australia with the children who are in high school. Mira arrived in Australia on a spousal visa and is now on a bridging visa, awaiting the issue of a spousal visa. Early in the relationship Mira stopped working to enable Thomas to pursue his career, which then required significant relocations to other countries so he could upgrade his qualifications; and has always involved Thomas travelling regularly and being away from home for lengthy periods.

    Thomas’s controlling and obsessive behaviours were apparent to Mira from the outset. He repeatedly pressured her to go out with him; and despite her telling him that she needed time following the end of a previous serious relationship, he persisted. Thomas would regularly send Mira gifts and deposit money into her account. She told him she did not want these inducements and he must stop. Undeterred, and knowing how important Mira’s faith and traditions are to her and her family, Thomas announced to Mira that he had converted to her religion. Mira was shocked by Thomas’s preoccupation with her, and urged him to back off. He told her he would kill himself if she didn’t marry him and sat in the cemetery for hours brooding. Mira felt worn down by Thomas’s fanatical efforts to win her over and yet was impressed by his religious conversion. Eventually she felt obliged to marry him, and hoped that over time she may grow to love him.

    Mira committed to helping Thomas advance in his career and to raising their two children, however their relationship was constantly fraught. Starting with their wedding, Thomas insisted on organising their shared life as he wanted it, and demanded Mira’s support for his obsession with extreme sports training and competitions. Events and holidays were meticulously planned without consultation with Mira. She and the children were expected to comply and if Mira expressed an objection she was bullied and intimidated, and on one occasion Thomas strangled her in front of his friend who was staying in their home. Thomas controlled the couple’s finances and required Mira to account for her spending and produce receipts. Thomas would then be away from the family for weeks at a time, with no contact, and Mira was left to parent alone. It was during these extended breaks that Mira felt she must tell Thomas that she was unable to continue in the relationship and that it was best they divorce. Whenever she tried to raise the issue with Thomas, he became angry and morose, and would lock himself in a room threatening to kill himself and accusing Mira of bringing harm to the family. On two separate occasions, Thomas wielded a knife at Mira, again threatening to kill himself. Mira was terrified of what he may do, including harming her and the children. The first time, acting on the advice of Thomas’s family, Mira rang the local domestic violence support service, and they arranged accommodation for her and the children until Mira knew Thomas had left the country. The second time, they relocated to a friend’s house.

    After living in various overseas locations for a number of years, Mira decided that it was in the children’s best interests to settle in Australia. They have been here for a few years, and in Mira’s mind, the relationship with Thomas is over, though she believes that he does not want it to formally end so as to avoid any adverse financial consequences to himself. Thomas stalked Mira and the children whenever he returned to Australia. She has told him not to come near the house, but he now harasses Mira’s family by telephone. They jointly own two house properties, in Australia and overseas. Mira knows that if she were to apply for a protection order or to seek property orders in the Family Court, Thomas would be enraged and she could not predict what he might do. She fears he would become uncontrollable and be arrested. Thomas currently pays for the children’s education and living expenses; she would rather defer addressing her own legal issues than risk losing his financial support, though she remains fearful of him. Mira does what she can to encourage the children’s relationship with Thomas despite his minimal genuine interest or involvement in their lives. Mira is aware that for as long as these matters are unresolved, she and the children will continue to experience Thomas’s obsessive control over them.

  • Rosa and Ken were both born overseas, and have completed tertiary education. English is Rosa’s second language and she requires the assistance of an interpreter for other than basic communications. Ken is in highly-paid professional employment. They first made contact through an internet dating website, and then met in Europe for a holiday. The relationship developed quickly: Rosa arranged a tourist visa for Ken to stay for a few months with Rosa in her home country where they married and Rosa became pregnant. Ken’s work then took them to another country where they settled briefly—together with Rosa’s high-school aged child from a previous marriage—and their baby was born. Less than a year later, they all moved to Australia, again for Ken’s work. Ken came on a temporary work visa with Rosa (as his wife) and the children as dependents. They separated only two months after arriving in Australia, when the infant was aged six months. Rosa advised Australian Immigration of the separation and related circumstances, and was granted a visa extension. While Rosa was in full-time work in her home country, she has not been employed since her departure.

    Rosa explains that she noticed problems with Ken’s behaviour during his first work posting (prior to coming to Australia). Ken began getting angry and upset, they argued often, and on one occasion he smashed a computer. He told Rosa that if she didn’t trust him, the relationship was over. Once a week he would tell her she had to go back to her home country. After their arguments, Ken would tell Rosa he cared for and looked out for her. Yet during her pregnancy, Ken forced Rosa to do various activities that were not comfortable for her. Rosa was reluctant to disrupt her older child’s schooling and opposed the move; it proceeded nonetheless, and the child experienced considerable educational difficulties as a result. Meanwhile, Rosa was having great difficulty learning English as the course Ken made her attend was at too high a level. Once the baby was born, Rosa believes that Ken misled her about citizenship matters so that the child could be granted citizenship of Ken’s home country.

    When the family relocated to Australia, Ken began calling Rosa demeaning names, he told her she was stupid, and insisted that she learn and speak English rather than her native language. Again, he regularly told her she had to go back to her home country, but that she must leave the baby in Australia. He said he didn’t want Rosa, only their child. Ken often used the child’s citizenship as a threat to Rosa, asserting that there was no point in her seeking help from police because she had no legal rights in relation to the child. Their first month in Australia was spent in a motel while they waited for their belongings to be shipped. They then moved into an apartment, and Ken soon departed interstate for work. Unexpectedly one evening he arrived home, giving Rosa a fright. He told Rosa he was missing the baby. Rosa says, without thinking, she handed Ken the baby and they went out into the garden while she continued cooking. When dinner was served, Rosa and her older child realised that Ken had left the apartment with the baby. Rosa contacted Ken on his mobile; he told her he wanted a divorce, he was posting her a document, he had paid a year’s rent on the apartment, he would pay her a minimal amount per week, and he was taking the child. Rosa called the police immediately. The police attended and stayed for approximately 20 minutes and tried to reassure Rosa as she was very nervous, upset and concerned because she was still breastfeeding the baby. They told her the child would be okay and could have a bottle. She did not find them helpful and later called the police again. Different officers attended and told Rosa the father had not stolen the child, and the child would be okay with him. Rosa became increasingly distressed, and rang the police a third time, and throughout the following day and night, pleading with them to find the child. She also tried to track Ken down without success.

    Eventually, three days later, a police officer advised Rosa to go the Family Court and seek an order authorising that a PACE alert be put on the child’s passport, which meant the child was placed on the airport watch list. A duty lawyer assisted Rosa; it was discovered that Ken had already filed an application for divorce and residence of the child. He alleged in his affidavit material that Rosa wasn’t feeding the child and she tied the child down. Later, when the child was returned to Rosa, both child safety and a psychologist interviewed her and provided reports that found Ken’s allegations were unsubstantiated.

    Rosa was granted legal aid to fund legal representation in the child proceedings. Rosa was seeking residence. Rosa saw the child for the first time one and a half months after Ken had taken the child from the apartment; initially she had supervised contact, which had been delayed due to problems locating an interpreter. After a number of Family Court appearances, the child was returned to Rosa’s full-time care and Ken was granted weekly unsupervised contact. Both parents were prohibited from taking the child out of the country and Ken was prohibited from entering the apartment.

    With the assistance of a local support service, Rosa obtained a one year protection order; Ken is required to be of good behaviour. Rosa represented herself as she was not entitled to legal aid on that application. She is entirely financially dependent on Ken as she is unable to receive Centrelink benefits and cannot find appropriate work given her limited English and childcare responsibilities. Rosa would have to text Ken weekly to ask for money to cover her living expenses. In response, Ken would repeatedly taunt Rosa by threatening to cancel her visa and take the child. Rosa also discovered that Ken had hired a private detective to follow and watch her.

    Australian Immigration contacted Rosa after receiving notice of the divorce querying her intentions. She has sought advice from a community legal service about her visa status, and the implications of her older child turning 18. A student visa for the older child is an option; however a course of study would require funds that Rosa does not have access to.

    Ken regularly breaches the contact orders, returning the child to Rosa late. Rosa attempted to photograph his arrival on her phone and he became verbally abusive. Further, in breach of the protection order, Ken bangs noisily on the door to Rosa’s apartment demanding that she open the door and give him the child. On one occasion, the child was sleeping, and Rosa told him to wait until the child was awake. Ken persisted and Rosa rang the police. During his angry outbursts, Ken often slaps himself in the face and pushes himself against railings; he also asks Rosa to hit him. Rosa believes he may have a mental illness. Rosa feels frightened by Ken’s behaviour, and continues to feel highly vulnerable given her financial dependence on him. She is not sure if Ken’s work visa will be renewed. If his visa is not renewed the family will have to leave Australia, most likely to different countries. This is very distressing for Rosa as she fears she may be separated from her youngest child.

  • Sara and Victor were born and married overseas, and had a child together before coming to Australia, initially on refugee visas. It was a 12-year relationship that ended around a year after their resettlement, when their child was in primary school, and they’d been granted permanent residency. Sara worked as a qualified professional overseas and plans to study in Australia to have her qualifications recognised here. However, she must first study to improve her English proficiency as she currently needs an interpreter for other than basic communications. Sara believes that Victor was not educated beyond primary school. Neither has worked in Australia, however both have commenced studies.

    Before their move to Australia, Sara was supporting the family financially and running the household while Victor refused to contribute his welfare benefits (received while in their country of origin). Victor became suspicious and jealous of Sara and the child’s interactions with Sara’s work colleagues and friends. Sara felt that Victor would improve once they came to Australia, however the situation worsened. When Sara was at home, Victor would lock the house and watch her from the outside; and when she went out, he would follow her. When Victor began hurting their child with household objects, Sara feared for his and her own safety, and took steps to end the relationship. Victor would send members of the local cultural community to which the family belonged around to their house. They would tell her that Victor felt sad and rejected, which she found very distressing given Victor’s behaviour towards her and the child.

    After a couple of attempts, Sara and the child left the house, and, with the help of local support services, they relocated and Sara was given advice about her legal options. She obtained the necessary forms from police. The police were not willing to assist Sara to obtain a protection order and she was not successful in obtaining legal aid. Despite this, with the assistance of a local non-legal support agency she represented herself and successfully applied to the Magistrates’ Court for a protection order against Victor with the child named as a protected party (after a series of adjournments over three months). Victor has not attempted to follow or make any contact with Sara since, and she has been careful to ensure that her address is not disclosed to anyone who may be in contact with Victor. Sara received Legal Aid and interpreter assistance to apply to the Family Court for child residence and contact orders, which she obtained following a mediation process. Victor is only allowed restricted weekly telephone contact with their child, however he does this less and less often.

    Sara struggles financially as she is unable to work until she completes her studies, and a significant portion of her welfare benefits is spent on private rent as she is currently not able to access public housing. She reports however that Centrelink and the local support services have been very helpful. While, importantly, Sara feels that she and the child are safe, she also feels very isolated and somewhat concerned about the conduct of some members of the local cultural community who she believes continue to convey misleading messages to Victor on her behalf without her consent.

  • Trisha was born overseas and English is not her first language. Initially, Trisha required an interpreter for other than basic conversational English, however over time her skills and understanding have improved somewhat. Trisha and Jarrod met over the internet, made contact with each other a number of times overseas, and subsequently married in Australia. Trisha came to Australia on a prospective marriage visa and, when married, was issued a temporary spousal visa. Trisha completed high school and was previously in unskilled employment. Jarrod was born in Australia and completed a trade following high school. Jarrod has two children from a previous marriage: an adult who lives independently, and a younger teenager who came to live with Trisha and Jarrod, together with Jarrod’s mother. Trisha and Jarrod have a young child who was aged two at the time the four-year relationship broke down.

    Jarrod was in employment and told Trisha that he was happy to support her while she studied English and looked after the household. Trisha noticed early in the relationship that Jarrod’s behaviour was secretive and suspicious. He told her not to disclose their living circumstances to Centrelink, and often asked Trisha what her plans were. He also helped her apply for permanent residency, but insisted when completing the forms that they not fully disclose their financial position. Jarrod held a joint bank account with his mother and household and living expenses were also incurred jointly. Trisha was excluded from these arrangements and felt unable to open Jarrod’s mail because it was also addressed to his mother. Over time, this became more concerning to Trisha and caused arguments between the couple.

    Jarrod became increasingly abusive towards Trisha through the relationship, yelling and swearing at her, refusing to give her money, not allowing her to make phone calls, demanding that he know her whereabouts.

    Jarrod’s children and mother made Trisha feel unwelcome in the family. Trisha recalls reading a text from the teenaged child on Jarrod’s phone making insulting personal comments about Trisha and her culture. On discovering that Trisha was pregnant the teenaged child became angry towards Trisha, damaged her personal belongings, burned her clothes and pushed her down the stairs. Jarrod and Trisha lived in the car for five days, all the while Jarrod repeatedly urging her to go back to her home country because he couldn’t manage the teenager’s reactions. Trisha agreed to go, but felt resentful, questioning why she was being made to leave.

    Trisha returned to Australia after six weeks in her home country. Jarrod told her he was lonely, so she resumed living with the family and the child was born. Jarrod’s abuse continued. Having not allowed Trisha a phone, Jarrod was aware that Trisha’s laptop was her only means of communicating with her own family. On one occasion, Jarrod grabbed the laptop from Trisha and she ran after him to retrieve it. Jarrod held Trisha’s throat hard in one hand and grabbed her shirt with his other hand and pushed her backwards. Trisha fell and hit her head on the floor; she felt dizzy, and when trying to get up from the floor, Jarrod spat on her face and pointed with his finger at her chest calling her a “fucking Asian” and accusing her of coming to Australia to get money from the government.

    Trisha decided that she could not live with Jarrod’s domestic and family violence any longer. She contacted her friend who called the police for her. Concerned for Trisha’s safety, the police told her to go to her friend’s house so they could interview her. Trisha was extremely distressed; she showed the police the broken laptop and marks on her neck, and gave a statement. Trisha can’t explain what happened next, but became aware that the police obtained a protection order on her behalf against Jarrod. She has the paper order in her possession, but isn’t certain of the conditions as it was not translated in her first language. She believes the duration of the order is two years.

    While Trisha was not required to attend court for the protection order hearing, to make arrangements regarding parental care and responsibility for their child, she and Jarrod had to attend phone mediation and then, failing agreement, the court. The Family Court made an order, effective until the child reaches pre-school age, that (among a number of other conditions) the child would reside each week with Trisha for four nights and with Jarrod for three nights. Trisha received legal aid representation and interpreter support for part of this process, however given her limited understanding of English and the legal system, Trisha feels that she didn’t have enough time to consider the family report, and was pressured into consenting to the orders without being satisfied they were in the child’s best interests and not knowing what her rights would be as the child gets older.

    Trisha believes the protection order has been important in reducing her fear of Jarrod, and her concerns about him harming the child. She says however that Jarrod does not respect her as a mother; and she continues to worry about the child being in the presence of Jarrod’s children both of whom are drug users and have police records. She also believes that Jarrod does not share her expectations for high standards of education for the child, and is worried about having to return to the court before the child reaches pre-school age to make fresh arrangements for the child’s care and responsibility. Trisha and Jarrod have been unable to reach a property settlement; Jarrod asserts without grounds that Trisha should pay off all his debts. Trisha receives a Centrelink single-parent benefit, which she is doing her best to spend carefully so she can save for the child’s future. She is concerned however that, despite her phoning Centrelink to advise of the care arrangements (as set out in the Family Court order), she is receiving too much money and may be forced to repay. At times, Trisha has felt so overwhelmed by these anxieties that she has had suicidal thoughts. Counselling offered through a local domestic and family violence service has helped and supported her through these very difficult times.

    Trisha is now a permanent resident; she has a driver’s licence, and has purchased a car with her modest savings. Her English has improved considerably, and she has commenced studies so that in time she can secure stable and rewarding employment. While Jarrod is no longer a direct physical threat to Trisha and contact changeovers occur without problems, he continues to send her abusive texts, and his mother and children stalk her periodically.

  • Yvonne and Emir were in a relationship for around 13 years, and had four children together. Emir was born overseas; he did not complete high school, he is multi-lingual, English being a language acquired later in life, and he has periodically run small businesses. Yvonne was born in Australia, is university educated and runs her own business. They met in Emir’s home country when Yvonne was in the early years of her professional training. Within a year, they married and had their first child, and decided to resettle in Australia, Emir on a spousal visa. The children now live with Yvonne and her new partner in a home they own. The youngest child has contact with Emir pursuant to Family Court orders. The three older children have declined any contact.

    When Yvonne first knew Emir he was gentle and quiet, but also strongly committed to his faith and spiritual beliefs. He followed a rigorous daily worship practice, and over the years required that the children strictly comply. In the early years Yvonne found Emir’s faith and dedication captivating, and was happy to participate even though she never felt like she really belonged. When they moved to Australia, Emir was drawn to a philosophy that aligned with his beliefs, and began attending places of worship. Soon he became very involved in his new-found faith community, following their ascetic lifestyle regimes, and volunteering. Meanwhile, Yvonne had three more children over six years; and worked full-time when she wasn’t caring for young children. Emir was opposed to contraception as he believed it was unnatural, and he refused to have a vasectomy as he felt it would diminish his masculinity. Rather ironically, it was the women from the faith community who urged Yvonne to consider contraception; she did so and never disclosed to Emir because she knew he would vehemently object.

    Yvonne describes feeling a great deal of tension around multiple issues that Emir had strong views about and that Yvonne was unable to discuss with him without heightening the risk of conflict and his expression of hatred towards her. Emir exercised a high level of control over the daily lives of Yvonne and the children. The children were made to do hours of prayers in the mornings and evenings, which made them late for school and behind with their homework. Emir would dictate how prayers should be performed, and then often change the rules without explanation. If the children did it incorrectly, Emir would hit them across the face, or swing them around on one arm. While Yvonne experienced some physical violence, she says the children were frequent victims and subjected to the constant threat of more severe harm.

    When Yvonne was heavily pregnant with their second child, Emir had insisted that she attend worship with him. They had to travel by train; Yvonne was tired and asked him whether it was necessary for her go. Emir became angry and pushed her towards the train line. Yvonne was terrified and walked kilometres to a family member’s house and stayed overnight. On another occasion, soon after Yvonne was home following the birth of their youngest child, a friend called to offer to look after the other children to give Yvonne and Emir a break. Emir declined, and Yvonne questioned him. He slapped her across the face twice while she was holding the baby, and told her never to question his authority especially in front of the children.

    Increasingly, she felt unable to communicate with Emir about any difficult issue, so she shut down completely. Yvonne became even more isolated as a result of Emir excluding Yvonne’s family from the home as they didn’t adhere to the rules of his faith. Emir did not allow the children to attend an important family wedding despite Yvonne being a bridesmaid. Yvonne says she felt constantly strained and under pressure; she didn’t have any friends other than a small number in the faith community, nor did she believe she should.

    Yvonne and Emir had separate bank accounts, but shared resources, although Emir would accumulate cash amounts from Centrelink payments or odd jobs and hide them from Yvonne. Finances were always tight for the family; Emir reprimanded Yvonne for even modest spending despite the fact that he earned little or no money and Yvonne was the consistent wage earner. Yet, Emir insisted on family trips overseas which were related to faith, these were expensive and required many months of saving to afford. Yvonne found these trips distressing with young children, and especially when pregnant, as the living standards were poor and public spaces generally unsafe. An incident that was particularly disturbing to Yvonne and the children occurred while they were on one of these trips. Emir believed that his younger relative had infringed a sacred ritual, and punished the child by burning an imprint deep in his hand. Family looked on, horrified. Since then, when Emir believed his own children to be disobedient, he would threaten similar punishment. The level of fear experienced by Yvonne and the children grew in increments over time; eventually Yvonne believed she would be killed. Her sister had expressed the feeling to her that she would arrive one day and they would all be dead.

    Yvonne had tried to leave the relationship twice before final separation when she arranged for a family member to call a friend in the faith community and pass on a message to Emir that she and the children were leaving. Shelter accommodation was organised through a local domestic violence support service. From there, Yvonne worked with a lawyer to obtain a protection order and with a psychologist to try to identify and understand her experiences over the past many years. Yvonne received critical support from the shelter and these professionals. On the first mention date, Emir appeared with his lawyer and supporters from the faith community. He denied any domestic violence but consented to a two-year protection order without admissions. Yvonne’s lawyer guided her through the process and ensured that she felt safe in the court and protected from any direct approaches from Emir or his lawyer. Yvonne felt the order was important to have because she was fearful of how Emir would react to her taking the children away.

    Again, with the assistance of her lawyer, Yvonne participated in mediation with Emir over the telephone in an effort to make arrangements for the children. This process failed as Emir denied all of the circumstances surrounding the breakdown of the relationship. Ultimately, Yvonne made an application to the Family Court. A separate representative was appointed for the children, and a psychologist was consulted to ascertain the children’s wishes. The three older children, who were then aged in their early to mid-teens, made it clear that they did not want to see their father. Orders were made by the court granting Yvonne residence; and Emir, contact only with the youngest child once a fortnight at a supervised contact centre, gradually moving to overnight contact. Yvonne was required to email Emir to keep him generally updated about the children, and to facilitate email contact between the children and him. There was to be no phone contact. Yvonne believes that the psychologist could identify serious risks in Emir’s behaviour, particularly towards the children, justifying a highly protective approach to contact conditions.

    Three years elapsed between separation and the Family Court orders. After the shelter, Yvonne and the children stayed in various forms of accommodation, and sought the help of multiple services for financial, legal and emotional support. Once the orders were settled, Yvonne and the children moved further away, necessitating a change in handover arrangements for the youngest child who, by that stage, was having overnight contact with Emir. On one occasion, Emir’s relative contacted Yvonne telling her that Emir and the youngest child had been crying together for hours. Yvonne knew this was out of character for the youngest child and became very concerned when the handover time passed at the agreed location. Emir returned the child late to a different location very close to their new home resulting in one of the children becoming extremely anxious about what Emir might do and needing significant counselling help in the aftermath. Yvonne observes how profoundly affected the three older children are by Emir’s prolonged abuse.

    Yvonne is seeking further assistance from her lawyer to have the original contact orders reinstated as she believes the overnight contact is potentially detrimental to the youngest child. Meanwhile, the child is not having contact with Emir. Yvonne believes they have a good relationship, and Emir considers the child to be his favourite.

    Property matters remain unresolved. The couple have land and money in Emir’s home country, but Yvonne has insufficient resources to take the necessary legal steps to facilitate a settlement of joint assets. She has received legal aid funding for past applications, but no longer qualifies, and has limited capacity to personally fund further actions. Yvonne is in a new relationship now, which she feels is going well, however she is cautious and on alert for any signs of the abuse she was subjected to for many years. She and her partner are building a business together, and caring for Yvonne’s four children. Yvonne feels she and the children are through the worst of their ordeal, though she believes there is always a risk that Emir will snap.