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Story: Layla says when a woman is strong, no-one can hurt her

When a woman is strong, no-one can hit her, no-one can hurt her. Say in your mind 'I am a good woman,’ ‘I am strong,’ ‘I need to help my kids.’ 

When girls see mum is strong, they are strong. 

We can stop the violence.

My ex-husband was abusive the whole time we were married. In my country, he hit me, he threw me outside. Then the war came, and we moved to Syria. After 2 years my husband left — I did not know where he was.

Then one day I had a phone call from him, he was in Australia. He said we could come to live with him again. And the abuse started again. Even before we left Syria, he would control me, constantly threatening to revoke his sponsorship. This was his abuse.

After 1 month in Australia, he threw my 5 children and me out of the house. We did not speak English, we knew no-one. I did not know what to do. I then I found a man on the street who spoke Arabic and English and helped me call my worker. I told my worker, ‘I want to go back to my country, I am scared.’ I told immigration that my husband was hurting me.

We went to 5 different places to live — first a hotel, then a refuge, then emergency housing, then lived with a friend — now we have a house. When I went to the refuge, my children and I could not speak English and we only had the clothes we were wearing. My children did not go to school because we changed houses so many times.

We would go to a safe house and then my husband would find our address and we had to move again. I had 7 workers to help — 7! I called the police when my ex-husband would come to the house, fight with me, hurt me, refuse to leave and break things. One time the police did not even make him leave. Even though it was not his house!

The next time the police came, they made him leave and helped me get an intervention order. After 3 years it ran out and they helped me get another one. My children saw all of this — it was horrible.

My ex-husband now lives 5 minutes’ drive away from me. I see him when I go shopping, when I drive. I want to go to my home country to see my family, but I do not have a passport, so I wait. I want to leave Melbourne but my children are here and want to stay, so I stay.

I have learnt to speak English — it took me 10 months. I have certificates in child care and aged care. My children go to university. They work. They are strong. 

I’m safe now, but sometimes I get stressed. And my health suffers from the stress. But I’m strong. I have 3 strong daughters.

When you do not speak English, when you come from another country, you do not understand that men can hurt their wives. And so I help other women in my community who are in the same position as I was. All women need to know violence from your husband or father or brother is not okay. Go straight away to the police. Don’t be scared of divorce.

Reviewed 26 June 2019

Family violence reform

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