This week I caught up with an ex-Australian-soldier who is the founder of the South Australian charity DVINA (domestic violence is never acceptable).
Thank you for allowing me to interview you Milli. I guess the most pertinent question is – What was the catalyst for founding DVINA?
My heart belongs to DVINA due to overcoming the horror of domestic violence that started for me in 1995 whilst a soldier in the Australian Army. I lived with a monster behind closed doors and a friendly humorous man in public.
I was a trained soldier who took pride in my career. I was proud to serve my country but was never trained to fight for my life behind closed doors. I was ashamed - arriving for work with bruises on my arms and stomach, punch marks to my back, black eyes, fractured nose and ruptured ears. I made excuses for my ailments. I disliked having others feel sorry for me or seeing me as a woman who liked being hit, I lived with shame that was never mine.
My 5-year-old son was living with me during that time. I had to have him sent away for his protection. My son still remembers seeing me beaten and bloody. He is 23 next month and has no respect for me or other women.
During that 2 years we had a daughter. I had to get myself away from his violence for the sake of our baby girl. My daughter is 18 this year and I still live in fear. I suffer anxiety attacks and struggle daily with my memories. Domestic violence leaves internal scars. I hated myself for a long time, I couldn't look at myself in the mirror without wanting to scream back at my own reflection "this is your fault, you let this monster in your bed, in your life". My past is someone else's future to a safer tomorrow.
DVINA has a very hands-on approach. I have seen you offer refuge to domestic violence victims in your own home as well as giving them furniture, appliances and gift baskets. What drives you to be such an amazing Domestic Violence Advocate and do you find the work you do for these women rewarding?
I love seeing the smile through the tears and the happiness within their children.
Some women are left with nothing after their violent partners have smashed all their belongings or burnt the children's toys and clothing. Its heart warming to know they can come to me and collect free household essentials - clothing, toys, furniture.
I wish I could bring them all home and give them the unconditional love they deserve. I'm fortunate to have a supportive husband who works overtime so I can donate to those in need. I believe one goes through dilemmas so one can help others. Empathy, love and compassion are important traits to have and I feel blessed to help through DVINA.
In Australia, one woman dies per week from Domestic Violence. What do you think needs to be done to alter this tragic statistic? And how does Australia go about implementing the changes?
DVINA wants to introduce a Domestic Violence registry check (just like the working with children's police check) I believe every future employer should know if one is a Domestic Violence abuser. Domestic Violence is known to be a victim's shame and this needs to end. As a country we need to make abusers accountable.
Current culture tends to victim blame. Did he hit her because he was provoked? Did he rape her because of the clothes she was wearing? As a survivor of Domestic Violence and sexual assault myself, victim blaming hurts me deeply. What are your thoughts on this? How can we educate society? But more importantly, how can we educate our boys and men?
No one has the right to blame the victim. Rapists & abusers choose to commit these disgusting acts and walk away with no long-life suffering. The victim doesn't ask to be raped, beaten or threatened. They never ask to live with mental health issues. Victims suffer anxiety, PTSD, depression, and commit suicide.
Early education on teen dating violence, domestic violence, & family abuse needs to be a compulsory subject in all Australian schools. The earlier we get to our children, the more chance we have to break the vicious cycle. Parents need educating on how to safeguard their children from violence. Police officers need to learn empathy regarding DV, as do Doctors and other relevant professions.
Males young and old need to learn respect for females from birth. Domestic violence is the highest crime rate around the world but the least reported. People care more about hearing news on drug dealers, car thefts etc. We as a community need to know that there are abusers next door to us, down the street etc. We have an obligation to help those who are left silent.
What is in store for DVINA for the rest of 2015?
DVINA has plans to open a refuge and several drop in centres. I want safe havens for women and children to go and feel safe, warm and cared for. DVINA is hoping to have storage sheds in all suburbs of South Australia filled with donated items to give to those in need. DVINA wants to see the DVINA registry compulsory workplace and volunteer police check implemented Australia wide and the DVINA /&TVINA 'teenage violence is never accepted' education classes in all schools.
And how can people find you? Contact you?
Thanks so much for talking to me today Milli, it’s such an honour to have you on my blog.
Thank you for asking me to share my story, I feel humbled and honoured .