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24 November 2020
A traumatised mother and her children have new hope for the future.
June and her two daughters were brought to Australia on a partner visa by an Australian man whom she later married. Not long into the marriage, June experienced sexual, financial and emotional abuse and controlling behaviours from her partner. She had no other family in Australia and her husband kept her isolated. June and her daughters were unable to leave the home without his consent, other than for her daughters to attend school. June suffered sexual abuse which was witnessed and heard by her daughters, one of whom tried to intervene and was punished. June soon fell pregnant. When her son, Sam, was 18 months old, she decided to flee with her children.
June had no access to money or support, and she felt alone and scared. She had no idea she was eligible for government assistance. She spoke minimal English and relied on her daughters to translate for her in the community. For six months, June and her children lived in one room at a small hotel where she was hired as a cleaner. In exchange for her work, she was provided with accommodation and $100 a week to feed her family. Struggling to cope, June finally spoke to a member of the community and was given the number for the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.*
June and her family were referred to The Salvation Army for accommodation and support. She immediately entered our service and joined a program for women on vicarious visas experiencing domestic violence, and who have little support.
Sam was just over two at this stage and had been severely impacted by their experience. He had a developmental delay in his speech, speaking less than five words, and would not be out of June’s sight. He also had an inconsistent routine and wouldn’t sleep without sharing a bed with his mum. We supported June and Sam with education and play, and he was booked in to complete the Ages and Stages assessment through the early childhood centre.
Sam was then referred to a specialist clinic where he was diagnosed with autism. June was told that his behaviours were most likely a combination of the trauma he experienced in her womb and feelings of being unsafe in his early stages of development.
June and her children were placed in a supported transitional property. Sam was linked with a speech therapist, an occupational therapist and started to attend a playgroup specific to his needs. June received home support to implement a routine and manage Sam’s behaviours, and June’s daughters received specialist counselling.
We supported them for just over a year in this property and Sam improved immensely during this time. He was happy to see staff when they visited and would greet them and say hello. June told staff he was more settled and that she now had hope for his future.
During this time, June’s permanent residency was approved and she received a suitable income through Centrelink.
Twelve months after discontinuing support with us, June dropped in for a visit to say thank you to our team. She had Sam with her, and he smiled and engaged in light conversation easily with our workers.
“I had no hope for Sam,” June said. “When I heard he had autism, I thought his life was over. With the support and safety that we had from The Salvation Army, Sam is now only slightly behind at school but doing very well. Most pleasing of all is that Sam is now able to interact socially and is enjoying doing that.”
This story, with names changed for privacy reasons, was supplied by a Salvation Army domestic and family violence case manager.
*1800Respect (1800 737 732)