Akii shares her experiences as a woman of colour with disability who has experienced violence.
This content has a custom transcript:
[Title on screen reads, ‘Akii’s Story’]
[Text on screen reads, ‘Content Warning: Includes discussion of depression and violence’]
[Our Site logo]
Hi, I'm Akii, I live in Melbourne. I'm from Adelaide. I've worked in a lot of different areas and I'm very passionate about gender equality and advocating and empowering women with disabilities as I am a woman with disability myself and have experienced many forms of violence. And I am here today to share my story.
[Akii has long wavy hair and wears glasses. She is in her mid-twenties]
My parents were refugees from Vietnam. They literally came on a boat about 20-30 years ago and we arrived in Geraldton, Western Australia. They don't speak much English, they don't have much education. Very typical, come to Australia with nothing, and kind of worked their way up to raise myself and my two other siblings.
My experiences as a person with disability, or a woman with disability, from a migrant background is very complex. I guess I don't speak for everyone, but from my experience and the experience of my peers and from what I've grown up around and the communities that I've worked with a migrant background, disability is being disabled, completely.
From my parents' perspective, coming from, I guess, a war-torn country, fleeing a different country, when you say that you have a disability, you must literally not be able to do anything.
I was born with necrotising enterocolitis, which is a life-threatening illness where all of your guts go gangrene when you're born. And so I had to have surgery within an hour of my birth, and I spent about 6 to 8 months in incubation as a baby. So for an absolute fact, if my parents didn't make the journey to Australia, I wouldn't be alive. And so obviously I've dealt with ill health from the moment I was born up until today. But to them, when I was depressed or I had anxiety or any of those things, it just didn't exist because I should be fortunate that I have a roof over my head and that someone's paying my bills and that I have an education. And they would always say things like, 'You're lucky you're not on the street begging in Vietnam.' So I guess I'd never identified as a person with disability or really a person... I just knew that I was sick and that things were happening in my life, and I just dealt with it, and that meant that I dealt with it throughout my whole life without getting any support.
I'd deal with the pain, grit my teeth, and just go through school, go through uni, go through all of that without getting actual support and help when I knew that I was entitled to it.
I was independent from about, like, age 11. So my parents didn't attend appointments 'cause they couldn't understand English. So I was their interpreter. While the doctor's saying, 'Oh, you need spinal surgery,' or 'You need to get this tumour removed' or whatever, I'd be focusing on their emotions and I'd be focusing on what their understanding of it is and I wouldn't have time to process it for myself. It just got to the point, like, what's the point of having them there? Because it's just gonna be more stressful. As soon as I turned 16, I was signing all my paperwork for surgeries or procedures and whatnot on my own.
[Text on screen reads, ‘Akii's experiences of intimate partner violence’]
You accept the love that you think you deserve. And from the perspective that I didn't get the love that I thought... that I deserve now knowing. So the love that I was given was all that I knew and even though that love was violent and that love wasn't great, I accepted it because that's all I've ever known. And because that's all I've ever known, I never did anything to challenge it.
I guess I was in relationships from a young age and I was expected and pressured to do a lot of things that I guess, not necessarily didn't want to, but was too young to know otherwise.
When I was in Year 12, I was really, really unwell, and I spent about six months of my life in hospital and I lived in hospital. And I had someone that was... Well, I dated someone at that time who helped me through a lot of my challenges in Year 12, and they were, like, a great person and they came and visited me before and after school, and they brought me my schoolwork and they were really supportive of my time in Year 12. And because of that, when things weren't great and he got angry later on in our relationship, I was OK with it because he'd got me through Year 12.
So when he would get angry or when he would shout or when he would hit or when he would not be great, I'd think about all the good moments that we'd gone through and accepted that that was OK.
A week after my first spinal surgery when I was 16, we had a fight, and that fight resulted in me getting pushed against the wall. And because I had just had my surgery, that didn't go great, and obviously I didn't recover very well.
And so every day when I'm in pain, every day when I can't feel my leg, every day when I'm hurting, it's because of him. And I'm reminded and I know that he is fine and that he hasn't experienced any consequences as a result of his actions towards me. And I really feel bad for protecting him, but that's what you do when you're in a relationship with someone that you think you love.
[Akii wipes away a tear]
That's why I'm quite passionate to talk about violence and to open up about my experiences and to let other women know that you can seek support and seek help and speak up about it, and that even though we often want to protect the people that are hurting us for whatever reason, they don't deserve to be protected, we do.
There's no situation where violence is OK, and there's no situation where you need to make excuses for the person hurting you.
I want to be able to, I guess, talk about my experiences and help other women realise that it's common to want to protect the person, it's common to feel ashamed and not want to speak up and tell people your relationship is dandy when it's not. No matter all that shame or that stigma or whatever it is that you're experiencing, or thinking about how bad it's going to be, it's not as bad as being and continuing to be in that relationship and letting that person keep hurting you. And the impacts last a lifetime mentally and possibly physically, as with my situation.
I want other women to know that it's OK to speak up and I want other women to know that there's nothing to be ashamed of and that there are supports and services available. I want to be able to empower other women to talk about their experiences.
[Text on screen reads, ‘If you or someone you know is impacted by violence call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800respect.org.au. In a emergency call 000’]
[The logo for 1800RESPECT]
[National sexual assault, domestic family violence counselling service]
[Text on screen reads, ‘Watch more stories at Our Site oursite.wwda.org.au’]
[The logo for Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA)]