Talie shares her experiences as a survivor of violence.
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[Title on screen reads, ‘Talie’s Story’]
[Text on screen reads, ‘Content Warning: Includes discussion of intimate partner and childhood violence and abuse’]
[Our Site logo]
[Forty something Talie, is wearing a straw hat and glasses]
I have been a consultant and advocate in the space of homelessness and DV, really, for quite a few years now. I absolute love doing it, 'cause I love facilitating change and I love when people feel like their story is being said by someone and they can really hear what's going on. So, I grew up in a family where there was a lot of violence. I had disabilities myself, so I felt quite trapped in that family. And then, later in life, I ended up marrying someone who was also violent. But he presented very differently. There wasn't an obvious connection with violence when I first met him. And I think that's one of the problems, we often associate violence with the dramatic ends, where women are quite seriously injured, but we don't associate them with the emotional abuse and the spiritual abuse, the psychological games, all of that kind of stuff. And we think, "Oh, basically, violence is about hurting a woman physically," but it's so much more than that.
For me, I couldn't get anyone to believe me. And when I left, no-one believed me, because they were like, "Oh, but he's such a lovely guy," and, "Look how he looks after you. "He takes you to appointments "and he does all these great things for you." And so no-one actually saw what I was really living with. I think I'm starting to realise just how much an impact there is with disabilities and violence, and I think I hadn't realised just how much that was there before. And the more I've been thinking about my own story and the more I've been listening to others talk about things, I realise that it's actually quite a serious issue and quite a serious problem and something I think I haven't really wanted to think about before or wanted to connect before, but I think it's really important when other people hear how it impacts and they can have that moment of, "Yeah, that's me, too. "Somebody else gets it."
I was very seriously injured in an accident, so I needed him to take me to appointments, I needed him to get things for me, I needed him to cook and help at home. I just didn't have the capacity that I had before. And it means that...you think that they're helping you, but really it's a form of control that you're not aware of. Because they like that dependency, because that means then they've got power. I think there's so many more things to weigh up when you have disabilities. So, I've learned to hide my limp. So, sometimes I limp, not always, but I can actually do it so no-one notices that I'm limping. And I do that because if people see you limping, then they see a sign of weakness, basically. And then, when they see a sign of weakness, they will attack.
I've had to go into the housing system, and the level of abuse that continues within that is astounding. And if they know you have disabilities and they know you have vulnerabilities, they will just keep pushing. A friend of mine said, "Oh, it's a system that's set up to break you." And I just really feel like that there's so many government systems out there that are literally set up to break you. They're all power and control systems. So, you might leave violence, but then you end up back in violence with, you know, all these different government systems telling you what to do and how to behave and how you're not doing what they want you to do, and then they just keep pushing and pushing and pushing until you're traumatised. And I just don't think this place is set up for anyone who shows any weakness or any vulnerability. And it's hard, because that's what...really brings the heart out in our society, when we can be vulnerable, when we can be real, when we can show that things are not easy and work as a community to resolve things.
I think it's really important for everyone to know, but especially women, that just because you've been in an abusive situation when you were growing up, or it was violent, it doesn't mean you're going to marry an abusive man. And I don't think I would've married the guy that I married...one, if he showed obvious signs of abuse, but, two, if every single other person around me wasn't saying, "He's not abusive." So, I had absolutely no support to say, "No." And the consequences of me not marrying him, in facing my family, were far worse. So, I was almost, like, trapped into this situation of, "What do you do?" And I think we so often link abuse in your past with definitely marrying someone who's abusive, and I don't think that's true. You know, when you look at the people who end up in abusive relationships, they're all different kinds of people and they're not just one background of people. And I think it's because the abusive men are just so good at hiding it and they can hide it for a very, very long time, until something triggers it, like they get married or they have a child or they have some serious incident happen, and then it all comes out. It's almost like when they feel safe to really show their true colours. And so, I think, to say to women, "Oh, why would you have married him?" or, you know, "You'll definitely marry an abusive person," I think limits a woman. It almost undermines their capacity to know different and do different. And I just think we've gotta start talking broader and wider and stop trying to link everything. It may just be that that's the people that have been around that person, so they've been the choices that they've had and that person will seem better than the last one they had. But it's not a definite correlation between the two.
We absolutely need to talk about the perpetrators, 'cause I am just sick to death of hearing about "the women". "Why didn't they leave?" "Why didn't they wear something else?" "Why didn't they do something else?" "Why would they put themselves in that situation?" And it's just ridiculous, because they didn't do anything, they lived their normal life. It's the perpetrator that came along and went, "I'm gonna go for this. I'm gonna create this situation." And they do it. They know what they're doing, even if they say they're not. It's very calculated, it's very... Like, you know, they know if you're trapped in a taxi that you can't get out. They know if it's a dark corner, no-one can see them. It's all premeditated decisions, it's not, "Oh, I suddenly lost control in a situation," because you don't. At some point you make a decision, "It's OK for me to just lash out." And I think we need to keep focusing on the perpetrator, keep focusing on their behaviour and keep asking them to do better. And I think stop asking women to do better, 'cause they're doing so much already and we put so much pressure on women and it's time to take the pressure off. And especially woman with disabilities, my goodness, the amount of pressure you live with every single day of your life is astounding, and yet we get up every day, we function every day, we get out of bed, if we can, without assistance, and those of us that have assistance, we wait until that assistance comes. But our disabilities don't define us.
I think if I was speaking to another woman, whether they had disabilities or not, or even a child or a girl...I'd wanna say that, "You're amazing." That, "You already know everything you need to do. "It's inside you. "You've got the answers. Trust yourself." We have amazing instincts and we're taught not to use them. I'd wanna say to them, "You do it when you're ready. "Don't let anyone push you into anything "and don't let anyone do anything to you that you don't want them to do." 'Cause I think it's time for us to reclaim our voices and it's time for us to know our boundaries are OK and our boundaries are acceptable and we can define what happens to us now.
[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 wwda.oursite.org.au’]
[The logo for Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA)]