Our history

Lara’s Story: our beginning

Content warning:  Lara’s story contains information some readers may find distressing as it refers to family and domestic violence. If it raises any concerns for you, there are people to talk to – FOR WOMEN

In 2018, probably after seeing those ads on TV about how respect starts at home, I started to realise my marriage had moments of domestic violence. Not the drinking or drug-induced woman-bashing I thought was the typical DV situation, but of a kind not so easily recognisable.

I began to notice how controlling my husband was… the calls when I was out with friends, “The kids are crying! You have to come home!” Moods impacting what we could and couldn’t do as a family on the weekend. “I’m sorry kids, we can’t go to the park like I said we would, your dad is angry and I don’t want him any more upset.”

His angry bursts were getting louder, more frequent, filled with hurtful insults towards me — and he started to unleash in front of the children and my family. My family stopped coming less, or leave after a short while if my husband was in a mood.

We ran a business together and our staff were scared of his frequent outbursts at the office. One staff member didn’t turn up to work for a whole week after she was the brunt of one of his angry rants; I had to mediate when she returned.

He threatened to smash an empty beer bottle over my head when I tried to discuss our prickly financial situation, but I never thought he would ever actually physically hurt me. Until he did.

The day he did, I was too scared to go home and my staff members urged me to call the police. From then on, life didn’t feel real — like a dream I waited to wake from. 

Unfortunately, it was the children and I who had to leave the house that night— with 30 minutes to pack three bags. But we had an IVO and I felt safe, knowing the police were doing what they could. They told me I could go back home after we went to court, and that my husband wouldn’t be allowed at the house after that. 

So, we waited, first at my parents’ house. But it was too far away from the kids’ school and my work to stay on weekdays, so we went to stay with a friend. My jaw was sore as I drank and ate meals over the next few days, and bruising to my chest meant it hurt to breathe or move. 

Then we had our day at court, and all I wanted to do was run. I knew he’d be there, that I’d see him. I had to walk within a metre of him to get to the women who provide court support for DV victims. I sat in that courthouse all day, expecting to be allowed to go home that night with the kids and for him to be told to leave. I was so wrong. 

That night saw me and my kids in a motel room provided by Safe Steps, because all the refuges were full.  Because the magistrate didn’t read the police report properly, our intervention order was taken away so we no longer had protection. I was fully expecting us to be another mother and children on the news whose partner had killed them when he realised he could no longer control them.  I didn’t know what he was capable of doing, and no longer felt safe.

We felt trapped in that motel room, with big emotions spewing from my kids’ little bodies — filling up the tiny space with nowhere to escape. With no IVO in place anymore, he was allowed to contact me whenever and however he wanted. And he did not stop calling and texting.

I knew it would be so easy to go back to him and our home because it would make the dream-like whirlwind stop. The kids were missing him. I was missing our home and our normal way of life. The room felt so cold, small and lonely and it didn’t smell good! 

I was lucky to be approved for a rental property a week later — but had no furniture to turn that empty house into a safe home for my kids. I reached out to an amazing ‘mums in business’ support network I was a part of and, through them, You Matter found me.

Without the support of these amazing people, I couldn’t have started a new life for my kids, free from domestic violence. Going back would have been so much easier than trying to furnish a house on my own, with no savings and an outrageous business debt over my head.

I am eternally grateful to You Matter for coming and turning our empty house into a home, with all the clothes, beds and toys my kids and I needed — and to know we were going to be okay. I went back to court for an intervention order before we moved into our home to reinstate my sense of safety. Then we truly had the freedom and the means to begin our lives again. That was many years and therapy sessions ago. 

We’re still here, in the same home, with the same beds. The same white platter that was filled with roast chicken and vegetables that first night — the first home cooked meal we’d had in over two weeks. That platter now gets filled with sandwiches, pies and sausage rolls. The same vase that contained a beautifully scented bunch of flowers — that made me smile every time I walked in the door for the first week of our new life — now sits on my table with a dried bunch of my favourite flowers. 

I am so grateful to have been given the chance to really be free from DV. I’m now well into a law and politics double degree, and hope to be able to help other women who find themselves in the same situation one day.

Thank you to everyone — donors, volunteers, staff — for supporting You Matter and the great work it does. It means more than you could ever know to every woman who gets to start her life again with your help.
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