How a stranger saved young mum from home violence hell

7th October 2020 5:00 AM
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Sitting at a bus stop, crying and cradling her baby, a young mother's life was changed forever when a stranger lent a helping hand.

Mary says she would never have escaped her horrifying home life if it wasn't for that woman at the bus stop in 2018.

While she doesn't know her name or where she lives, Mary says she owes her life to the woman who asked why she was crying as she sat at the bus stop preparing to end her life.

"You have opened a door for me to live again, to have a friend, to have people to trust," she said.

The now 27-year-old had spent six years enduring unimaginable physical and emotional abuse from her then partner and father of her children.

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She wasn't allowed friends. She wasn't allowed to see her family. Often, she wasn't even allowed out of the house.

Mary didn't know how to reach out for help, and since she'd been isolated from her family in Australia, she had no one.

"Each time I have an appointment, he have to be there," she said.

"Before we left home he would say 'you have to say this, if you don't say this you know you are dead'.

"My whole life I think 'I'm dead, I'm dead'."

The abuse became so horrific in the final years of their relationship that one of their children had to be hospitalised with serious burns her father inflicted on her.

But even though Mary fought with her husband to get the toddler treatment, he forced her to tell police she was to blame.

"I say 'yes, I'm guilty'. I say it because I'm scared and I have to obey him how he told me," she said.

Mary, a petite and softly-spoken African refugee, sat down with the Daily to share her experience as part of the HerStory campaign.

Mary hopes to raise awareness on domestic and family violence, and encourage women in dangerous relationships to seek help.

As she sat with her hands folded in her lap, and with her case worker holding her hand for support, Mary had tears streaming down her face as she spoke of what her children endured at the hands of their father.

"When he go out, he lock us inside," she said.

"If he came home without meeting us, there would be a problem. He would hit my kids, he would hit me."

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Two years after she fled the relationship, Mary is still not completely safe.

The 27-year-old mother-of-four could not be photographed or filmed to protect her identity, and is constantly afraid her ex-partner will find her.

Mary met her ex after she came to Australia with her family.

At first he was kind and charming, but his true colours showed after Mary became pregnant. She told the Daily he isolated her from any kind of support and treated her as his "property".

Mary wasn't allowed to see or even speak to her mother.

It wasn't until she came to a women's refuge on the Sunshine Coast that she learnt her mother lived just minutes away.

Now, her young children have a relationship with their grandmother and Mary finally feels like part of a family again.

"Seeing my mum was so good. Now we are best friends, more than ever," she said.

Mary said if it wasn't for that stranger at the bus stop, she would never have known how to reach out for help.

She would never have been sent to a women's refuge on the Sunshine Coast run by Sunny Kids, which changed her life for the better.

In Mary's culture, women "obeyed" their husbands.

Through whatever hell she endured, Mary didn't speak up because she didn't know she could go against her partner.

She didn't know what services were available, where she could go or what would happen if she left.

She didn't know how different life could be until a stranger at a bus stop asked why she was crying and showed her the way.

If this story has affected you or if you or someone you know is unsafe at home, please call DVConnect on 1800 811 811.

*The names in this story have been changed in order to protect those involved.