21 Sep Survivor Stories: Dana
Dana* is a soft spoken, kind, Ethiopian woman who fell in love with a man with aspirations to study in Australia. She describes him as charming and thoughtful when they met. He was reliable and funny, and she was in love. Her family approved and encouraged their relationship. They were married, and soon later he moved to Australia.
She agreed to leave her family to follow her new husband to a foreign country where she knew no one. Dana says there were warning signs early in their relationship – strong opinions on what she wore, which friends she saw, and a fondness for whiskey. But he never hurt her. He was the man she fell in love with more often than not.
Almost immediately things started to change. Gone was the funny, reliable man she married and instead she was met with his moodiness, coldness, and control. He prohibited her from leaving the house and threatened her life when she argued with his rules. He held her at knifepoint and raped her at will.
Once pregnant, the abuse escalated. Dana was desperate to leave, but leaving her husband meant being sent back to Ethiopia. Her family did not support divorce and had very traditional views on a woman’s place in her marriage. They shamed her for considering leaving her husband under any circumstance, so Dana felt she had no choice but to endure her husband’s abuse.
Dana had a beautiful baby boy who brought love and joy into her life. Her husband recognized this and used it against her. He extended his violent temper to their son, holding them both at knifepoint to control Dana. He raped her in front of their son whenever it suited him – often heavily intoxicated.
Obsessively checking her cell phone, accusing her of having an affair (even though she never left the house), and restricting access to money were all common place in Dana’s life. She and her son would go days or even a week without a stocked fridge or any money.
“I thought I would never escape; I thought I wouldn’t survive. How could I raise a happy child with such a violent man?” – Dana
Finally Dana got the help she needed and was connected to us through her son’s school. We met her at her house for a risk assessment. By this time she had a restraining order against her husband, but he would show up drunk threatening her son and abusing Dana.
We checked her doors and windows, installed cameras, and began the legal process to help Dana divorce her husband but still be able to stay in the country. She had no where to go since both her own family as well as his bad in Ethiopia would greet her with anger and most likely more abuse for leaving her husband.
Dana’s story is one of our favourite survivor stories, because she not only had an abusive husband and a newborn son in her life, she had the added challenge of her legal status in Australia. But her story has a happy ending. After months of legal proceedings, she was granted permanent resident status. This meant she was able to leave her husband and stay in Australia with her son under the protection and support of local resources and, of course, us.
She and her son now live safely in a quiet suburb. Her husband is out of her life. Her son is in school, happy and thriving. She has started studying and is working to support herself and her son.
Dana is a true survivor of domestic violence.
* Names and details have been changed to protect the survivor’s identity.