Amy says no to abuse

June 7, 2024

“I planned my escape to take place at 7.00am on 24 September 2022,” says Amy who had been a victim of domestic violence for three years. “I planned for it to happen at a time when Chris was a 45 minute drive away. I was wearing a tracker, but I could run to the police station in 20 minutes and I knew he wouldn’t get there in time. When I got to the police station, he called me and said, ‘Don’t do anything stupid. I can learn to tolerate you. Just go home.’ But I didn’t listen. I walked inside.”

“That night we stayed in a safe house,” Amy says …“and the following day I met Gesse from CatholicCare. That was day one of our new life.”

Gesse, who works as a Specialist Lead in CatholicCare’s Domestic Violence Response Enhancement team, recalls her first meeting with Amy and her 10 year old daughter, Ella. “We met in person at the Waitara Family Centre. Ella wasn’t wearing weather appropriate clothing, and she only had one pair of shoes that didn’t fit her anymore. She was such a sweet, polite young girl who loved to read. 

It was clear from the start that Amy was resilient, proactive and self-directed. She had stayed with Chris for so long out of fear that she would lose her visa and be sent back to her home country.” 

During the early years, Amy experienced verbal, physical, financial and sexual abuse. “The financial abuse was significant to the extent that Amy couldn’t purchase clothing for herself or her daughter,” Gesse says. “When she went to the shops, Chris would restrict her access to money, and she would have to call him at the checkout to tell him the cost and justify her spending. The fact that these phone calls took place at the checkout made it humiliating and shameful. When Amy got a life insurance payout from her mother, he took that money and spent most of it on himself. He also threatened to make Amy disappear.”  

Amy explains that there were only two reasons why she could leave the house, either to take Ella to school or to do the groceries. “He made me walk everywhere and it was a 2.5km walk to the supermarket. I would spend everyday shopping, cleaning and cooking. I wasn’t allowed to do anything else. At one point he locked us inside the house for two months. I was completely isolated because he had written to all my family and friends pretending to be me, saying I didn’t want to have contact with them anymore.”  

The priority upon engaging with CatholicCare was to develop a safety plan. “We helped Amy secure her social media and email accounts, and we gave her a safe phone that she could use to communicate with support services,” Gesse says. “We also supplied vouchers to buy clothing. Brokerage support was provided to assist Amy and Ella to move to Perth where they re-established themselves. We helped her secure accommodation, and we paid for removalist costs. We were also able to organise financial assistance from the Red Cross, which was a $3,000 upfront payment which made a huge difference for them.”  

It wasn’t all smooth sailing when they first arrived in Perth. “We couldn’t afford much, and Ella was bullied at school for her clothes,” Amy says. 

“Everything has settled now, and Ella has friends. Two weeks ago, I bought a car and soon I will start my job as a flight attendant. I feel so proud.” 

Gesse is inspired by Amy’s capacity to know exactly what she needed to make her daughter safe. “She was responsive to the support and very appreciative,” Gesse says. 

Amy says that everyone at CatholicCare was so nice, kind and knowledgeable. “They were the only people I had,” Amy says. “I was a foreigner here and didn’t know anyone, so the support of CatholicCare meant everything to me.”  

Speaking of her hopes for the future, Amy’s dream is for the Department of Immigration to allow her to stay in Australia. “Our visa is pending a final AVO from the Court, and hopefully that is everything they need,” Amy says. Connecting with Helen Shanahan, a Perth-based singer-songwriter who sings about abuse, has been an instrumental part of Amy’s healing journey. In her song called, ‘No,’ Helen sings “You crossed the boundary. You crossed the line. I didn’t think that you were the kind … I wish I could have said no. But I just didn’t know what you are supposed to know. If only I had said no.” 

Three years later, Amy saying no to abuse has launched her into a new life, and she is currently writing a book about her journey. “I hope that my story is the impetus that another woman needs to say no and to start their new life.”  

If you, or someone you know is experiencing domestic or family violence, please call 1800 324 924, email info@catholiccaredbb.org.au or visit our website for more information. Please call 000 if your life is in danger.

CatholicCare recognises that everyone experiences tough times, but sometimes things get really tough and we can’t solve the problems by ourselves. Going through a difficult situation alone can be stressful, confusing and exhausting. You can reach out to any of the organisations below – many are available 24 hours a day. Their experienced staff will listen and support you with care and without judgement. Their websites also include lots of valuable information. You may be referred back to CatholicCare’s many wrap around services.

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