I lived in a domestic and family violence (DFV) situation for five years. That period was probably the toughest of my life. Whilst I would never want to repeat this chapter, I am grateful for the insights I received through this experience, and the opportunity to share them with others. Here are the things I learnt;

1. Domestic violence does not discriminate – It doesn’t matter where you live, how much you earn, your ethnicity, your profession, the size of your family or your level of education. Perpetrators and victims exist in all pockets of society, and we need to understand this to provide the right support services that are accessible to everyone.

2. Things aren’t always as they seem – On the outside, couples may seem to have an ideal relationship, or live the “perfect” life. But sometimes appearances are deceiving. When I encountered DFV, my partner and I were both senior professionals, living in a wealthy suburb, driving nice cars and (to the outside) we appeared to enjoy a happy relationship. Very few people knew what was happening behind closed doors.

3. Victims of DFV are neither stupid nor weak – During the work I have done in DFV recovery over the last four years, I have met many formidable women who have been impacted. This includes CEOs, a TV presenter, a politician and a judge. I have also worked with a group of DFV survivors who are all independent, smart and courageous. One thing all these people have in common is they are caring, hopeful and they have a strong sense of loyalty and commitment.

4. DFV is more common than most people realise – The current statistics reflect that between one in three and one in four women experience DFV in Australia. To put this in perspective, think about the circle of women in your life – friends, family, colleagues and associates. Now consider how many of these women are likely to encounter DFV based on these numbers. It is startling. 

When I first came out and spoke about my work in DFV, I was amazed at how many friends contacted me to talk about their personal experiences, or reached out for advice on behalf of their friends and family. Sadly, there are far more cases of DFV than most people realise.

5. I am more resilient than I realised – My time of living in a DFV situation affected my confidence, my career, my social life and my finances. When I walked away, I was anxious, I left my executive role to recover, I had distanced from my friends and I was struggling to pay my bills. I was at an all-time low. However, I made a commitment to myself to get life back on track and I was determined not to let my perpetrator win. Over the next 18 months I took steps to support my mental recovery (with the help of my local domestic violence service). I rebuilt my career, reconnected with good friends and took steps to reconstruct my finances. I am pleased to report that within two years, I was happier and achieving more than I had before the situation. It has shown me that I can bounce back from life’s challenges and do so with a new understanding. 

I decided to share this knowledge with others and I developed a 10-week online coaching program called Free from DV to support others to rebuild their lives after DFV. I have also coached other victims to become survivors.

Putting the lessons in to practice

These insights are invaluable in my role with Workhaven. We incorporate lived experience in to all our services to ensure empathy, relevance and an effective approach. For more information about Workhaven, our ethos and our services, please visit www.workhaven.com.au