FOR 10 years Nicole Lee was trapped with an abusive husband who was also her carer.
It was only when she ended up in the Emergency Department after an overdose that there was eventually any real intervention.
Ms Lee said she was asked why she did it and she responded that her husband had raped her four times in the past week.
It was then suggested that Ms Lee go to a women’s refuge, which was impossible for her to do because she couldn’t leave her children and there would be no one to care for her.
Horrifically her husband was later called to take her home.
“People say why don’t you leave,” Ms Lee said.
“The thought of leaving him meant not being able to survive. Because what would happen to me, what happens to my children, am I going to keep my children, am I going to end up in a nursing home (and) whose going to look after me?”
Ms Lee attended the Everybody’s Business forum on Thursday and said doubt and a lack of self esteem created through her husband’s abuse meant it was impossible to leave.
“I probably wouldn’t have left,” she said.
“I would have died in that marriage, I would have either of ended my life or he would have done it for me.”
Thankfully a person at the hospital notified child protection of the situation in Ms Lee’s Melbourne home and eventually the police stepped in and her husband was removed from the house with an intervention order in place.
Ms Lee said the three days from when her husband was taken from the house to going to court were the longest of her life.
“I was absolutely petrified, I had no independence,” she said.
“Nobody gave me support after my carer had been taken away. (It was) myself and my two boys just fending for ourselves.”
Eventually her husband pleaded guilty to the abuse and was jailed for two and half years and placed on a four year Community Corrections Order.
Ms Lee said recent data suggested 70 per cent of women with a physical disability have been sexually assaulted.
“Ninety per cent of women with an intellectual disability have been sexually assaulted and for a third of those women it’s before they reach 18,” she said.
“Women with a disability are 40 per cent more likely than able bodied women to experience family violence.
“We can’t get away from the fact that women with disabilities are vulnerable. Society is slowly changing, but as much as people hate hearing it women are already on the back foot and then you add a disability… we’re so much further behind.”
Ms Lee spoke at the Royal Commission into Family Violence and sits on the Victims Survivors Advisory Council with Rosie Batty and Phil Cleary.
She said for too long too much responsibility has been placed on intimate partners and other family members.
“So much onus is placed on family members to look after people with disabilities,” she said
“It’s not fair on either of us.I don’t date someone for the purpose of being my carer, I date somebody because I want to spend my life with a person.”
She said partners were not always the most appropriate people to be carers and there needed to be better support from outside the home.
“It no longer becomes an intimate relationship, they’re a support worker,” she said.
“To the outside world they do appear and come across as the good bloke, the caring husband and loving dad but behind that door it’s absolute smoke and mirrors.
“You then start questioning yourself and maybe I’m provoking him, you doubt and doubt and doubt until your total self-belief is obliterated.
“The more I can raise awareness around women with a disability and the added vulnerability we have and the difference ways that the system fails us… I want to be able to do more of that.”
- If you or someone you know needs help contact Lifeline on 13 11 14
A new front to target abusers
WARRNAMBOOL police will crack down on family violence perpetrators with a new unit targeting serious and complex cases.
Detective Senior Sergeant Lee Porter has been appointed to lead the unit, which has been established as part of the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
“For the first time we have a detective based family violence team based here in Warrnambool,” he said.
The unit will consist of Detective Senior Sergeant Porter, a detective sergeant and two senior detectives.
Detective Senior Sergeant Porter said he would work to have a diverse team that fully understood the needs of the community.
“We also have a tactical intelligence operative,” he said.
“The role is to effectively use intelligence that we received in order to identify perpetrator escalation points, and to be successful in practically intervening and preventing the violence or minimising the harm to our victims.”
Detective Senior Sergeant Porter was speaking at the Everybody’s Business forum and said the work would include serious and complex family violence investigations, high risk victims and perpetrators, investigate any historical and cold cases of family violence and look for those perpetrators that move from partner to partner.
He said he was committed to working with culturally linguistic diverse communities, the LGBTQI communities, people with a disability and the elderly and there was little local data about how family violence affected these people in the community.
He said by understanding how these groups were affected, Warrnambool police could work towards providing a safer south-west Victoria.
The unit will work from Balmoral to the coast and from the South Australian border to the Stony Rises.
The roll out of units will mean it’s the first time in Australia family violence has been given a central focus within a police force.
- If you are in immediate danger phone Triple-0, if you or someone you know is experiencing family violence phone 1800RESPECT, Emma House Domestic Violence Services or the South West Centre Against Sexual Assault.
Building women with a disability a safer future
A PUBLIC forum to prevent and respond to violence against women with a disability has heard there is far more work to be done.
Chairperson of the Everybody’s Business steering group Richard Stone said change was not something that would happen quickly.
“There is a lot to do,” he said. “This work is not something you can change quickly or overnight. It’s work that’s generational change to try and prevent violence against women, particularly violence against women with a disability, who are often a dis-empowered and a vulnerable group.”
Mr Stone said the steering group was established in response to above average rates of violence against women in the south-west compared to the rest of the state.
Disability and LGBTQI activist Jax Jacki Brown delivered the Stella Young oration and said the community needed to understand how people with a disability continued to be disadvantaged because of the way society had been designed.