Sunday, 28 June 2015

I have just been reading

a newsletter from the women's shelter in the city. 
As always it makes disturbing reading. It is disturbing because of the stories I know are behind the stories - the violence and abuse that led the residents there. It is disturbing because of the way those things have led some of them to smoke, to drink too much, to experiment with drugs, to lose their children to social welfare, and even to lose all their material possessions.
Oh yes, "we know about those things" - except of course we don't really. We can't possibly know unless we have lived through it. The closest most of us will come is watching someone else live through it.
The other thing which makes for disturbing reading is the constant need for funds. The shelter gets a small amount from the government. The rest has to be raised through community and corporate support. 
For as long as he was able the Senior Cat did voluntary maintenance work at the shelter - the only male allowed on the property without supervision. The women trusted him. Information that he was "all right" was passed from one woman to the next as they came and went. The job was passed to him by another man who had to involuntary retire from his voluntary position. The Senior Cat passed his role on to someone else. I don't know who is there now. 
I do know the shelter is struggling to find funds as always. There still seems to be this curious attitude in the wider community that "these women must have done something" and that odd idea that somehow "it's their fault". 
It isn't. Of course there will be faults on both sides - but that doesn't excuse violence or other forms of abuse. It doesn't excuse the lasting damage done to all involved, including the children.
The newsletter was timely. On my way to the library yesterday morning I stopped to speak to someone who is in an abusive relationship. Her husband was away with his mates for the day. It has taken her weeks of planning but she's leaving him. She made the decision when her son, the older of the two children, told her he thought she should - that both he and his sister wanted her to do it. 
Yesterday afternoon they were on a plane to another state. The fares were partly paid for by money we raised in a small group I belong to. The rest was money she had managed to save a little at a time. None of us hesitated to help because we all knew she had no choice. 
I hope it works out well for them. I know where her husband will go looking for her. He knows where the women's shelter is. She had been there once but he "persuaded" her home with threats about losing the children.
"He's not going to change," she told me again yesterday. I agreed. We hugged and the two children hugged me and the boy whispered to me, 
"Tell everyone thank you please. I'm going to look after Mum now."
He's nine years old. It's not something a nine year old should have to say. I don't think he is going to abuse his partner when he grows up but it doesn't always work out that way.

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