WARNING: This story may distress some readers.
THROUGH the revolving door of the Bendigo Bank headquarters and below the escalators, in the foyer, are two tables laden with shoes.
Attached to each pair is a label bearing a name – the name assigned to a survivor of family violence, whose experiences are featured in a nearby poster.
Women, children, and men volunteered their stories for the ‘Walk in their shoes’ project.
The project aims to raise awareness of the impact of family violence.
"Family violence crosses geography, cultural, age, religion and wealth,” Greater Bendigo Against Family Violence chair, Sergeant Margaret Singe said.
“It is prevalent, serious and preventable and has a profound and devastating effect on men, women, children, families and the whole of community."
Physical violence was something several of the participants experienced. The stories also provide an insight into other forms of violence, such as emotional and sexual abuse.
‘Walk in their shoes’ will be exhibited in the foyer of the Bendigo Bank building until the close of business on December 10.
The exhibition is part of the Greater Bendigo Against Family Violence campaign for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.
“At first, my boyfriend was so considerate, and overly friendly.
Once we started dating he started to accuse me of cheating on him and he would call me a ‘slut’. He would repeatedly call to ‘check up’ on me.
‘When he saw me dancing with a male friend, he grabbed my arm and I fell down a flight of stairs trying to get away from him. One night he held me down and wouldn’t let me leave his house.
The worst part was that I went along with everything. He would break up with me and then I would take him back. He blamed me for his behaviour, saying if I was ‘trustable’ he wouldn’t have to check on me. He would ask my friends if I was trustworthy and would check to see if my car was at work.
Many times, women believe they would recognise abuse. I believed that.
I am an educated woman, from a good family, with a job, and a secure future. I never thought I would end up in an abusive relationship.
It was so subtle – he stole my self-worth.”
“My first memory is of domestic violence. It was my father pushing my mother against the kitchen stove. I was between two and three years old. It is quite surreal as a memory as it feels like it was so long ago and yet it is really clear.
After that there are not any memories apart from that. You have your violent memories, then your really positive memories. There is nothing in-between.
In my home, the violence was normalised – we would watch our mother being beaten up and we would laugh, because we were used to it. It would happen every day. Then my mother told me and my siblings we were going on a holiday to a fun place. We were going to a refuge. I was about four.
The violence went beyond Mum to us kids. I was next in line when I was between eight and 12 years. I was the oldest – I was the one who had to protect my siblings and I bore a lot of the violence. We were beaten with a broomstick, his hands, his belt.
I would lock myself in the bathroom. One time he was beating on the door, the door flung open and he knocked me back and I hit my head on the bath. Then he set in on beating me.
He was also verbally abusive. He called my brother ‘retarded’.
I remember vividly the constant fear.”
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800respect.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.