Rebuilding Lives: Battle against domestic violence and the shelters lighting the way

By Yukta Chand

“With three children and a cancelled visa, hope seemed a distant dream,” recounts Jane Hox, revealing a harrowing tale of survival and resilience.

A survivor of domestic violence shares her experience undergoing emotional turmoil, “He used the children against me, exploiting my vulnerability. Cancelling my visa was his final act of domination, his way of saying ‘You have nowhere to go’,” Jane reveals.

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“Suddenly, not only was I a victim of violence but also on the brink of losing my home, my security, and the very country I had come to call my own,” Jane confides.

She said, “He knew that I was vulnerable, especially because of our children. He believed that by threatening our very presence here, I would be too paralysed by fear to fight back or seek help. And for a while, he was right. I felt trapped, isolated, and utterly powerless.”

“It was during one of my darkest hours, feeling the walls closing in and with the future of my children at stake, that I stepped out to seek help. Looking for safe accommodation for my children and me, I got referred to Harman Foundation by an agency,” she said.

She said, “The Harman Foundation emerged as my ray of hope, offering a listening ear, a guiding voice when I felt most alone and providing a safe accommodation at the Harman Foundation Empowerment and Refuge House (HER House).”

For Jane, the HER House is more than a mere shelter; “It is a place where broken spirits find healing, where dreams are reignited, and where every woman and child escaping domestic violence discovers a home filled with hope, love, and the promise of a brighter tomorrow;” she said.

Speaking with the Co-founder and CEO of Harman Foundation, Harinder Kaur shared, “The Harman Foundation has been a guiding light since its inception in 2013 and our mission has always been clear at addressing domestic violence, economic hardships, and mental health crises. Over the years, we’ve been privileged to extend a helping hand to more than 9,000 people through our helplines and safe accommodation.”

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She explained, “Among our initiatives such as HER House, I have seen firsthand the multi-dimensional challenges survivors confront, including those that intertwine with legal and immigration matters. I always stress that these complexities should not become barriers to seeking help.”

“We envisioned the HER House as a sanctuary specifically designed for women and their children fleeing domestic violence, where they can find refuge free from prejudice and bias and rediscover peace, security, and hope”, she said.

Social Worker and Operational Manager at Harman Foundation, Avinash Kaur, highlights the depth and breadth of the support they offer, “Each individual’s journey to healing is unique. We delve deeper, addressing not only their immediate needs but also their emotional and psychological wounds.”

Harinder Kaur (yellow T-shirt) is founder of Harman Foundation

She adds, “Many women, especially from the South Asian community, are not aware of their rights. We regularly host sessions with legal experts and counsellors to provide culturally-sensitive guidance. Each one should know they have rights and avenues to seek help.”

Echoing Avinash’s sentiments, Counsellor Joshna Jose emphasizes empowerment’s role in the healing process, “The triage sessions we provide are not just counselling; they are transformative experiences.”

She elaborated, “Our goal is to guide survivors, helping them understand abusive patterns and navigate the societal expectations and challenges that often make breaking free so daunting.” 

A devoted student volunteer, Jampel Lhamu, speaks about the foundation’s multifaceted empowerment initiatives, “Our programs empower women with knowledge of their legal rights and self-defences, while also catering to children affected by domestic violence.” 

Volunteers at Harman Foundation

She paints a vivid picture, “Imagine a holistic space where women practice self-defence, engage in crafts, and find solace in mindfulness activities.”

A male Volunteer, Rupin Bikram Malla Thakuri, emphasizes the real-world implications of violence and the importance of consent. 

He remarked, “Violence is a harrowing reality for many, leaving deep scars. Consent is not a grey area; it is a clear affirmation, and everyone’s boundaries should be respected.”

In a world where violence against women continues to cast a shadow on countless lives, a network of sanctuaries and support services is committed to helping survivors reclaim their lives. 

Note: Jane Hox, is a pseudonym.

1800RESPECT is the national domestic, family and sexual violence counselling, information and support service. You can call 1800 737 732 or reach out via the online chat on their website.

Call 000 if you are in danger

Note: Client name, Jane Hox, is a pseudonym (as the client is not comfortable sharing her name)

Contributing Author: Yukta Chand is from Suva, Fiji. Currently, she is part of a student exchange program between the University of the South Pacific and Western Sydney University. Yukta is undertaking an internship at The Australia Today as a part of her academic and professional development.