Domestic violence victims given fresh hope.

August 17, 2016

A unique mentoring program aiming to help victims of domestic violence get back on their feet is being celebrated in the New South Wales city of Newcastle.

The Hunter Women’s Centre’s (HWC) Moving Forward program saw 20 domestic violence victims each paired with a mentor over a six-month period.

They worked to build skills and confidence so the women could start life afresh, having survived domestic violence.

Domestic violence victim Pam Steele says the program has helped her gain confidence.
Domestic violence victim Pam Steele says the program has helped her gain confidence.

The mentees graduated from the program at a ceremony attended by local dignitaries in Newcastle on Friday afternoon.

Manager of HWC, Ann Morris, said during the program mentees and mentors work to reduce the women’s vulnerability.

“They built skills in confidence, setting boundaries around themselves; many of them have gone back to education,” Ms Morris said.

Pam Steele was in a relationship for 20 years, and for most of that time was the victim of psychological abuse.

“In a relationship, one should never feel confused, one should always know whether somebody loves your or not,” she said.

“That tell-tale sign of feeling confused, perhaps feeling that one is never able to get to one’s own needs actually met, and never have time for one’s self — they’re all tell-tales signs that there’s actually something quite untoward going on.

“Even though I’m a smart, intelligent woman, everything had been taken away from me.”

Ms Steele left her partner in 1999, but the scars remained.

“When I left the relationship, I felt like I’d had a partial lobotomy and couldn’t understand why,” she said.

“The form of abuse leaves a lot of post-traumatic stress, and so I wanted some help move me forward with a project to help empower other survivors.

“That was really what I was looking for from the mentoring program.

“People seemed to say ‘why don’t you put it behind you? You’re not still talking about that are you? You’re not still dealing with that?’

“People can’t understand how things like that can leave such a legacy. I felt defeated I think.”

Ms Steele was matched with a mentor named Fran, who she now described as ‘an absolute treasure’.

“When I first started the program, I was very terrified, because my experience of trying to get support around psychological abuse had been very difficult,” she said.

“I was actually quite frightened that it was going to be another relationship that would yet again not work out because the person wouldn’t really understand what I’d been left with. That proved not to be the case.

As someone with experience in the information technology sector, Ms Steele said the program had given her hope of starting an online support program for other domestic violence victims.

“I’ve got a renewed sense of connection, a renewed sense of self-esteem, and a focus now for getting this online system off the ground somehow,” Ms Steele said.

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