Content Warning: the following article may contain triggering or sensitive material. The article discusses domestic violence, recreational drug & alcohol abuse.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, we’re showcasing powerful women who are breaking the bias in a meaningful way. As a proud partner of Thread Together, we are passionate about the people they support, by donating and redistributing unworn out-of-season stock to people in need.
Founder of Thread Together, Andie Halas, started the not-for-profit charity after a production error left her with a batch of design defects that she went to donate to the local charity shop. After witnessing a mother and daughter rummaging through old clothes to find basic bras and shirts, Andie describes “It was then that I realised how important it was for people to have choice.”
“To find the right size for themselves, for it to be practical, to find exactly what they want to wear and for it to be brand new. People shouldn’t have to be reminded of their set of circumstances by wearing someone else’s clothing.”
Thread Together have done so much tremendous work in supporting vulnerable women, stemming from many different circumstances. Sadly domestic violence is a leading issue faced by women across Australia every day, with 1 in 6 women having experienced violence by a current or former partner (AIHW, 2018). Domestic violence is a type of violence that occurs specifically between current or former intimate partners (AIHW, 2021). Various behaviours include, physical violence, emotional abuse (intimidating, humiliating), coercive control (controlling access to finances, monitoring movements, isolating from friends and family), and sexual violence (sexual behaviours carried out against a person’s will).
In speaking to one of the women Thread Together have helped, we sat down with Julie (for privacy reasons we have changed her identity) to hear her touching story. Julie shares her story in the hope it inspires women to get the help they need.
Can you tell us a bit about your story and the struggles you’ve faced?
I was abused physically, sexually, emotionally, and financially by my ex-husband. Yet on the face of it you would never know - he did not fit the “usual” description of a domestic abuser and we were a well-off family living in a lovely house, with two cars, overseas holidays, and a great lifestyle.
The abuse started on a low level but increased when I left my job to have our children. It started with him controlling what money I could spend, he then tried to isolate me from my friends (which I know now is a classic sign of an abuser). He had a very stressful job and took his stress out on me. He became addicted to recreational drugs and alcohol, which magnified his controlling tendencies and over time developed into emotional abuse, then physical abuse. I wanted to leave him for some time, but I had two children under 2 and I had no access to my own money, no family nearby to turn to, and I was ashamed to tell our friends. I didn’t think they’d understand. Also, the prospect of leaving my comfortable lifestyle for the unknown was extremely daunting.
However, as the physical abuse escalated, I became scared that he would hurt our children, so I knew I had to do something. I confided in a friend and she helped me find somewhere to stay temporarily (friends of hers were going away so I could stay in their house for a few weeks). I couldn’t risk packing bags or anything obvious, but I started to leave items and small amounts of cashback from the supermarket with my friend to hold on for me, when I went over there for a playdate with the kids.
Once her friends left on their trip, I waited until my husband went to work, then threw whatever I could (mostly things for the kids) into a few bags and drove to the new place.
As soon as he realised what I had done, my husband cancelled my credit card and phone contract. I was able to get some financial help from my family, and from social services. We stayed in 5 different places in the first few months, but fortunately because I had young children we were able to get some temporary housing.
What has been the greatest barrier or bias you’ve experienced?
After the challenge of actually leaving my ex, the greatest barrier I faced was trying to get help from the system. Domestic and Family Violence support continues to be under-funded, so services are stretched very thin. As I had not involved the police when I left my partner and I seemed to be relatively “ok” – I didn’t fit the description of a typical victim in the same way my husband didn’t seem like an abuser – I had to convince the agencies to help me. My case worker was amazing and went above and beyond for me.
How has Thread Together helped change your life by breaking that bias?
My case worker introduced me to Thread Together as I hardly had any clothing when I left my home. I was able to go to the Thread Together store [Clothing Hub] in Sydney and choose some brand new clothes, which was amazing. I also needed specific items like smart clothing to wear to family court appearances and eventually for job interviews. I couldn’t believe the selection of beautiful clothing available at the store – it was such a lovely experience, choosing and trying on different brands – clothes I used to wear in my old life made me feel like myself again.
How is your life different today after coming through this experience?
I’m still recovering from what happened to me, I don’t think I will ever be fully healed but I am in a good place. We’re still going through the family courts as my ex keeps going back on agreements that have been made, but the main thing is that my kids and I are safe. I am so deeply appreciative of the help from my amazing case worker and organisations like Thread Together. Their support helped me believe that I could survive on my own and didn’t have to return to my former life.
We feel this story is an important one to share, opening the conversation for women to feel more comfortable seeking the support they need. If you, or someone you know may need support, we encourage you to reach out to a support service in your state or territory, listed here.