Antoinette’s Story

Minerva rescued me and changed my life. They helped not only me, but my daughter and my family too and I can never thank them enough.

I was in a very abusive relationship. I had experienced over 15 years of rape, violence, control, physical abuse, manipulation and stalking. I lost family and friends due to the clever controlling of my abusive partner. They make sure they cut you off from as many loved ones as possible to keep you in the abusive relationship. When the abuse escalated, I fled interstate. I moved house numerous times but I could not escape and heal from the effects of long term and severe abuse. One day, I found myself in a street in Melbourne with all my belongings in my car, crying, unsure of where to go and what to do. I felt helpless, traumatized and terrified. My numerous attempts to move home had left me penniless and empty. I called the domestic violence crisis hotline for help. I was incoherent I was so distressed. I was sent to Minerva’s refuge in Geelong.

The first glimmer of hope I had was when I arrived at Minerva’s refuge and I was believed by the wonderful refuge worker.  I was utterly exhausted. I mainly cried and slept for two weeks. It was the first time I felt safe enough to sleep; that I wasn't going to be bashed or attacked in my own home. The workers at Minerva gave me hope again. I realised that I was reacting normally to abuse as other women in the refuge had experienced the same abusive tactics that I had.

I was often ill due to not eating properly. I had a stomach ulcer, was overweight and seemed to catch whatever germ was going around. I started eating regular meals with the other women in the refuge, cooking, cleaning, talking, caring for each other and forming very strong lasting relationships. Over time in the refuge I lost a total of 12 kilos, was back at the gym, and started to eat more fruit and vegetables.

I was financially abused so badly. I was not allowed to buy new clothes - most of my clothes were second-hand. When donations came in to the refuge, mainly new clothes, it felt like Christmas to me.  I have slowly built my wardrobe up and have picked out nicer clothes.

My worker at Minerva was strong, reassuring, dependable, open, patient, honest and was always easy to talk to about my concerns and help I may need. My worker kept in constant contact with me, which was so needed. My meetings with her were important to me. We discussed matters such as safety, legal issues, courts and housing and related matters. I was getting stronger as time was going by with ongoing help and assistance.

I was linked into services I so badly needed. I was in massive debt from both the marriage and as a result of reduced coping skills after the marriage had ended. Due to the abuse, my self-worth was so low. I was suffering from anxiety and did not like to go outdoors or socialise. I was referred to counselling and my anxiety and fears dropped and my depression became manageable.

Eventually I felt strong enough to leave the refuge. For the first time in well over a decade I felt safe again. My worker organised transitional housing. The fear does come back though. When I moved into transitional housing, I was terrified in sleep in the front bedroom. I was embarrassed when my worker visited and saw that I had put the mattress in the lounge room.  I had to adjust to living on my own.

Now over 19 months later, my counsellor has ended our sessions as she said I have recovered and am strong enough to study and seek employment. I am now enrolled in full-time study at Tafe, studying Diploma in Community Services to help other victims of domestic violence. I will complete my Diploma in 2015. I am also seeking work part time and have already had job offers.