Leaving behind the psychologist’s chair

Sliding out the back door

It was quiet in the practice on Wednesday evening, some of my colleagues were away, and others were working behind closed doors. I finished my last session at 7 pm, closed my trusty laptop, picked up my raggedy pad with scrawled notes, untangled the cords to my old-fashioned earphones, and packed my bag. Took my favourite green teacup to the kitchen, said goodnight to Millie who was managing the reception desk and slid out the backdoor.

I left behind the psychologist’s chair, its contours will be warmed by someone else, but no longer by me.

Tears slid down my face as I drove the 10 minutes to my home. That was it, I’d retired. I’d finished my career as a psychologist. Who was I now?

Gruelling goodbyes

I was only working two days a week but those last 20 sessions in the final fortnight were gruelling. Every session was a heartfelt goodbye. It was like putting unfinished books back on the shelf, but therapy is often like that. This time though I knew that the clients could not return.  I would not witness chapters yet to be told or future chapters of their lives. I’d worked intensely with these wonderful people, some for many years and knew their hopes and dreams. I knew what held them back and I had to let them all go.

The tears that escaped only hinted at the turmoil within me. Grief, joy, fear, hope, regret, and relief whirled within me but were mostly contained during those last sessions. I hugged clients, shook hands, patted backs and, accepted gifts, letters and cards. “Goodbye, go well, take care” I whispered. I hoped I would bump into them in the street some time, but I have rarely seen clients outside the therapy room. Floundering for the final words, nothing I said felt enough.

I will miss the laughter

A friend asked what would I miss most when I stopped being a psychologist, and I surprised myself when I said “the laughter”.  The laughter of therapy is like no other.  We expect tears in therapy but not laughter and yet they come from the same deep well of emotions.  I will miss those moments when a client suddenly laughs at what they are saying or thinking. It’s not a dismissive or condescending laugh, Nor is it an avoidant laugh. Rather it seems like a ray of sunshine, giggling with the delight of new knowledge. The joyful newness of discovering a new way of being.

How I will miss those clever, ironic and humorous comments made by clients when they suddenly understand a part of themself. I rarely laugh as deeply and with such compassion in my “real” life.

You’ll find me drinking Bloody Marys in my PJs

My son, daughter, and daughter-in-law celebrated my retirement by gifting me a bottle of vodka, Bloody Mary mix, lemon juice, a glass, and PJs. The Bloody Mary tradition was born while living in Papua New Guinea for eight years. I would board the plane to leave and order a Bloody Mary.  It’s become our family marker of travel and transitions.  Is this what they think I’ll be doing with the rest of my life?

Therapy is an act of love

While part of me still longs to do the therapeutic work I no longer want to sit inside a closed room for many hours of the day. I want to be free to create (perhaps to write another book), to enjoy the sun on my face. and perhaps to do nothing much at all.

I want to re-connect with the people I love but have not seen enough of.

For me, therapy has been an act of love. A love full of respect, safety, caring, boundaries, vulnerability, growth and hope. Therapy has often included raging against the injustices of the world.  I will find ways to maintain both love and rage.

I have such gratitude for the wonderful, inspiring and insightful clients and colleagues with whom I have shared my therapeutic journey. Thank you.

A bookend to my career as a psychologist

I mourned my anonymity.

I met June Stevens 35 years ago at the beginning of my journey to become a psychologist, and now I have four weeks until I retire. I was 30 years old, newly married, and had just moved from Sydney to Nowra on the South Coast of New South Wales. Nowra was the smallest community I had lived in and I felt uncomfortable with my newly discovered public visibility. People I met immediately placed me on the correct branch of the Moorhouse family tree – “Oh you’re Rhonda and Arthur’s youngest son’s wife! “Are you Owen or Arthurs’s new daughter-in-law?” “We heard Jenell had a new sister-in-law”.

I felt both welcomed and alienated by strangers deftly placing me in the family system. It was as if they knew something I wasn’t privy to. For the first time I understood why people dressed up to go to the supermarket as I would undoubtedly run into some matriarch of the community there. For a while, I felt unable to pop down to the shops in my favourite daggy t-shirt and shorts. I mourned my anonymity.

Free University

The move to Nowra was part of our plan to start a family. After we made the decision, I discovered that I was eligible to go to university – for free! As a teenager in New Zealand, I failed the equivalent of grade 12 and university was wiped as an option for me. In Sydney, I had just completed a Diploma in Personnel Management – 2 nights a week for 3 years through the TAFE system, while working full time. I was bursting with pride at this achievement.

Completing the course unexpectedly provided me with entry into university and 6 months off my degree. Even though I was a New Zealander I was still eligible for the free study, and I was even eligible for a student payment as I’d only gotten married that year. I would lose it the next year as a “wife”!  The girl who failed school could go to university. So after we moved to Nowra I made the 160 km round train trip to Wollongong university, 3 times a week and began studying psychology. Thank you, Gough Whitlam

June, and the Lifeline Telephone Counselling course

I only knew my husband’s family in this small town and had limited time and opportunity to make friends. I was definitely lonely. I discovered the Lifeline Telephone Counselling course was offered in Nowra. The course lured me with the hope of real-world experience to accompany my academic studies and access to a community of like-minded people. I’m sure the confidentiality and secrecy surrounding being a Lifeline telephone counsellor was also part of the attraction.

June Stevens was the course facilitator.  Even though she knew all the Moorhouses, I felt seen by June. It was June who taught me how to listen. It was June who introduced me to the unconditional positive regard of Carl Rogers. It was June who facilitated my unexpected self growth through the course. It was June who infused my heart with empathy and respect for others which I carried forward. My clients and I benefited from June’s work.

A bookend to my career as a psychologist

90 year old woman holding book Not Forgotten: they called me number 10 at Neerkol orphanageI left Nowra 30 years ago and have not seen June on my visits back. My parents-in-law see her regularly and I know I have been a topic of conversation. Last week, a month out from my retirement, my book Not Forgotten: they called me number 10 at Neerkol orphanage was given to June, who is now 90 years old. The book is the culmination of my career as a psychologist and provides a wonderful bookend to my career. It gives me great pleasure to see the finale of my life as a psychologist held by June, who was present way back in the beginning. I hope she sees the ripple of her work through the pages.

 

 

The superb gift of a book cover

We needed a book cover!

I’d finished the manuscript, but we still didn’t have a book cover that we loved. I needed to hold the cover lovingly in my hands. I wanted to feel the warmth of it when I hugged it to my chest but most of all I wanted Samilya and I to experience a burst of pride when we said, “this is our book”.  How could we get one photo to represent the trauma and complexity of Samilya’s life?

We weren’t without ideas and had two photoshoots where beautiful photos were taken. In my head I had this ethereal image of Samilya walking into the distance, holding the hand of her younger self. Both photographers captured the image as I’d described it. I loved the photos, and one of them appears in the book… but they didn’t call to Samilya or myself in the way that we needed for a cover.

We had a couple of old photos of Samilya as a child, but they were poor quality and not compelling.  We also had some photos of St Joseph’s Orphanage, Neerkol, but I didn’t want that ugly, horrible place on our cover.

I hate this book cover!

Then the publisher came up with a concept, which quite frankly I hated. They had another go, kept the concept but tweaked it, I hated it more. Friends I showed it to also disliked it. How do you diplomatically tell someone you hate their work? Aagh…. it wasn’t meant to be like this. They were meant to come up with a wonderful concept, I didn’t even see myself as a writer and I certainly wasn’t a cover designer. I was exhausted and burdened by the book, I so wanted to hand this part of the process over.  The publisher had finished with the manuscript, the pressure was on, only the cover was stopping publication.

Peyton Blake to the rescue!

In despair, I sat on the couch late on a Saturday night scrolling through stock photos “I’ll just buy something” I thought. Disappointed that although Samilya and I had both put our hearts into the book, the cover would be impersonal, disconnected from us. That Saturday night I found a picture of a sad girl sitting on a step, “maybe this will do”.

Then I turned to my friend who was staying with me, Peyton Blake. “You take photos of fashion models: do you think you could recreate this photo for me if I get a model tomorrow”. “I can do better than that photo” she responded.

First thing in the morning, I called the young model’s mum with inspiration brewing… “Can I borrow your daughter for a couple of hours, now?” I begged. Thankfully our model was available, and I could see Peyton eyes dancing with creativity and relishing the challenge of bringing our inspiration to life.

Then Peyton realised she was missing the specific memory card she needed to store images on her camera. That tiny memory card was held up in storage due to Covid, as Peyton was only passing through on her travels north. Peyton rang camera stores trying to locate a card but none were available close by. My heart plummeted, more lost time, more delays, did this mean no cover?

Peyton had seen billboard images advertised as being shot by a phone, so she convinced me that she could take the photos on her phone and get the quality we needed for the cover. We arrived at our location, a professional photographer and an apprehensive author, ready to ‘shoot’ using a mobile phone.

A professional photographer, an apprehensive author and a mobile phone on a shoot.

Peyton used her skills and experience to style the model, keeping my concept in mind, and we ventured around the neighbourhood, searching out steps and spaces to capture photos of a sad girl destined for a book cover.

As Peyton captured multiple images, she showed me the photos. She knew I wanted a specific look, but she also knew that it was about an elusive feeling, something that would convey the trauma, isolation and despair of Samilya’s life. The images were beautiful, but nothing quite captivated me…..yet.  The model’s mum suggested another location, by this point I was disheartened. I’d almost had enough but reluctantly agreed to one last stop.

The perfect photo for our book cover

This time Peyton took the model a short distance away, and mum and I stood back chatting distractedly in the distance. Peyton believed the model would relax with fewer eyes on her.  I believe it was in this quiet, intimate moment that Peyton and the model formed a bond and created the storyline. Then there it was, the perfect photo, of a sad, lonely, traumatised little girl captured empathetically and brilliantly by Peyton. There was no doubt in my mind that Peyton had captured exactly the photo I needed. Thankfully, Samilya wholeheartedly agreed.

Peyton later told me she felt great pride and satisfaction in being able to bring my image to life, knowing Samilya and I could now hold our book in our arms with the burst of pride I had hoped for.

And the model – that’s Samilya’s youngest granddaughter.

Our hearts are full of love, gratitude, delight and pride each time we pass our precious book over to a new owner.

Thank you, Peyton.

You can follow Peyton Blake on Instagram:

Peyton Blake Photography
emerge Models

 

I still feel forgotten – 12 years on from Rudd’s apology to Forgotten Australians

An apology to Forgotten Australians was clearly needed

It’s been 12 years since 11 am on Monday, the 16th of November 2009, when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised to the “Forgotten Australians” and to former child migrants.

As a Forgotten Australian, Samilya only has this one bedraggled photo of herself from her eight horrendous years at St Joseph’s Orphanage, Neerkol. Samilya had yearned for this apology and hoped that her life would be better once it was made. Surely the little girl in the photo deserved an apology, for all the abuse and neglect she had suffered.

The 2004 Forgotten Australians report by the Senate Committee validated the horrors Samilya, and many other Forgotten Australians had described and noted their lifelong consequences:      

The long term impact of a childhood spent in institutional care is complex and varied. However, a fundamental, ongoing issue is the lack of trust and security and lack of interpersonal and life skills that are acquired through a normal family upbringing, especially social and parenting skills. A lifelong inability to initiate and maintain stable, loving relationships was described by many care leavers who have undergone multiple relationships and failed marriages. Many cannot form trust in relationships and remain loners, never marrying or living an isolated existence.

The Senate Committee’s first recommendation was that a national apology be made to the children in institutional care who were its victims.    

It took a long time to apologise

No one wanted to rush to an apology, and five long years after the Forgotten Australians report was tabled, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised to the “Forgotten Australians” and to former child migrants. On behalf of the Australian people the Prime Minister stated that we, the Australian people, were sorry:

 Sorry – that as children you were taken from your families and placed in institutions where so often you were abused.

Sorry – for the physical suffering, the emotional starvation and the cold absence of love, of tenderness, of care.

 Sorry – for the tragedy, the absolute tragedy, of childhoods lost – childhoods spent instead in austere and authoritarian places, where names were replaced by numbers, spontaneous play by regimented routine, the joy of learning by the repetitive drudgery of menial work.

 Sorry – for all these injustices to you, as children, who were placed in our care.

I hoped this apology would make a difference

Samilya hoped that this apology, unlike the two other formal apologies she had already received, would make a significant difference to her wellbeing. Samilya was clearly moved but the apology when she blogged the following in the lead up to the national apology:

Today is 4 November 2009. I have forgotten a day but today went well. I finally got out of bed after talking to myself and doing a workout before going to work. That is a choice. But 57 years ago the choices were taken away, and from many others, who were abandoned and put into orphanages. November 16 is sorry day for all of us. It was not about sorry or the money. It was and still is about the truth behind the disadvantaged kids, who are now adults and still misplaced.

A few days after the national apology Samilya wrote again:

Pain is cruel to live by. I lived with pain as a little girl from my abandoned past. Now I would like to die as it is lonely and I am in pain. No wonder the elderly don’t want to live, I have finally come to this point, body pain is horrible how does anyone want to live in a world without love and not knowing love from parents, or family. That was the hardest pain of all.

16th November 2009 was a great day it was the sorry day. It meant a lot as it all finally came out that we were telling the truth. Can anyone describe love and how to be loved by one self? How can you love yourself when you weren’t loved as a child?

I am still forgotten and misplaced

Not long after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made the apology, Samilya’s view of it changed.

I am now living in the past since going to the third apology night at the state library and I couldn’t go to Kevin Rudd’s one yesterday, I watched it on youtube. It was very painful as I still can’t seem to understand, I have written and emailed before and have gotten no reply and this to me is very confusing, I have gone backward not forward, I missed my psychiatrist appointment due to this, not good. I have to wait now till I see my doctor. Having some kind of faith in any system is very hard for me and for my family to trust. It has affected my daughters in many ways and my sons, I also emailed the Sisters of Mercy about the Royal Commission and all they can say is that they hope this makes families understand, but what about making us understand and why wasn’t this done years ago? Unless you lived in the shoes of us you will never understand or be able to. I would like to add my name to the list for the Royal Commission as I wasn’t heard the last time. So much more needs to be said. I am the one who is still left in limbo and believes in hell and heaven and I will be struck by the devil if I am bad. I have emailed others in the government and no reply so I am still forgotten and misplaced.

Did “sorry” make 2021 better?

Many Forgotten Australians are still awaiting payments through the National Redress Scheme which was established after the Royal Commission into Institutional Sexual Abuse concluded in 2013.  The Redress Scheme offers payments of up to $150,000 but the average payment is only $80,000 and the process is slow, arduous and for many who apply, re-triggering of their trauma. There has been no similar scheme for F0rgotten Australians who were not sexually abused, but who were violently abused and neglected.

There has been no easy pathway for Forgotten Australians to access welfare and health care services, including Centrelink, without having to repeatedly tell their story. Although there is assistance and support through organisations such as Lotus Place, Open Place, Relationships Australia and Care Leavers Australasia Network (CLAN).

Forgotten Australians have petitioned for a Health Care Card for medical and dental care for all Forgotten Australians. The card would provide ease of access to health care and government services similar to the Gold Card for Veterans. The petition seems to have lost impetus despite having almost 7,000 signatures and can be found here:

Petition · A Health Card for Medical & Dental Care for all Forgotten Australians. · Change.org

Samilya states:

Forgotten Australians have lost out on so much, no learning, no choices and no justice. Not enough funding for health needs.

 

Book Launch!! Not Forgotten: They called me Number 10 at Neerkol Orphanage

Thanks for making me a better writer

I had no idea how to write!

Basket of the book Not Forgotten: they called me Number 10 at Neerkol Orphanage When I started talking with Samilya and playing with the idea of writing her story I envisaged a historical novel. My fantasy included crafting turbulently romantic scenes and bold acts of heroism. I soon realised that this was not the pathway for recounting the abuse and neglect that had been foisted on Samilya. I needed to place Samilya’s story in a historical context and provide a psychological overview of the impact of trauma on her life. The reality became hours of library and internet research and ploughing my way through tombs of government documents.

I had no idea how to write a novel and even less idea of how to write a biography. Yet still, I persisted. I needed to become a better writer.

I asked for feedback on my writing

Anne Moorhouse providing reader, who made Anne a better writer, with copy of Not Forgotten: They called me number 10 at Neerkol OrphanageI am blessed to be surrounded by a group of intelligent, educated, thoughtful readers in my life and so I reached out for help – I asked for feedback on my writing. Handing over my draft manuscript was terrifying. Here was my best – what if it wasn’t enough? I was tentatively stepping into the arena and asking for criticism. I could no longer see what needed work in the manuscript, I was drowning in it.

And so started a process where I would edit the manuscript, hand it to a carefully selected reviewer, listen to their feedback and make more changes – or not. Then I would repeat the process with the next reviewer. It was often hard to hear what my readers had to say. Sometimes it was excruciatingly painful. Always it was useful and they made me a better writer. The manuscript is far richer for their input.

I asked for a lot of feedback. By the time I finished 15 people had read and provided feedback on my writing – psychologists, social workers, academics, a well-known author, those with legal backgrounds, some who saw the bigger picture, some who were detail-focused, a few who loved me and one who didn’t know me.

During the feedback process, I became better at asking for what I needed my reviewers to look for.  I learnt to listen without becoming defensive. I became adept at choosing which feedback was useful and which wasn’t. I was full of gratitude for the time and consideration they took to share their thoughts with me. I have since given feedback on another writers manuscript and it’s a tough job.

 And then I engaged a professional editor.

This weekend we celebrated

Samilya Bjelic and Anne Moorhouse at celebration of readers who made Anne a better writerWith great joy this weekend Samilya and I presented our reviewers with a signed copy of our book Not Forgotten: They called me Number 10 at Neerkol Orphanage. It was wonderful to fill the room with friends who had read a draft version of the book and who understood how important Samilya’s story, and that of all Forgotten Australians, is.

 

Finding joy at a book launch

Somewhere to be and something to do

With both trepidation and excitement, Samilya and I launched our book Not Forgotten: They called me number 10 at Neerkol orphanage at Logan East Community Neighbourhood Centre (LECNA).

Samilya has volunteered at LECNA for over 10 years. LECNA is a special place for Samilya, inspiring a chapter in the book – Somewhere to be and Something to do.  As Samilya writes:

The Centre has been a lifesaver for me, they’ve helped me more than any Royal Commission or Forde Foundation. I did the Knowledge, Networking, Intervention and Training  Program with them, they call it the KNIT program, it’s a positive behaviour management program. That was good. For a while, I went to the Centre just about every day.  They gave me somewhere to be and something to do.

They clamoured for signed copies

While we always envisaged launching the book at LECNA, nothing prepared us for the love and support shown to Samilya on the day, and the days following.

Samilya signing bookThe launch took place after the volunteers monthly lunch.  Before we even had the books ready for sale we were besieged by Samilya’s colleagues and friends wanting a copy. Everyone clamoured for Samilya to sign their copy.

 

 

For a moment we felt like movie stars as we lined up for photos, with our own paparazzi.

People taking photos

Finding joy at a book launch

Book chat

Gillian Marshall, Executive Community Manager interviewed us and we did our first ever book chat to a wonderfully supportive audience. We finished with the painful, and seemingly endless silence that happens when you ask “Any questions from the audience?”  Then the real magic happened – one by one audience members stood up.

Samilya and three friends

They did not ask questions but instead, they made heartfelt addresses to Samilya. Recognising the importance of her story, the courage she has taken to ensure all Forgotten Australians are remembered, the contribution she has made to the centre and the work she had done in the community. There were promises to promote the book.  There were tears of sorrow and joy.

We never expected to find such joy at a book launch.

Thank you LECNA.

Buy Paperback – Click here 

Buy Ebook – Amazon Australia – Click here

Buy Ebook – Amazon US – Click here

 

Book Launch!! Not Forgotten: They called me Number 10 at Neerkol Orphanage

Just released

In 1954, two-year-old Samilya was abandoned by her migrant parents and placed in St Joseph’s Home, known as Neerkol Orphanage, outside of Rockhampton. After suffering years of insidious abuse at the hands of the Catholic nuns and priests, at age 10, Samilya is returned to her mother’s care where the trauma continued.

Not Forgotten: They called me Number 10 at Neerkol Orphanage, as told to Samilya’s friend, psychologist Anne Moorhouse, lays bare the lifelong effects of horrific childhood abuse and neglect. A psychological overview places Samilya’s trauma in developmental context, and explains Samilya’s mental health diagnosis, dissociative identity disorder.

Samilya is one of 500,000 so-called “Forgotten Australians” who were placed into childhood institutions from 1920–1970. Not Forgotten follows her marathon fight for elusive justice from the 1999 Forde Inquiry through to the 2013 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Each day Samilya fights to survive, to work, to have a home, to be a good partner and a loving mother. All Samilya has ever hoped for is an ordinary life.

Buy Paperback – Click here 

Buy Ebook – Amazon Australia – Click here

Buy Ebook – Amazon US – Click here

Introducing Samilya Bjelic – the mysterious Ms Forgotten Australian

Eight long, long years ago we started writing Not Forgotten: They called me Number 10 at Neerkol orphanage.   Now I can reveal that Not Forgotten is the biography of  Samilya Bjelic, who is referred to in past posts as Ms Forgotten Australian. We had to do this as there were current legal matters which meant we could not disclose her identity. We were silenced for two years. I swore and ranted against this suppression, yet the legal team assured me it was in Samilya’s best interest.  For the first time, I felt my voice silenced by the Catholic church, for Samilya it was a repeat experience. Endured multiple times throughout her life.

Yet now here we are, free from legal constraints and tantalisingly close to having the book in our hands. This week, Covid-19 lockdowns permitting, Samilya and I will pick up our first copies.

So let me introduce you to Samilya Bjelic. She is an extraordinary woman who has endured more than most in her lifetime. She is a Forgotten Australian, volunteer, activist, mother, grandmother, friend.  You will only really know and understand why she is my hero after you read Not Forgotten: They called me Number 10 at Neerkol Orphanage.

You can read more about Samilya on our page Samilya Bjelic – Forgotten Australian.

Book Release

Stay posted, Not Forgotten: They called me Number 10 at Neerkol orphanage will soon be released!

Samilya and I are so excited to finally be able to share this with you. It’s been a long and difficult journey but we’ve shared some tea and laughs along the way.

Samilya Bjelic and Anne Moorhouse sharing tea on couch

 

 

Stepping into the arena

The end is tantalisingly near. I can almost feel the weight of the book in my hand and smell the print on the page. This eight-year journey of narrating Ms Forgotten Australian’s biography has been much longer than I expected. We’re not quite there yet and I feel so impatient!  I’ve sat with frustration and a sense of injustice as we were delayed by legal matters. I’ve struggled to harness my patience while those who matter needed time to reflect on the impact the book would have on them. I’ve been exhausted and bored by the seemingly endless hours of work. Now, as we get much closer to having a book, alongside excitement I feel the bubbling cesspit of anxiety and fear.

Self-doubt makes an appearance

My mind wanders to thoughts like “What if people tell me the book is terrible?” “What if no one reads it” “Who am I to think I can write a book?” “What if my peers, or clients, think I’m an awful psychologist?” “What if there are mistakes I haven’t found?” “What if I’ve misrepresented Ms Forgotten Australian?”  “Self-publishing is not the same as being a real author!”

We all experience self-doubt but I refuse to allow self-doubt to ruin this time for me. I was musing over how to manage these thoughts and feelings when a client mentioned the Man in the Arena quote by Theodore Rosevelt and a talk on the topic by Brene Brown.

The woman in the arena

It is not the critic who counts; not the woman who points out how the strong woman stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the woman who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends herself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if she fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that her place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt (of course he wrote it about a man… but I like it better about a woman)

Invite your critics into the arena

 

The quote resonated with me.  I am about to step into the arena. I will be vulnerable and exposed as I present the best of me to the world in the form of a book. Why wouldn’t I feel some fear?  There will always be critics in the audience, both real and imagined. Brene urges us to reserve a seat for the four critics who will undoubtedly turn up.

 

  • Shame – the universal feeling that we all experience.  As a critic, it tells you you are not good enough.
  • Scarcity – This critic tells you that what you are doing is not original, that there are better educated, trained and articulate people than you. That what you are doing does not matter.
  • Comparison – it’s the death of joy.  My comparison critic will undoubtedly tell me I should not even mention the name, Brene Brown alongside my own.
  • Yourself – the critical internal voice with its familiar messages, known only to you.

So come on in critics and take a seat up the front. You will not tell me anything I haven’t already thought of. You are so familiar. I will see you and I will hear you but I will continue.  I am ready.  I will dare greatly. I will step into the arena and if I falter, as I may…I can always watch Brene Brown again, pick myself up and continue.

When did you step into the arena?


 

Stop asking my husband “Did you push her?”

“Did you push her?” has been the awful question frequently addressed to my husband, in my presence, after I broke my ankle 5 weeks ago. I fell down our stairs, he wasn’t home.

When I first heard people ask him “Did you push her?” I was shocked but assumed it was a one-off tasteless comment. Now I’ve heard it multiple times, from both genders. Often from strangers who know nothing about us, but sometimes from friends who should know better.

Even a health worker asked him “Did you push her?”

Yesterday I went for a blood test about an unrelated matter. The phlebotomist, a health worker, asked him “Did you push her?”  She had just been alone in the room with me and certainly had not checked for domestic violence. That was the only time I’d been alone with a health worker, without my husband, who has been transporting and caring for me since my accident.

“Did you push her?” is not funny.

“Did you push her” is not a joke. I’m not laughing and neither is my husband. It minimises domestic violence and it’s silencing of victims. Imagine being a victim of domestic violence and someone jokingly asks the perpetrator (in your presence) if he pushed you. He’s certainly not going to admit it and she’s likely to be too fearful to say anything. The question itself may increase her danger by antagonising the perpetrator.

Don’t assume you can recognise a victim of domestic violence

Maybe you’re thinking they’re only asking my husband “Did you push her?” because its so obvious I am not a victim of domestic violence. That argument assumes a domestic violence victim can be identified at first glance by a stranger. None of my recent clients who had been attacked in their homes by their partners had a sign on their heads saying “victim of domestic violence”.  They do not have downcast eyes. Their clothes aren’t torn and bedraggled. They do not have obvious bruises. They were all women – a busy, thoughtful mum of 4 children, a successful businesswoman and an older semi-retired woman (who looked a lot like me).  All were in dangerous situations.

Don’t assume you can recognise a perpetrator of domestic violence

“Did you push her?” also assumes that a perpetrator can be identified easily.  I have lost count of the times clients have told me that violent perpetrators in the home, were upstanding community citizens. You cannot recognise a perpetrator through a casual interaction.

“Did you push her?” belittles the high rate of domestic violence in Australia.

These statistics are from Mission Australia:

16% of women (1.5 million) and 5.9% of men (528,800) have experienced physical violence from a partner since they were 15.

On average, one woman per week is killed by a current or former partner.

On average, one male per month is killed by a current or former partner.

Stop giving tacit approval for domestic violence

“Did you push her?” along with the nudge nudge, wink wink, that I’ve often seen accompanying the question, seems to carry with it tacit approval that it’s ok to push a woman down the stairs. Is this really 2021? Have we learnt nothing? The question disgusts and saddens me.

How you can help if you suspect an injury was caused by domestic violence?

First stop asking “Did you push her?”

  • Take the victim aside. Privately and quietly ask them what happened.
  • Ask them directly “did someone hurt you?”
  • Believe them if they tell you they were abused.
  • Respect them if they don’t want to talk about it.
  • Ask what you can do to help.
  • Direct them to 1800Respect the Domestic Violence Hotline
  • If they are in immediate danger call 000