Whittlesea CALD Communities Family Violence Research Report 2012 - Page 28

27 difficult, particularly given that most women interviewed had dependent children and neither employment nor family support when they made the decision to leave the family violence situation. A number of women said that the practical difficulties associated with leaving a family violence situation meant that they had chosen to stay in a violent relationship ‘for the sake of their children’ and because they could see no alternative. Lack of information about family violence and legal rights and lack of familiarity with available support services was a further barrier for women attempting to access assistance and this was particularly acute for women who were newly arrived in Australia. The women described arriving in Australia with complete ignorance of their legal rights and no knowledge of how to ‘navigate the system.’ Women on spousal and fiancé visas were highly dependent on their partner for information and easily subjected to misinformation. One woman described herself as being ‘at the mercy’ of her husband who made her fearful of the police, government and other services that might have helped her. Other women described the experience as being like a return to childhood: ‘Arriving in Australia from [country of origin] was like being a child again. I had no knowledge, no access to information and I was totally dependent on others.’ Women who were not proficient in English upon arrival (the majority of women interviewed) stated that this increased their isolation from the wider Australian community and acted as an additional barrier to gaining information and assistance. The women noted that the majority of information on websites, pamphlets, radio and television is in English as are official forms for getting access to housing and other services. Whilst the majority of services offered the use of telephone interpreters the first point of contact was generally in English which made it more difficult for the women to understand and communicate. In addition in their experience not all services consistently used interpreters and some relied on children and even perpetrators to provide interpreting and information about acts of violence: ‘I was bashed by my husband and my wrist was broken. I contacted police but when they arrived I was not offered an interpreter and the police had to rely on my children, who witnessed the abuse, to act as interpreters.’ The women also cited cultural and religious beliefs about divorce, separation and gender roles as well as community disapproval associated with challenging these beliefs as bearing on their decision whether or not to leave a family violence situation or seek assistance from outside of the community. Many of the women had the perception that they were being disapproved of or judged for their decisions. Some of the women had even experienced community or religious leaders or others in the community actively trying to persuade them to return to their husbands or give them a ‘second chance.’ One woman said that she felt ‘ostracised’ from her community when she made the decision to separate from her husband: ‘I have always felt very isolated from the mainstream community because I don’t speak English and I have been ostracised by my own community because of my separation from my husband and the fact that he has left me alone is considered shameful. In my community the break up of the family is usually blamed on the woman.’ Whether for fear of the reaction from their community or due to a combination of the factors outlined above, what emerged through the interviews was that half of the women interviewed remained with the perpetrator of family violence.