Anna was born in the Middle East, but her family emigrated to Europe when she was young to escape from conflict. She identifies as mostly European in her cultural identity as her family integrated well into their community, though she maintains strong family focused values of her Middle Eastern background.

Anna met her ex-husband through family connections and he travelled to Europe to meet her.  They maintained an enjoyable long distance relationship and she agreed to marry him and move to Australia where he lived with his family.

Following their marriage, Anna came to realise that his family culture held different expectations of a woman’s role in the family than she was used to. Her husband would spend time away from the family working and gambling after work hours, causing financial difficulties. His behaviour towards her ranged from verbal and emotional to severe physical abuse, one incident so bad that Anna was left in coma.

Anna initially tried to leave her husband following an incident during which he belittled and physically harmed her three year old daughter.  Anna’s ex-husband threatened to find her and kill her if she did not return, and their family network also criticized Anna for breaking up the family. As she had no one to support her at the time she returned to the relationship. Anna finally decided to leave when she witnessed her ex-husband physically assaulting her youngest son when he was four years old.

Anna took her children and fled to a hostel. She was supported in achieving an ADVO to protect herself and the children. Anna describes this as an extremely difficult time as she could see how distressed her children were living in a strange environment and she had no car and very little means to support her children – she worried if she could manage on her own. Anna was able to remain strong and accepted the support offered, working slowly towards building a life for herself and her children.

Anna now lives in the Sutherland Shire, a location that is not known by her ex-husband, and works a full-time job. Her children are settled into local schools, have friends and attend activities like any other children.

Anna has been going through Family Court Proceedings for more than five years. Due to the substantiated level of abuse experienced by Anna and her children they do not currently have contact with him. Her children have been interviewed numerous times throughout the Court process and they have clearly stated that do not want to see their father. The court proceedings have been a very stressful experience for Anna as she has had to see her ex-husband in court, she has been prevented from travelling to visit her family overseas as the children are on a “No Fly” order, which has been particularly difficult after a death in the family and Anna’s mother’s health declining. Anna worries how her children would be impacted should the Court order that they must have contact with their father.

Anna was referred to the BRIC program through her youngest son’s school counsellor because although he is trying hard, Peter struggles to focus in the classroom and complete his work. Anna spoke with the school staff and was open about their family history. Anna has taken Peter to see a Paediatrician who has diagnosed him with ADHD – in the report the Paediatrician indicated that Peter’s early experiences of domestic violence have significantly contributed to his current presentation.

Anna has engaged well with the BRIC program, joining in October 2019. She has learned about how growing up with the experience of domestic violence impacts children’s brain development, specifically how they can go into the survival modes of “fight, flight or freeze” when faced with stress or triggered by things such as loud noises, even though there is no real danger present. This has helped her to understand why Peter may not be able to concentrate at times, why he continues to wet the bed at night and when he becomes anxious when he is not with his mother or siblings. Anna is learning that providing repeated experiences of safety and finding ways to assist Peter to regulate his feelings before they overwhelm him are helping him to heal.

Before Christmas, Anna noted that Peter’s night wetting had reduced, which is a good indication that he is beginning to feel safer at home. Anna has also noted that her other two children are communicating with her more openly, particularly about their emotions, and she said she feels more connected to all three of her children.

Anna has stated several times that the support she receives from her individual sessions with her BRIC worker as well as the other women in the group have given her a place where she can let out her worries, regulate herself and this is what is helping her to cope with her stress leading up to her final court appearance.

 Anna’s final court date was a Friday and the group told her we would light a Candle for her sending her prayers and support for a positive outcome – we sent an SMS of the photo below to wish her well and let her know we were thinking of her. Anna later called to let us know that the Final Orders gave her full parental responsibility and she was told she could start applying for passports to finally visit her family.