This Friday is White Ribbon Day – a national day for the prevention of violence against women.
In Canberra today, Labor MP for Lindsay, Emma Husar, has been struggling to maintain her composure as she recounts a childhood growing up under the shadow of domestic violence in western Sydney.
The mother of three from Penrith, told her parliamentary colleagues that for the first 13 years of her life, she witnessed her father physically attack her mother when drunk as part of a cycle of abuse that has continued to impact on her adult life.
Here is Emma Husar’s speech to the Australian parliament today:
In my first speech in this place I said 29 out of my 36 years of life had been affected by domestic violence.
I am a survivor of family violence, and it has taken me a long time to overcome the trauma of that to be where I am today.
I know there are a lot of women out there who suffer in silence. Today I stand in solidarity with survivors, with those women afraid to speak, and I will use my story, told in this place to advocate for the change we need.
I will use the eve of white ribbon day as an opportunity to shine a light into the darkest corner of my own life.
The first 13 years of my life was marred with physical domestic violence, committed towards my mother, at the hands of my always drunk-when-abusive Father.
My Dad was the son of a World War Two German soldier who committed many acts of violence against his wife and against his seven children. My father had been raised in a house where violence was the accepted norm and at a time when society said these were private matters.
Whilst the blows that landed on my mother during my childhood didn’t land on me physically – they may as well have. The trauma inflicted was the same. I recall it vividly and in great detail.
Each episode of this violence over my 13-years was different but the aftermath was always the same: Dad would apologise, promise to be different, and that would work for just a short time.
One evening, at the end of another round of abuse, Dad launched the family dinner of that evening at the wall.
The stain remained on that wall for a very long time – the stain in my heart would linger much longer. Mum then bundled my sister and I into the family car and fled.
We would go to the refuges in our community, until, after so many years and so many incidents, my father knew the locations and we were not safe there anymore. We then shifted to staying in hotels, which were located above pubs where the people below were loud and sometimes their noise would spill into the streets, waking me and reminding me that I wasn’t in my own bed, in my own home.
I was in a foreign place, because I was not safe.
One night, when Mum was hurrying to get my sister and I out. Dad had removed and smashed the distributor cap from the car rendering it useless and us trapped. The Police fetched us this time.
I still remember sitting in the Police station well into the early hours of the morning and the officers in Penrith police giving us pink milk while we waited. The police did their best.
Again, after this event my Mum returned home.
We know why women return time and time again even when their lives are massively disrupted along with their children’s’, and I hope that the blame that was launched at my Mum during the 90’s for not leaving, is no longer part of the “solution” around domestic violence – and I hope the questions of ‘why doesn’t she just leave’ quit being asked.
Eventually, though, the courage rises up, services step up and women stand up. Finally leaving. But not before one last terrible incident.
There were 13-police cars the last time physical violence affected my childhood. But this was the end of the physical violence, once and for all. Whilst the physical part ceased other abuse around finance and control ramped up.
Sadly, the wheel of domestic violence continues to affect my life as a grown woman, with children of my own. The last 16-years of my life have been and continue to be affected by domestic and family violence.
In the limited time I have left, I would like to thank Opposition Leader Bill Shorten for his continued support of my current situation, his understanding, and the support he provides to me. I would also like to thank my caucus colleagues and staff who know my story, who don’t judge me and continue to provide support.
I would like to acknowledge the Penrith Women’s Health Service who have been providing services to my community for 30-years, including to my Mum then, and to my family now.
Sometimes in my experience I have found that, mostly, victims don’t talk about domestic violence because other people don’t talk about domestic violence.
For many years I was embarrassed and ashamed. I know that I shouldn’t be but I am.
I hope that today, I have lent my voice, my story, and my passion for advocating change, to the choir of the white ribbon movement who call on us to stand up, speak out and act.
Here’s the parliamentary recording of her speech:
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