A hand up from Vinnies at just the right time has turned Samantha’s life around and she and her children now have a bright future ahead of them.
Samantha* started life in Samoa as one of 10 children. A childhood filled with trauma – emotional, physical and sexual abuse, separation from her parents, constantly moving and never having a home to call her own – set the pattern of vulnerability that has dogged her life.
Aged 25 and pregnant with her first child, Samantha moved to Australia with the man she would later marry. After separating from her husband, fearing for her safety when he tried to pursue her and the death of her mother in Samoa, Samantha found herself in a downward spiral. Struggling to survive, she began binge drinking and smoking.
“I had abandoned myself in a way and was not caring for myself – this was my way of coping,” said Samantha.
In amongst this, Samantha fell pregnant with her second child. Her partner also physically and mentally abused and tormented her on a daily basis. He destroyed her Citizenship Certificate, her children’s birth certificates, their school reports and clothes.
At the end of her tether, she fled with her kids to a friend’s house, ending up in a shelter for several weeks. Sadly she soon returned to her ex-partner, after he begged forgiveness and insisted he’d changed. But, as Samantha puts it, “with little self-esteem and belief in yourself, it is easy to fall prey to others lies.”
The abuse worsened and Samantha fled to another shelter three months later. She’d already sent her eldest child to live with his father to protect him and needed to get her other child and herself to safety. She and her five year old son travelled overseas but soon returned to Australia.
Upon her return her abusive ex-partner tracked her down and tried to kill her by sitting on her chest with a pillow over her head while her son slept beside her.
Samantha spent the next five and a half years constantly moving. With only sporadic casual work, debt piled up and with no stable income, finding stable housing became impossible. She and her son lived in share accommodation, caravans, private rentals, and motel rooms. Sometimes they wandered the streets with their suitcases, worried where they would sleep for the night.
Samantha lived with paranoia, a locked jaw and faintness. Traumatised, she was hearing voices - all symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Samantha’s job agency worker understood Samantha would find it difficult to find stable work without a place of her own, and contacted Vinnies Families Back on Track (FBOT). Samantha was accepted into the transitional housing program, and soon she and her son moved into a fully furnished two bedroom unit.
The Vinnies Support Worker worked with Samantha to set goals for herself and to guide her through achieving them.
“I was encouraged to see a positive life for myself and my family and provided all the support I could want to help me achieve my goals,” said Samantha.
Samantha was provided with support to get out of the cycle of pay-day loans, was referred to a psychiatrist and other health practitioners and participated in education and skills-building workshops. Samantha was beginning to take care of her physical and mental health and build self-confidence.
“My Support Worker encouraged me to believe in my strengths – my sense of humour, my insightfulness, my ability to provide a better life for my son.
“Families Back on Track is not just a place, it was a home for me and my son. I was given respect and felt that I had dignity for the first time in my life. If it was not for Families Back on Track and their vision for me, I would not have been able to transcend my past and envision a better life for myself,” she says.
Samantha has since gained a Counselling Diploma and completed a Diploma in Community Services. She dreams of going to university to study Psychology, wanting to pay the kindness she and her family received forward and help other domestic violence victims.
*Real names have been changed to protect the privacy of the people we support.