Kayla, 16, felt ashamed when she didn’t step in to protect her mum from her violent stepfather. She worried that intervening might cause him to start targeting her or start hitting her three siblings as well. Kalya hid her fears from her mum and became increasingly withdrawn.
She started self-harming to cope with her emotional pain and stopped attending school so she could stay at home and keep an eye on her mum and help with her younger siblings. She hoped this would help stop the fighting.
In the last two years, Centacare has supported more than 4,000 teenagers experiencing emotional and physical abuse at the hands of their parents or guardians.
The organisation has once again called on the community to take a stand against domestic and family violence in its tenth annual march and candlelight vigil at Maroochydore.
More than 300 people attended the event on Wednesday night, which is held with Sunshine Coast Council to mark the start of Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month.
Event speakers addressed the issue of coercive control, the experiences of migrant women and how we can each play a part in ending domestic and family violence.
Attendees wore an ‘Empower Her Voice’ shirt designed by Centacare and placed tealight candles on the shoes of those who had lost their lives to domestic and family violence.
Centacare Area Manager Adam Beck said that domestic and family violence was a serious community issue that affected everyone in a family.
“Young people don’t need to have violence inflicted on them directly in order to be affected,” said Mr Beck.
“They can experience lifelong impacts of domestic and family violence even if they haven’t been physically harmed. Simply living in the same home and witnessing the abuse can leave scars that do not easily heal.
“Living in a tense or frightening environment and walking on eggshells causes young people to feel the same fear, intimidation and threat to their safety as those that are the primary victims of violence.”
When Kayla’s mother noticed self-inflicted bruises and cuts on her daughter’s legs and stomach, she asked Kayla to join her in her counselling sessions with Centacare. She thought her children had been shielded from the abuse however needed support with managing the children’s behaviours and wanted to know what was happening to Kayla.
Feeling safe and supported by the Centacare practitioner, Kayla began to tell her story and make sense of her feelings. She spoke of the shame she felt, how she feared for her mum and how she feared for her siblings.
Kayla’s mother was also able to learn more about the impact of domestic violence on children who she noticed were becoming angry and more challenging to parent. She was provided support to help increase her and her children’s safety and to deal with their outbursts.
Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Mark Jamieson said the Sunshine Coast continued to stand-up and support victims of domestic and family violence.
“You are not alone,” Mayor Jamieson said. “An estimated eight million Australians have experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15.”
Mr Beck said the annual march and vigil acted as a reminder that we can all play a part in addressing gender inequality and putting an end to domestic and family violence.
“We hope to educate and gain a commitment from the community to help change the story for current and future generations.
“Every person has the right to live a life free of violence and abuse – right now, home is not always a safe place for our local women and children.”
Sunshine Coast Lightning DFV prevention Ambassador Tara Hinchliffe said she and her team were proud to be taking a stand against domestic and family violence.
“Sunshine Coast Lightning stands with the victims and against all forms of abuse,” Ms Hinchliffe said.
“Domestic and family violence is never okay and never tolerated. Join us and show your support this May.”
DV Safe Phone attended the vigil and accepted donations of spare or unused phones, which they repurpose and gift to people experiencing domestic violence. These ‘Safe Phones’ provide a lifeline to call for help when it is needed most.
Centacare offers a safe and supportive space for those impacted by domestic and family violence, including children and young people. If you’d like to support Centacare’s domestic and family violence services, you can make a donation.
Resources and contacts
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing (or is at risk of experiencing) domestic and family violence, contact your local Centacare service.
In an emergency, call the Ambulance or Police on 000.
If there is no immediate emergency, you can report domestic and family violence to the police by phoning Policelink on 131 444 or make a non-urgent report by submitting an online form.
You can also call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT for advice and support. This service is open 24 hours and provides confidential advice via phone or webchat.
To protect their privacy, we do not use the real names and images of Centacare clients.