Trigger warning: child sexual abuse, family violence.
My name is Tracey, I am 46, and I live with a disability, and I am a survivor of family violence and childhood sexual abuse.
I grew up in a family with strong values and personal beliefs but my ability to cement these belief systems in myself was stolen by child sexual predators from as early as I can remember. Instead, I grew up being groomed to believe I was only here to serve the needs of others, that what was happening to me was normal in every family. I lived my childhood and adolescence believing that everyone around me knew what was happening to me but was not willing to intervene. This left me feeling isolated and worthless.
When I married, I had not been able to develop an understanding of what kind of love I deserved, what I should expect from a healthy marriage. As such, I lived the next 18 years of my life subjected to multiple forms of family violence including sexual, physical, emotional and psychological abuse at the hands of my husband and his mother. While I appeared strong and resilient on the outside, inside was a different story. Instead of being confident, nurturing healthy self-esteem, self-respect and a desire to live life, I was ashamed, fearful and felt I had to fight this battle alone.
My growth in wisdom only began in the last two years of the marriage. I finally began to understand that I was not deserving of the violence I had experienced over the years. I have now left the marriage and live free from violence, telling my story to help others understand they are not alone and that no one deserves violence.
Where there is violence against women, there are barriers which seem insurmountable to bring any positive change for those subjected to violence.
Where there is tolerance for violence against women, there are women being hurt, maimed or killed.
Gender equality within society, communities and families involves active demonstrations of empowering girls and women to know their worth, to have confidence in who they are, who they can be and what they can do. It involves teaching our children to respect the rights of others to live a life free from any form of violence. It means breaking down any barriers that women face in achieving their right to equality, to safety and to living a full and meaningful life.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.
Thank you to our guest bloggers and community advocates for taking part in our Gender Equality Matters 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence campaign.