ARA’s Emergency Support Service will help Mara to safety. Will you please support Mara with a generous gift of $50?
“I cry all the time, I cannot sleep. What can I do? Please help me.”
These are the first words I heard when I met Mara, a young mum recently arrived in Australia.
Mara is desperately trying to escape domestic violence. Her home is unsafe; her husband is abusive and controlling. In this extraordinary time of the COVID19 epidemic, self-isolation has escalated the danger for Mara and her children.
Mara is frightened and alone, with no family, no community support and no independence. She must stay with her husband to support her children. She has no choice.
My name is Deb Stringer and I am CEO of the Australian Refugee Association (ARA). Self-isolation during the COVID-19 crisis is increasing the risk of violence and abuse to women and children. It gives an abusive partner even greater control over their terrified families. This is Mara’s life right now – a living nightmare.
But there is another heartbreaking complication for Mara and her children. Because their situation doesnot tick ‘all the right boxes’ for emergency support, women like Mara, and the agencies they turn to, are often powerless to act. With no safety net, refugee women trapped in a violent home during the COVID-19 crisis will ‘fall through the cracks’ of the system, forgotten.
Women like Mara are reaching out to us right now because they have no one left to turn to. I don’t want to turn them away. We have even sheltered women and children in the ARA office while we find them emergency accommodation.
So, I’m drawing a line in the sand. Enough is enough. We need things to change.
I know you care deeply about people like Mara. I know you understand that the COVID-19 crisis has escalated the danger to her life. I need to set up an Emergency Support Service to help Mara, her children and other women like her throughout the pandemic.
Our new service will give Mara the chance to leave her situation with some stability, with day-to-day basics such as groceries, bedding, furniture, bus tickets, fuel, a bond for accommodation – anything that will set her on a new path to safety, with confidence in this uncertain and challenging time.
When Mara arrived in Australia, she hoped for a good life. Now all she feels is despair.
Mara desperately needed help for her five-year-old daughter, Soraya, who has severe Cerebral Palsy.
Soraya is in a wheelchair and needs high-level care. Back home, services were non-existent for her. There was no therapy, no support – her condition did not even have a name. Her second-hand wheelchair was old, heavy and difficult for Mara to push. Caring for Soraya every day, along with her nine-year-old daughter, Alima, was exhausting.
Traumatically, Mara’s husband blames her for Soraya’s disability and refuses to care for his own daughter. He provides financial support only – and does so grudgingly. He is abusive, controlling and has little to do with his children. Mara has been living with domestic violence for many years, simply accepting the situation, to support her children.
After years of struggle, last year, Mara was able to move to Australia with her husband, who has residency status. She had heard wonderful stories about the level of support Soraya could receive here. The family arrived here in December, with Mara on a spousal visa.
Soraya has good support and her eldest daughter, Alima is settled in school. Mara has tried hard to make this new life work. But the violence has become worse – and now she feels in even greater danger. She wants to leave, to protect herself and the children.
But with no financial independence, Mara is trapped. On a spousal visa, she is fully dependent on her husband. She cannot even leave the house without his permission. If she leaves, he will not let her come back – and she will be homeless.
ARA’s unique Emergency Support Service will act as a safety net, so no one falls through the cracks.
Vulnerable women and children need the practical means to leave an abusive home and rebuild their lives: day-to-day basics like groceries, bedding, furniture, bus tickets, fuel, a bond for accommodation – anything that enables the woman to leave her situation with a sense of stability and sustain her through the short to middle-term.
Without this Emergency Support Service, women like Mara have nothing and no one. You and I can help her. Will you please send a generous gift of $50 so I can get Mara and her children to safety?
Mara feels completely alone in the world right now. And she is scared.
Her own family back home ask why she is “complaining”. They argue she has food, a roof over her head, clothes for her children – she should be “grateful” to her husband.
Mara cannot turn to the people she knows here. In fact, this situation is so precarious, we cannot even reveal Mara’s country of origin.
Publicly, her husband is a different person; a highly respected member of the community. No one would guess that he is abusive and controlling at home. Mara fears the community would never believe her husband could do such a thing. So she stays silent.
Her spousal visa status means Mara is fully dependent on her husband for money, and cannot access Centrelink payments directly. Her husband will not let her learn to drive, so she relies on him for transport. To get to therapy appointments, school drop off or go shopping, he must drive or give her money for a taxi. Sometimes, he simply refuses.
The stress on these children is overwhelming, we must do something right now.
Mara spends every day afraid. When she is shopping for groceries, she must ‘pretend’ all is well. When she is home, she is isolated. Her nights are spent looking after her daughter – her disability requires high-level care. Her husband refuses to help, so she spends the night in Soraya’s bedroom, turning her every two hours, alone. She barely sleeps.
Both children suffer stress and anxiety as they witness their father abusing their mother and controlling her every move. Alima is a little older and aware of the consequences of this cruelty. She constantly asks what they will do. She begs her mum to leave, so she is not sad and crying all the time. Then she asks, “but how will we eat?”
Mara is edging closer to breaking point. She knows that if she stays, she and her children are in danger. Yet Mara has no financial means to leave – and if she does, she will be homeless, in a women’s shelter, with no adequate disabled facilities for Soraya and at great risk of exposure to the Coronavirus.
All Mara wants is the best life for her kids and to escape the daily violence and abuse. ARA’s Emergency Support Service will meet her immediate needs and break this cycle of abuse. This service is critical to her future – and many other refugee women who desperately need it during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please donate today to help Mara.
This new service will offer real support to help people transition into a more stable, happy life.
Time and time again, over my years of working in the not for profit sector, I have been confronted with situations where people have no access to means or methods to escape.
Every day at ARA, I see people in desperate need of urgent, practical support. There are no existing on-the-ground programs across any agency that truly meet their needs.
That’s why I need kind-hearted people like you to help me kickstart ARA’s Emergency Support Service. Itwill allow women like Mara to start a new life, away from violence.
This is how your donation today will help.
And thanks to your donation, Mara will know there are good people in the world – generous people like you, who care about her safety and happiness. People like you who want to protect the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic, even when you face challenges of your own in these extraordinary times.
You and I can help these kids and their mum to live a safe, stable and happy life in Australia. But without your support, ARA cannot launch the Emergency Support Service. We simply do not have the funds to stop women like Mara falling through the cracks.
“I dream of a life where I am free to live without fear. In my dream I am not afraid. Soraya is smiling and happy and Alima does not cry herself to sleep at night.” – Mara
With your kind support, ARA can take action. You and I can be at the forefront of change. You and I can offer proactive, practical help, creating a path to a new life for women like Mara and her children.
CEO, Australian Refugee Association
PS ARA must raise $25,000 immediately to start our Emergency Support Service and protect the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot do it without you. Will you please send us your generous gift?