I remember trying to figure out a way I could afford to leave Mr Who and I just couldn’t see how it could be done. Over and over in my mind while I was doing every menial task set for me, I was trying to figure out how I could do it. Even though I was living in an intimate relationship, I still had to pay rent/board, half the phone bill and all my own personal bills, including my car payment, license and registration,insurance, and mobile phone bill. Mr Who was proud of his ability to work out a budget that meant on my pension I could pay all these things and still have $20 left for myself each fortnight to ‘do as I pleased’. True, when my car needed a service, I had the money there; when my registration was due, I had the money there; but I had nothing left. It made trying to figure out a way to be able to afford to leave really difficult. He had been adamant from the beginning of our relationship that he had paid the price for his last de-facto, had paid her way, she had never contributed and that would never happen again. In principle I could see where he was coming from, but he took it to an extreme that became part of his absolute control.
I don’t have children, and I do realise it’s a great deal more expensive and difficult when you do, but when you have no money, trying to save for a bond on a rental property for yourself is next to impossible, kids or not. I didn’t have the option of going to my family for help and I had never wanted anyone to know what was going on inside my ‘home’. I felt completely alone, isolated and stuck forever.
Then one day, I met a Salvation Army officer in central Mandurah; collecting for the Salvos while the weekly craft market I attended as a stall holder was going on, and I just got talking to her over time. One week, when I was allowed to go unsupervised, this lovely lady chose to tell me that our local housing agency Homeswest will loan people enough money for the bond and two weeks rent on a property. I have no idea how she knew what I needed to know, but she did and I will be eternally grateful.
Bond and two weeks rent is helpful, but what about furniture? Food? Getting electricity, gas, water and telephone connected? Everything takes money and it’s continually disheartening to feel like there is no way you are going to be able to do it. For me though, I kept hearing Mr Who in my head saying “…You’ll never be able to live in the city again, it will send you insane and there’s no way you can afford to keep up the lifestyle you have here. Say goodbye to your car without me…”
It took nearly 10 years of me listening to him and believing him before I started thinking that I would rather live under a bridge and have no car than spend the rest of my life being treated like someone else’s possession, to be used and abused at will. In a funny kind of way, I am grateful for the time we spent together, it certainly makes me appreciate my freedom now.
Pat Thomas House is a local women’s refuge that can help if you are in need of crisis housing and protection.