We first met Alice in November 2014 at our Parramatta Advice Bureau. She had been granted a provisional Partner Visa and had just left her marriage due to being a victim of family violence perpetrated by her husband, Donald. When she left her marriage, she had nowhere to live. She was very scared and uncertain about her future and came to see us for legal advice about her permanent partner visa application and arranging crisis accommodation.
Alice entered into an arranged marriage with Donald in India in October 2013. It is common practice in India for parents to seek an arranged marriage for their children. Alice’s marriage to Donald was her second marriage, after her first marriage ended due to domestic violence being perpetrated against her.
After Donald and Alice married, Alice lived with Donald for a short time before he returned to Australia for work. Donald is an Australia citizen and Alice began preparing to move permanently to Australia.
Alice’s relationship with Donald started to deteriorate in January 2014 when Alice’s ailing father struggled to pay Donald’s family the full dowry amount. Donald’s parent began to make demands for the dowry and started to verbally abuse Alice, ultimately triggering the return of her depression and anxiety she had developed after the breakdown of her first marriage. The stress of the dowry demands caused Alice significant anxiety to the point where one day she fainted. She was accused by Donald’s family of having epilepsy and was forced to take prescribed medication against her will.
Shortly after Alice arrived in Australia in October 2014, Donald’s behaviour towards her changed significantly. Donald started to subject Alice to constant psychological, sexual and emotional abuse. The demands for dowry payment by Donald and his parents were incessant and Alice was continually verbally and emotionally abused.
Donald was very aggressive and controlling – he prevented Alice from obtaining a sim card for her mobile phone so she was unable to contact anyone. She was only allowed to contact her parents using Donald’s phone and when she did, he always monitored her conversations.
Donald also tried to stop Alice from taking anti-depressant medication. Donald then became so controlling that he forced Alice into isolation by forcing her to remain in their bedroom in the share house they lived in, and threatened to shoot her if she left the room or spoke to anyone. Alice was very scared and abided by his demands, to the point where she stayed in their bedroom day and night for months on end and did not even leave to use the bathroom.
Alice felt incredibly helpless due to the constant abuse perpetrated by Donald. She was too afraid to seek help and was constantly in fear of Donald. Alice had no family in Australia to reach out to or get support from. She was also worried about returning home because, as a twice-divorced woman, it would bring shame to her family in India.
The abuse escalated to the point that in October 2014, after a very physically violent altercation, Alice escaped their share house and sought help from a neighbour. Alice was able to contact her family in India and her father consequently phoned Parramatta Police Station from India, who then arrived and took Alice to the Police Station. Shortly after this incident Alice approached Salvos Legal for help.
Within two weeks of receiving advice from Salvos Legal, Alice moved into The Salvation Army’s Safehouse and received medical treatment from a consultant psychologist.
Salvos Legal assisted Alice to lodge her application for a Permanent Partner visa on the basis she had suffered family violence that had led to the breakdown of her marriage. The final stage of Alice’s application was lodged with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection on 13 May 2015 and remarkably, within just four business days, the Department made its decision and was satisfied that Alice had experienced family violence at the hands of her husband. The Department granted Alice her permanent partner visa and she is now able to remain living and working in Australia on a permanent basis.
We called Alice to inform her of the successful outcome and she was incredibly overjoyed to the point that she started to cry with happiness.
Alice’s case is tragically a reality for many women who have entered into arranged marriages in India and have left their families to start a new life in Australia with their husbands. Family violence is a leading cause of death in Australia, with one in five women experiencing partner violence and more than one woman killed every week nationwide. While on its face, family violence is a criminal and social justice issue, there are underlying issues for victims associated with housing, employment and socio-economic status. It has been reported that family violence is the single largest cause of homelessness in Australia, particularly for women and young children.
With Alice’s courage and strength, and with the help of Salvos Legal, she has now been granted freedom – freedom from violence and fear, and freedom to live her life to the fullest.