real life

Siobhan had to work with her ex. Until one day, she walked 5km to escape him, bleeding.

Thanks to our brand partner, DV-alert

This post deals with domestic violence and might be triggering for some readers.

The subject of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. The feature image used is a stock photo.

Siobhan and her partner had a dream: to buy a gym. Both health professionals passionate about exercise, they wanted to build a business helping others and doing what they love.

After two and a half years of hard saving, their dream came true.

But after a promising start, the business began to decline. And when that happened, so did their relationship.

Things became tough, and Siobhan’s partner began losing control.

He started taking his anger and frustration out on her.

They broke up, and Siobhan moved out. Despite ending their personal relationship, they still owned the gym together and had to work together every day.

He began abusing her at work: in the office, behind closed doors, and even in the showers. Siobhan couldn’t get away from him.

He called her fat, ugly, worthless and dumb, sometimes up to 50 times a day. After a while, she started to believe him.

In a fit of rage, he smashed both of her phones, and took her car keys. He became physically violent.

After one attack, Siobhan was left lying in a bath at the gym with a dislocated shoulder and a large cut on her head.

She was terrified, in pain, and covered in blood. She felt completely helpless.

As soon as she could she got away, Siobhan walked five kilometres to the nearest taxi rank. The taxi driver took one look at her and drove her to the closest hospital.

Siobhan didn't have a phone to call for help. Image: Getty.

The violence continued. Over the coming months, Siobhan was hospitalised again and again. Nobody at the hospital ever asked what was happening—not even her doctor. She was assigned a community support officer, but nothing else.

“I felt lost,” she says about that time. “Like I had nowhere to go.”

It took a lot of hard work before she could escape her situation. But she did, and while she’ll never be totally OK, she’s rediscovered her love of exercise.

Compared to where she was, these days she’s flourishing.

“I’m about 95 per cent there,” she says. “And I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.”

But if someone had spoken to her while she was being abused, or offered to help, some of the suffering and violence she went through could have been prevented.

There are a lot of myths around domestic violence. It can be hard to know what to do, or what to say. But one thing is absolutely true: if you see signs that someone is being abused, you can help. And it’s simpler than you might think.

A great way to find out how is by talking to the people at DV-alert, an initiative run by Lifeline that stands for Domestic and Family Violence Response Training.

They run nationally recognised training programs for community frontline workers, which empower you to become confident first responders when confronted with domestic and family violence.

In the course, you’re taught how to recognise signs of domestic and family violence, respond with appropriate care, and how to refer someone to the appropriate support services.

DV-alert also run awareness sessions and provide resources for anyone who isn’t a frontline worker, but wants to learn how they can help.

These resources will show you how you can reach out to family, friends or colleagues who are subjected to domestic or family violence. e-Learning courses are also available.

Unfortunately, domestic and family violence is still present in our community. One in five Australian women have experienced sexual violence, and 58 per cent of Australian women have never sought advice or support.

But by being of aware of what we can do to help, we can support them. And we can stop stories like Siobhan’s from happening.

You can find out more at

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.


DV-alert is for all community frontline workers in Australia, and is designed to empower participants to be confident first responders when facing issues of domestic and family violence. Being the first point of contact for women and their children in the community, we know the important role that community frontline workers play to those subjected to domestic and family violence. Our training ensures that you can effectively engage with and support people – assisting them to seek appropriate help.

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