real life

'Escaping domestic violence left me homeless with two kids. Here's how I rebuilt my life.'

Content warning: This story includes deals with domestic violence and mental health, and may be distressing to some readers.

Aisha* was over the moon when she found out she was pregnant with her second child. 

But on the day of her first ultrasound appointment in November 2020, her excitement was overcome by fear.

The mum-of-two was sitting in the waiting room with her partner when an argument broke out. 

"When you first hear the heartbeat of your unborn child, you are filled with joy and happiness," the 42-year-old told Mamamia. "I felt like I was dragging him [my partner at the time] there." 

As tensions rose, Aisha's partner turned to her and said "I want you to go halves in everything". 

Aisha couldn't believe she was expected to contribute financially in that way while taking care of a newborn, and her teenage son. 

"I was in shock… this is supposed to be a joyful moment," she recalled. 

Things only got worse after the ultrasound. 

While driving back to their home in Sydney, her partner became violent. 

"While I was driving, he choked me twice. I stopped at the traffic light [and] rolled down my car window [and] then he stopped. I knew when I got home I would [have to] cope with it more."'

Women and violence: The hidden numbers. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia. 

Once they arrived back home, the violence continued, prompting Aisha's then-17-year-old son, to call triple-zero. 

"While I was in fear for my life, I hear 'Mum hang on police will be here soon'."

"My heart broke into pieces knowing that I have brought this monster into our lives and my son [had to] witness his first domestic violence [incident]."

Up until her pregnancy, Aisha's partner had never been physically abusive. 

However, looking back now, the 42-year-old can see the red flags. 

"The relationship made me feel suffocated. I could not breathe and it was exhausting to keep up with every new allegation and threat."

The emotional abuse continued after Aisha welcomed her second son, who was born with health issues, in June 2021. 

During that time, Aisha struggled as she supported her baby through surgery, without any emotional support from her partner. 

"Every time he came home, the house felt dark, and I didn't know what to expect," she recalled. 


"I started to fade away and disconnect from what was real and what was not."

Less than a year after giving birth, she decided enough was enough and broke the rental lease on their home, before moving out in December 2021. 

For the first time in years, Aisha felt like she could breathe. 

"I felt like I had space in my life... And I [thought] ok now I can restart," she recalled.

With two kids to look out for, she moved into her elder son's grandmother's house to start a new life. 

It was a situation, Aisha - who moved to Australia from Africa as a teenager - never expected to find herself in and she began slipping into a dark place. 

"I remember [on] one of my morning walks, I started to cry... in the middle of the footpath [thinking] how my life has turned to this and both my children did not ask for this... I felt like giving up and just ending it."

Instead, she persevered, and started working as an Uber driver and in home care to support her family, while her eldest son was preparing to do his HSC.

Unfortunately, her son's grandmother's townhouse, which was littered with antiques, quickly proved itself an unsuitable option for her by then 18-year-old and a six-month-old. 

But with rental hikes and little income, Aisha found herself running out of options and felt "completely lost". 


She began calling homeless agencies, but was told they couldn't help as her son was 18.  

Eventually she stumbled upon a refuge run by the St Vincent de Paul Society which housed families with adults. 

"I wanted a safe place and [to] get support," she shared. 

It wasn't the first time Aisha had found herself homeless. 

When she was 19, she lived on the streets, after moving to Australia and experiencing a falling out with her mother.

At the time, she would shelter at a local park at night with nothing but a bag of belongings she brought over from Africa. 

"Sleeping on the park bench was scary, especially with animals like possums, which I had never seen before."

20 years later, Aisha didn't expect to be homeless once again, let alone with two children by her side. 

Evey night, she would cry as her children slept and would regularly call 1800Respect for support. 

"I felt [like] I let my children down and possibly destroyed their future. I felt helpless and could not provide basic needs for my children."

During that time, she drew strength from her sons - her youngest still undergoing surgeries and her eldest going through the HSC.

"Their resilience made me stronger to keep moving forward. My older son never left my side, he could have lived with his dad and had his freedom... [but] he stayed and looked after us and still looks after us to this day."


After six months in the refuge, she eventually moved into affordable housing in July last year. 

With a roof over her head, she was able to secure a job at a trust fund months later in November. 

Things were looking up. 

But there was a problem. After everything she'd been through, Aisha didn't own any corporate clothing to wear to the office every day.

That's when she turned to the charity Dress For Success, which works to improve the employability of disadvantaged women in NSW by providing free professional clothing, support and coaching. 

Aisha remembers walking through their doors and meeting a team member named Jules, who made her feel less alone. 

"The first thing she said was, 'I understand you, I have been in the same situation seven years ago. This is a safe place Aisha no one will judge you'.

"I cried thinking 'I've found a secure job, I've found a safe place that can help me with clothing and they are all making me feel like everything will be alright'."

After getting help by a stylist, who helped chose clothes that made her feel empowered, Aisha ended up walking out with three bags of a week's worth of clothing, makeup, and shoes.

"It might not be a big deal to some, but for me, when I had one less worry it made a big impact on [me]."


While Aisha "loved" her job at the trust fund, the stress of juggling work with her son's medical condition became too much and she recently resigned. 

She currently spends her time volunteering for Dress For Success to help other women who find themselves in similar situations, as she looks for part-time work. 

While the future remains somewhat uncertain, Aisha says she's in a much better place mentally. 

"I'm just holing on to the all the positives, and all the good things that happened to me... Hopefully the bad things [that happened] will propel me onto a good path."

*Names have been changed for safety and privacy reasons. 

Dress for Success Sydney is a registered charity that improves the employability of disadvantaged women in NSW. You can learn more here. 

If this has raised 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.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

Feature Image: Supplied.