Linda is a survivor of violence, who suffered at the hands of her abusive husband. She now works for Medecins Sans Frontieres and brings hope to some victims and survivors of domestic violence in PNG.
Trigger warning: This post features explicit details of rape and violence that could be distressing for some readers.
Linda, a rape and family violence survivor from Papua New Guinea, writes:
Violence is huge problem in PNG. Lots of girls, children and women are facing it. I am one of them.
I was about 21-years-old, still in school. I had a boyfriend that my mum did not like, she was using abusive words to me I could not cope with it. So I ran away to the beach and fell asleep. I woke around 8pm with an unknown man inside me. I punched him and he left. I hid myself before walking back and said nothing to anyone. I felt bad and was too ashamed for having sex with a stranger. I hated my mum because of this and stayed away from my family.
I contracted an STI and had to drop out of school. So I decided to get married but was unsuccessful.
After some years I married according to local customs after I had known the man for a week. That’s how I experienced domestic violence. My partner was having another relationship and became so violent, abusing me physically and emotionally.
I stayed with him for three years. We would fight all the time. Sometimes fights occurred because I refused to have sex or refused sex without condom. He’d lock the doors and use anything in the house as a weapon to hurt me. Once he beat me with a radio and I had to get stitches at the nearest clinic. He was usually next to me and I could not say anything to nurses and doctors. Sometimes I could tell them that I fought with my husband but nothing happened.
Sometimes he would beat me so hard with a stick that I had to remain home for a week and massage my body with hot water in order to get rid of the pain and bruises. I had thoughts of hurting myself. I have had a miscarriage and have pain in my back from a time when he lifted me up and threw me on the ground. After hitting me, he would usually force me to have sex, saying that would make me happy and solve the problem. I don’t want to have sex when I am in pain. But I don’t want to get more pain by fighting back.
Once, after I came back from a trip overseas, we were out drinking with friends and he hit me with an empty bottle for no reason. That’s where the crack in my teeth comes from. I told myself that if I continued to live with him, he could kill me one day. I acted normal, pretended to be OK and decided to escape during the night. I had to go back to my village for one month before coming back to Port Moresby and staying with my parents.
He kept on coming but I was strong because I had gained emotional support from social work and I resisted. I now work with Médecins Sans Frontières, counselling other women and children who have been affected by family violence.
I understand their situations, because I am a survivor myself. I work from experience. And it makes me stronger and stronger to continue working with them. However it’s very challenging because I am emotionally effected, especially when it comes to the stories and the situations the children and adolescents have gone through.
Since working with Médecins Sans Frontières it’s become clear to me that we still have a lot to do in this country in terms of child mental health and protection. We want to refer children after counselling to the next services, and these services are just not available. We see children who are abused by their family and are at high risk, who are sent back home because there are no safe houses for children or any other places to send them. And that’s one of the biggest challenges that I’ve had to face. It’s also challenging to see the children who are experiencing and witnessing family violence start to develop challenging or inappropriate behaviour towards other children.
In the meantime I am trying to make people in my community, families and whoever that I come across, understand that family violence is not right and to try and change this behaviour. I have seen an impact of the work that we at MSF are doing. Women will come up to me and ask me questions. I am able to spend some time with them educating them of the long and short-term consequences of family violence. It keeps them going, and gives me hope.
Visit msf.org.au/IWD2015 to read more about Médecins Sans Frontières’ work with women and adolescents.
To find out more about Médecins Sans Frontières’ work in PNG visit here.
If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call the NSW Rape Crisis Centre on 1800 RESPECT (1800 424 017). It doesn’t matter if you do not live in NSW, or even in Australia, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.