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photography by Margherita Coppolino

” Silent Tears are years of repressed memories niggling away mentally and physically till the day you can come to terms and accept that the violation of the deed, is a part of you that you can talk about without guilt and self blame. You can live your life the way you want noticing less and less the effect of the rape.

The time it takes is long and arduous and at times your life is not worth surviving the memory. Those are the saddest and hardest days. If you can get through these days you are not longer a hostage to the abuser. The many phases of acknowledgement at times are intolerable and unexplainable. People closest to you are at a loss to understand the changes in your behaviour. Time spent in and out of mental health hospitals and emergency departments believing you are going to die, or worse wishing you would.

There are no answers for the ways you protect yourself through avoidance and despondence. The anxiety is literally heart stopping and awfully painful. Living in a constant state of like and death is exhausting. The flight and fight feelings that react with deliberate unpredictability are shameful. No matter what follows in life, thoughts feelings and behaviours there is a volatility  that is challenged from the memory.

Resilience is you strength and is what makes you fight for your justice no matter how hard it is to find. Fiercely protecting loved ones becomes your mission and your reward is there preservation from exploitation. Silent tears are mixed with happy tears. It’s the happy tears that take you by surprise when you realise that your journey surviving a predator makes you the person you are today.”

– Jeannine Burt , Australia 2015

Jeannine has Bipolar Disorder triggered by the sexual abuse she received as a child by her dentist. This trauma was re-lived when raising her two girls, while accompanying them to doctor and dental appointments. Anxiety triggered episodes and flashbacks resulted in her seeking treatment for a nervous breakdown. Unfortunately the medication instigated an allergic reaction and she acquired Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis – a rare form of Stevens Johnson Syndrome (sjsupport.org). As a facilitator for Stevens Johnson Syndrome Australia, Jeannine assists in raising awareness and providing support for victims of SJS. Among several other conditions, she acquired vision impairment. Australian Red Cross Blood Service provides a vital role in the donation and distribution of Autologous Eye Serum Drops, prepared from Jeannine’s own blood donation. This lasts about eight months when stored in the freezer, providing the necessary solution to keep her eyes functioning. (For lifeline to compromised eyesight visit www.donateblood.com.au/research/program. Jeannine continues to raise her daughters with her husband Andrew, who has been her “greatest support” throughout this journey.

Violence against women and their children is a human rights violation. It affects women from all nations, cultures and socio‑economic circumstances.

Despite living in what we often say is the luckiest country in the world, one in five Australian women experiences sexual violence and one in three over the age of 15 experiences physical violence.

The challenges for women survivors of violence can also be compounded by multiple factors, including race, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, prior victimisation, geographic location, or because they are Indigenous.

In order to end violence against women, we need to address its underlying causes. To change the story that ends in violence, we must begin with addressing the issues of gender equality and respect.

In Australia, we acknowledge that Government, business and communities must work together when it comes to violence against women. This is why we have made combatting the issue a national priority.

In September 2015, the Australian Government announced a $100 million Women’s Safety Package as part of the longer term response to addressing violence against women. The Package focuses on practical immediate action to keep women and their children safe. Measures include improving training for frontline services, innovative technologies to keep women safe and education resources to change community – and particularly young people’s – attitudes to violence against women.

Australian Government priorities in relation to domestic violence are set out in the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children. This Plan recognises that women with disabilities experience domestic violence. In July this year, I will launch the Third Action Plan under the National Plan, and women with disabilities will be recognised as a group that require particular attention.

As a Government we want to ensure that women are safe at home; safe on the streets; and safe online.

Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash

Minister for Women

Australian Government