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Jiya is a survivor, an advocate, and a person with unflinching hope. When she first came to Wayside, Jiya was living in a women’s shelter after escaping a lifetime of trauma. She credits the love and lack of judgment she found at Wayside, for the way her life has been transformed.
Growing up in India, Jiya felt that as a woman her choices were not respected. From a young age, she experienced abuse and shame. She thought an arranged marriage and a move to Australia would be the start of a better life but she was soon caught in another cycle of isolation and abuse. Jiya shares her journey with us.

After my wedding, I thought things would be good.

Domestic violence was the norm in my life. Growing up, I saw mum go through it, so a part of me knew that I would have to suffer in my life. When I got married, I was hoping though, that there would be no more physical violence.

My husband and I arrived in Australia and found out that I was pregnant. His family wanted me to have an abortion, they said it was too early to have a baby. I said I wouldn’t have an abortion and that’s when the abuse started. I was starved, hit, shamed, everything. I miscarried my baby after three months. I couldn’t talk to my family, couldn’t talk to his family, I couldn’t talk to anyone. I was new to the country, I didn’t know anything, I didn’t know anybody.

There was an incident and the police ordered an AVO against my husband.

I left my husband and received an Australian permanent residency visa but I didn’t know anyone here, I wasn’t sure what I could do. I just needed a connection with someone who could speak my language, who could understand me, and there was nobody. 

I was sleeping at Flinders Street Station and looking for a job. I started to get my life back on track. I learnt how to drive, I saved up money for a second-hand car, I was doing well at work. But there was massive loneliness. I wanted a family. I felt I needed a perfect family; husband, wife, two kids. I wanted to have what my mum could not have.

My only hope of being accepted back into the family was if I was married again. I joined a matrimonial matchmaking website and I was soon married to another man. I see now that I was looking for connection and acceptance in all the wrong places.

There were many things I was expected to do in my new marriage, including cooking three meals a day. There was one day, I was so tired and depressed, and I was not meant to go out alone but I didn’t have the energy to cook. I bought a frozen Indian meal and tried to make it look as though I had made it from scratch but he knew that it wasn’t. That plate came at me like a Frisbee. For cooking a frozen meal? For being tired?

Help people like Jiya find hope
It got to the point where I wanted to kill myself. My dad had threatened to set me on fire before so the idea had been in my head. The next day, I lit myself on fire.

When I got to the hospital, I found out my husband had already taken me off of his insurance. The doctor suggested calling my parents. My father’s response was to let me die. I spoke to my mum, she said she couldn’t come because my dad won’t allow it. She said to me, “All the best” as if it was a goodbye, and that scared me so much.

I was 28 at that time. All these years I had not known what my favourite colour was, I didn’t know what my favourite food was, I didn’t know that there were different kinds of cuisines, I didn’t know how to use a knife and fork. I had been such a people-pleaser. All my life, I had worked so hard to please others. But now I looked around and there was no one.

After hospital, I stayed at a women’s refuge in Kings Cross. It was a Sunday morning and my case worker told me there is a service around the corner at Wayside Chapel. She said I would be welcome. I remember I covered myself completely, head to toe. I didn’t want anyone to look at me, I was so ashamed of myself.

After the service I asked Rev Graham Long, “Can you pray for me?” And of all the Bible verses, he prayed Isaiah – “When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.” I don’t know what happened, I just felt something special. I felt I could share a part of my story and ask for help.

I had been given a medical certificate stating I shouldn’t work for six months but I didn’t want to stay in a refuge and wait. I wanted to take charge and I knew I needed somebody to help me find my feet. I asked Graham for support and he introduced me to some of the staff at Wayside. Within weeks, I had found a contract role with the help from the employment officer, Roxanne.

I was not expecting anything. Nothing at all. I was waiting to be judged, to be honest, and I got the opposite of that.

I think behind every human being is an amazing family. You need that support and only this place became my family. There was no sign of judgement at all. In fact, there was more understanding.  More acceptance. More love.

For me, every single thing Wayside offered me was important at that time. Without a shower, a toothbrush or clean clothes I wouldn’t have been able to present myself properly. If I couldn’t have a meal I wouldn’t have had the energy. Every little donation is massive. Every little thing has come together to now bring me to this stage.

When you invest into somebody who is broken, that person’s recovery can bring more hope for the community. When somebody has been through it and done it because of the support that they have received, it brings a different empowerment.

Please help empower more people like Jiya. Your support will give hope to others to transform their lives.