WHAT'S ON

Nambucca Valley to host its first Reclaim The Night march

Benita Schuh, Bernadette Recklies, Angela, Melanie Kelly, Madeline Donovan and Tiffany Kutz are ready to bring domestic violence out of the shadows
Benita Schuh, Bernadette Recklies, Angela, Melanie Kelly, Madeline Donovan and Tiffany Kutz are ready to bring domestic violence out of the shadows

Next week a group of women living in the Nambucca Valley are coming together in a show of force to stand up for their right to live in a society free from the fear of men's violence.

Next Friday, they, along with other female survivors of rape, domestic violence and sexual harassment will march through the streets of the world to 'Reclaim the Night'.

The movement has its roots in Leeds, where in 1977 the Yorkshire Ripper consistently evaded hapless police whose unhelpful advice for women was to only stray outside if strictly necessary.

Unwilling to be restricted, women united in their resistance and paraded down the street to show they would not be cowed into submission.

Their example continued and spread into a global movement which this year will arrive in the Nambucca Valley.

"We want to be free and we want to tell our story," one of the Nambucca march organisers, Marnie Short, said.

"I was used to being bullied, called names and treated like crap - it's no wonder I learned to accept it without question as an adult." - Melanie Kelly

"I was used to being bullied, called names and treated like crap - it's no wonder I learned to accept it without question as an adult." - Melanie Kelly

Listening to their stories is difficult; the injustices these women and their children have experienced at the hands of men and the various systems which have consistently failed to help them, makes one's blood boil.

Marnie's ex-husband brutally and sadistically raped her young daughter. The only reason he was forced to face the consequences was because of incontrovertible evidence - he'd filmed himself in the act.

Due to systemic failures, she has been forced to relocate copious amounts of times after their whereabouts was discovered by her ex and his family.

It's now been nearly a decade of hell, but for the first time Marnie feels like she's reclaiming some power back in her own life, and sees the smiles on her children's faces as proof.

There's a movie that I love called Safe Haven and the message in it is 'there's always a second chance at life - it's called tomorrow'.

Marnie Short

For Melanie Kelly, a childhood full of bullying and degradation meant she never learned her own self-worth, nor her rights, and was constantly being taken advantage of.

"I'm suffering all the time being a single woman. Everyone thinks 'oh she's single - she wants it'. If I go out I'm going to get noticed. If I get noticed, I'll get hit on and feel like it's my own fault," she said.

"Because of recent events I haven't been able to go out at night by myself. I can't even go to Woolworths alone."

With the help of the others, Melanie is also starting to heal and change how she sees herself.

Bianca is in hiding from her abusive ex-husband.

On top of the emotional, financial, psychological and physical abuse he has inflicted on her over the years, he has also tried to kidnap her son and has physically attacked her family members.

In domestic violence, everything gets destroyed, including your soul.

Bianca

She lives in constant fear of being discovered by her ex: "If he finds me, I'm dead."

But she says the other organisers are helping her stay on track.

While listening to their stories triggers waves of anger, there is also an overwhelming sense of admiration for the determined way they are now constructing their own futures.

The women all met through a walking group - a program for women in situations of domestic violence by Lifetime Connect's Children and Family Services.

Another program called 'Shark Cage' helped the women - previously isolated, down-trodden and fearful - to rebuild a sense of self-worth and confidence and learn to identify the red flags in relationships and construct barriers for their safety.

The program kickstarted a path of healing for these women and empowered them to continue their journey by putting on the Valley's first ever Reclaim The Night event.

Women of the Valley and allies are invited to attend the march, on next Friday, October 25.

Everyone will meet from 5pm at the Boatshed Cafe on Riverside Drive, Nambucca Heads, and march peacefully and fearlessly to Bellwood Park where there'll be a space for women to share their stories and be heard.

"You deserve to be heard, no matter what," Marnie said.

There'll also be a free barbecue and music.

For more information contact Lifetime Connect Family Services on 6568-1474.

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