18 year-old Crystal-Alice* tells her story
“My brother was a very violent person and used to throw stuff around. I don’t know why he started being violent – I think he got on the wrong path with the wrong friends. I lived at home with two of my brothers, my sister, my mum and dad; but it was only me who experienced the domestic violence because it was always me who was trying to stop the fights; it was me who always confronted my brother; it was always me saying “you’ve got to stop, you’ve got to stop,” and he’d say “I don’t have to stop, I’m not doing anything wrong,” and I’d end up in the firing line.
I had been going to headspace and they referred me to CAMHS, so I was with CAMHS staff the first time I came into Veritas House. My case worker spent time with me, getting to know me and writing down my story so that she could get an idea of how she could help me. She helped me discuss my situation, as I was pretty nervous the first time and I didn’t want to talk much. I was in Year 10 at that time, but I didn’t want to go to school because I was bullied a lot and didn’t want to be there; and I used to get suspended and in fights a lot. I was still living at home and was hoping to get help to get some money for myself through Centrelink or a job.
Then when I finally couldn’t take it at home any more, I moved into the Veritas refuge, where I stayed for six months. The first time I went there I was really nervous, because I didn’t know who was there and I didn’t know what the workers would be like. But then I met the workers and they were all respectful, and were fun to be around. You’d have one worker who would always be keen for a game of basketball; another who would always be there for a talk; one would take us for drives; and another would cook us dinner. I grew to love it: I felt safe there and I felt welcome. I also made some new friends in the house and I still talk to some of the people.
When I was living at home I would regularly do the washing-up or cook food for my brother and sister because my parents would have to look after my brother a lot to make sure he didn’t hurt us; so I didn’t need as much help being independent as some of the other people living in the refuge. But Veritas staff still helped me complete a Living Skills booklet which covered basic stuff like cleaning, cooking, making your bed and that was really helpful.
When I turned 18, my case worker helped me get Centrelink and a lease on a property and she’s been supportive the whole way through. Veritas donated me a bed and a washing machine; helped me get a fridge and a TV; and we used the Veritas Ute to transport things. I moved into a one-bedroom unit which is pretty peaceful, which I like. I can do what I want, and there’s no-one to tell me what to do.
Two years ago I moved schools and went to Skillset which is the best school that anyone could ever go to. You call the teachers by their first name and they are respectful and know what they’re doing; you wear casual clothes; there’s less students so less arguments and fights; and everyone there was going through similar things at home, so we all shared something in common. I have just finished my HSC and now I am trying to get a job. Eventually I want to go to TAFE or University to help youth, because I have my experience and would like to help young people who are going through stuff and help them in the same way I was helped at Veritas.
One of my friends who was coach-surfing is currently at Veritas, and I know it can be hard for some people to get help because they are afraid of being judged or of what their parents will think and they don’t want to disappoint them. But sometimes you just have to put yourself first. I would tell people who are having a hard time to just be yourself; never be afraid to say what’s on your mind or what problems you’re having; and you’ll never get help unless you ask for it, so go for it.”
*Name changed and generic image used to protect privacy