"I'm in my first healthy relationship"

‘Before I started working with Aviva, life was very messy. I had no understanding of healthy relationships because I’d never been in one. Throughout my life, I was always looking for love in the wrong way; I didn’t know my value.’


Bethany* first came to Aviva when she was going through an external rehab programme and was put in touch by her case worker. She was initially connected to Aviva’s sexual violence services, who supported her to take the first steps in overcoming an assault from her past. However, Bethany also needed support to help leave an abusive relationship that she was in.

‘Me and my son were living with a man I was in a toxic partnership with – I was homeless and living with him out of desperation. The abuse was psychological, financial, and physical. He never hit my son, but my son witnessed him hitting me.

‘My support worker Trish came and met me in a motel where I’d been staying, and at first the support was one-on-one. It was like having a safety rail – something that kept me accountable to myself because I needed to learn some structure. She was so supportive and non-judgmental – she gave me the education I needed [about family violence] when I needed it but didn’t push anything on me at the wrong time. She’s been on this journey with me now for two years and she’s been at every meeting with other agencies – over time, people drop off, but she’s been a constant... I feel like if I told her I was going off to war, she’d walk into battle with me.’


Aviva made sure Bethany and her son had gifts and food parcels at Christmas.

‘As a mum, that was just such a weight off my shoulders. People would say to me that being clean and having a safe home was the biggest gift I could give my son. But you still feel guilty, so to just be able to give him something really nice… it made such a difference.’


Bethany also did Aviva’s Courageous Steps group programme for women who have experienced violence.

‘The family harm programme opened my eyes to a whole new world. I learnt stuff that I had never had modelled to me or that I knew about. Not only was I in an abusive relationship, but I could be abusive as well. So, I constantly have to work on that and check in on myself…

‘Now I’m in my first healthy relationship. When I’m dealing with my PTSD from what’s happened, he’s supportive and opens up space, without forcing me to talk or share if I don’t want to. He engages with my family and shows up for things that are important like Family Group Conferences. He makes effort with my son but gives him space. [My son is] very wary of males because of what he’s seen in the past...

‘It’s been challenging – [my partner] has moved in with me and then moved out. But we’ve learnt from all of that, and we’ve learnt what’s best for both of us, and my son…  


‘I’m working on my son’s recovery as well as my own. He’s doing so much better. He had play therapy and it’s made him much more relaxed around adults, he has more trust in people.’  


Bethany is focused on the future and is currently enrolled on a course at Ara.

‘I got top marks in my last assignment – I couldn’t believe it.’

Her ultimate goal is to work in family harm, to give hope to women who are experiencing what she has in the past.

‘You can come out the other side. I just want to support women and show them that it is possible to change your living environment and yours and your children’s future.

‘I can’t even begin to tell you how much my life has changed. I never could have imagined three years ago that I’d be sitting here and living the life I do. It’s possible to come out the other side stronger…

‘Other than that, I’m staying clean, I’ve been discovering what spirituality means to me and I guess I’m learning how to be a human in the world.’

*name changed