Cheryl Stirling provides support for women who are victims of domestic violence.
Cheryl Stirling provides support for women who are victims of domestic violence.

Safe space for kids, women

IMAGINE being frightened, violated or forced to sleep in a public park because you are being threatened behind the four walls of your own home.

For many women in Australia, this is their devastating reality, which is why it’s so important that refuges like Bundaberg’s Jerrub exist.

Jerrub is an accredited and self-funded organisation that offers emergency accommodation for females and children who are domestic violence victims or homeless.

With more than 10 years’ experience as a qualified counsellor, Cheryl Stirling, along with her husband, own the organisation.

“We are an accredited association and our mission is to help women escape from domestic violence or give them a safe place to come to if they are living on the streets,” Ms Stirling said.

“And we take ladies from Bundaberg and ladies from out of town, but the rates in Bundaberg are certainly rising and I believe it’s a result of ice.”

Jerrub focuses on educating women and providing them with essential tools to gain employment, pursue studies, identify warning signs and red flags for future relationships, build a strong support network with other women and help get them back on their feet.

Ms Stirling said a lot of women who came to Jerrub had suffered significant trauma and were confused about what to do or had been so controlled in their relationship that they didn’t feel comfortable or worthy enough to purchase clothing for themselves.

“I want the women here to know that they are so worth it and it’s all about learning and earning here,” Ms Stirling said.

“I’m very devoted to the cause and these human beings have just been smashed up and I just want to put them back together and help them rebuild.

“They are always safe here and I will go out and battle for every single person here.”

Two incredible women were brave enough to open up about their experience with the organisation.

The NewsMail has chosen to keep the residents anonymous for their own personal safety.

One of the victims described her experience of being in an abusive relationship, feeling as though she was stuck in a hole, knowing she had to leave but not having the ability to move.

“I was constantly given cards from police but I never thought I would end up in a place like this because I just thought there were people way worse off than me, until I got to the point where I was living on the streets and I had nowhere to go, no money and I eventually rung up DV Connect and came here just wearing the clothes on my back,” she said.

“I realised that if someone was going to accept me and bring me into a place like this, I also had to change things about myself, so I started paying bills and recently bought myself a car — I didn’t realise how much money I was able to get back from people who owed me.”

The second victim admits her experience was a different situation to most DV victims, as her abuse occurred in her family, rather than through a partner.

“I was abused in every aspect and for my entire life by the people that were meant to protect me and before I came here I spent the night in Alexandra Park,” she said.

“I didn’t realise places like this existed and I didn’t think my situation was that bad, even though I slept in a park the night before.”

Despite excelling in her career, travelling the world and having had fortunate experiences, 30 years of unresolved trauma had hit her hard, but the support and care offered to her by Jerrub helped her to achieve things she once never imagined she could.

“I realised that I never should have gone through all those experiences and my family were supposed to be the people that protected me,” the woman said.

“It wasn’t until coming here and going into Cheryl’s office every day to chat, that I applied for university.

“I never thought I would be smart enough, but I ended up being a high-distinction student and the things that I’m doing now … my whole life has changed for the better.

“Cheryl has given me my life.

“Cheryl caters for everyone and treats everyone in a way that will best suit that person and their particular situation and I’ve been with Cheryl for two years now.”

If you or someone you know needs a safe place to call home, contact DV Connect on 1800 811 811.