Motivation was personal
For Nicole Schulz, there was a personal motivation behind recently becoming a Benalla White Ribbon Day Supporter.
Nicki, as she is best known, owns Leading Edge Books in Benalla with her family and took the step of signing up to be supporters after personal experience with domestic violence.
Now 26, Nicki was in a relationship for six years.
It turned toxic when she was subject to unnecessary control over her finances, who she was friends with and being made to feel as though she was worthless.
“I was in so deep – it all started out as a sweet and loving relationship and then it turned to manipulation and I didn’t know what to do,” she said.
“Once you are in that situation, it’s hard to know who to turn to and what you can do.”
Nicki said she became more aware of what was happening to her after attending a talk by domestic violence victim Rosie Batty.
“I knew what was happening was manipulation and I knew it was wrong but hearing what Rosie Batty had to say made me think ‘wow, that’s what’s happening to me’.
“I realised the situation was only going to worse unless I left it.”
Nicki said she found the courage to tell her family what was happening.
“They were very supportive and we immediately went and organised an intervention order, so I was really lucky to have family support,” she said.
“It is not always cuts and bruises – for me, it was more about the control and not being able to have access to my money, being told I was always wasting money and that he didn’t like my friends or my family.
“I consider myself a survivor.”
Local White Ribbon Ambassador and Director of Community Health at Benalla Health said Nicki’s story was not uncommon.
“Nicki has shown a lot of courage in telling her story and to be able to remind others that family violence is more than just physical violence,” he said.
“Power and control in a relationship is more widespread than people think and shows itself in a variety of ways. Nicki spoke about the financial control being used by her ex-partner.
“We hear many stories of power and control being used through psychological abuse, threats, tracking people’s movements by technology as well as constant demands to know where they are.
“Even who they can see or visit or talk to, all part of the actions people take to try and control their partner.
“All too often this then turns into threats of violence causing to live in fear of the consequences of disobedience. Nicki’s story is a positive one in which she found the courage and support to break free from that toxic relationship she was in.”
For Nicki, trusting again has been difficult but she is now in a new relationship, which she says is respectful.
“You can recover, but it takes time and is a long road,” she said.
“I have lost friends over it, I have had people not believe it happened and I have really learned who my friends are.”
Nicki said the efforts of the Benalla community against family violence had been wonderful and she had participated in the past two White Ribbon marches, where she had found many people with similar stories to tell.
“As a community, I think we need to do more and we need to look out for each other – there is light at the end of the tunnel for those who can get out of the situation but we need to learn that it’s not okay to stand by and watch it happen.”
If you are experiencing family violence you can get help by contacting Safe Steps (24 hours) on 1800 015 188. If you are in danger, contact the Police on 000.