It takes a strong person to overcome a lifetime of abuse and violence. When you meet Yoshie Komatsu, you can see her strength and commitment to building a better life, but also the marks left by years of trauma.
For Yoshie, violence was all she had ever known. “I was abused even as a child,” she says. “My parents wanted a boy instead, and so they always treated me badly.”
As a result, Yoshie was very obedient as a child. Even as she grew up and left home for a good job in New York, there was a lingering commitment to her family. “When you’re in a family violence situation, you feel like you are being hypnotised physically and mentally. You don’t feel like yourself anymore,” she explains.
So when her parents pushed her to marry someone they had met while in holiday in Australia, Yoshie agreed. She left her job in New York, came to Australia and got married to someone she hardly knew.
“We got married in 2006 and it was okay for the first few years. It wasn’t until about 2010 that I started to think that things weren’t quite right,” she says.
“I was being controlled by him, and everyone else in our lives. I was isolated, because he didn’t want me going out and meeting anyone. He controlled my access to phones and computers. He was cheating on me with people I thought were my friends.”
“My family disowned me. They gave me up and told me it was all my fault.”
Yoshie’s health deteriorated, and she started getting migraines and having anxiety attacks. She began walking and talking in her sleep, and yet her husband wouldn’t let her go to a doctor. Her life was at risk.
“He tried to strangle me. He threatened to kill me and to leave my body in the outback,” she remembers.
With the help and support of many people including friends, doctors, social workers, Victoria Police and a job agency, Yoshie was finally able to leave the relationship when her husband was out.
In 2015, YWCA was able to offer her safe, affordable accommodation in a rooming house and Yoshie ended up staying for four years, saying “I felt safe there because everyone had had similar experiences to me and understood what I was going through.
“There were some issues as there always will be when you have so many people living together, but I ended up making friends and we often shared meals together. Over time, even those who hadn’t been nice to me at the start became very friendly and looked out for me.”
Safe, secure and affordable housing gave Yoshie the stability she needed to get her life back on track with education and employment.
“YWCA supported me through the Transitions program to go back to school. I took English classes, and lots of computer classes. I was even nominated as the Student of the Year at my school, and was awarded by YWCA at their Annual Genera Meeting! At the same time, I was working a lot to try and save money – at one point, I had three part-time jobs.”
Finally, Yoshie managed to secure her own private rental – her own home. “Living in my own home feels like living in a castle! I feel hopeful, like my future will be much happier with more opportunities,” she says.
“I have to thank YWCA. My experience with them was so positive. Their housing staff truly believe in their work, and in the women they support.”
“And to anyone else who was in my situation – sometimes it can feel like it’s too late, and you can’t escape domestic violence. But you can do it. Find people who can help you. You deserve to be happy, healthy and safe.”