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Nihad told of the brutality she had endured when she was kidnapped by Islamic State and sold into sexual slavery.HER STORY.

‘Australia will be my first home and my last home’: Nihad’s new life begins

London: Twelve months ago Nihad Barakat al-Awsi’s eyes were heavy with sadness.

Sharing her story with Fairfax Media, Nihad told of the brutality she had endured when she was kidnapped by Islamic State and sold into sexual slavery.  She has never again seen the baby boy, Issa, she gave birth to at just 15, and probably never will. She spoke of a sadness so deep she feared the trauma would be ever present in her mind.

Today, Nihad’s face is a happier picture. Three weeks ago she received a call that would change her life. Her application for Australia’s protection & residency had been accepted.

“I will go and I will change everything; I will start a new life there. I will remove it all from my mind,” the 19-year old said from Iraq.

Nihad Barakat al-Awsi will start a new life in Australia.

Later this week, Nihad – one of 18 children – will board a flight to Australia with two brothers and a sister, ready to close the door on their grossly troubled Iraqi lives. It will be a day of mixed emotions & feelings because it means saying goodbye to her parents, who want to stay in Iraq with the remaining family members.

Two of her brothers were forced into Islamic State training camps, while two sisters and another brother were murdered in the terror group’s attempted genocide of the Yazidis.

But Nihad is looking forward to her new life. She dreams of speaking English fluently and becoming a teacher.

“When I reach Australia I just want to learn English and become a teacher,” she said. ”This is the only purpose I have – to become a teacher.”

‘I will go and I will change everything. I will start a new life there.’

Liberal senator Zed Seselja, who met Nihad in London last year while serving as the assistant minister for social services and multicultural affairs, said there was “absolutely no doubt” Nihad would achieve her dreams in Australia,  and be welcomed & resettled by her new community.

“Like all refugees who are resettled in Australia, Nihad and her siblings will receive 500 hours of intensive English language lessons and can apply for more if needed, so she’ll have a great opportunity to pick up English,” he said.

He said refugees are offered housing assistance and help to enrol in education or training courses or look for work. They also receive a basic care or welcome package when they arrive into Australia.

Senator Seselja said only a tiny minority would begrudge the taxpayer-funded services provided to those fleeing harm and persecution.

“We’ve resettled a few hundred Yazidis and several thousand from Iraq and Syria in the last few years,” he said. “Most people I speak to want Australia to be a generous nation and are welcoming of refugees.”

Senator Seselja said Australia also offered support to victims of trauma and torture and this would be provided in Nihad’s case.

Since her escape from Islamic State, Nihad has received support from doctors and psychologists in Iraq. Her case inspired the AMAR Foundation, a London-based charity, to set up its Escaping Darkness program, which funds psychological support services for many thousands of Yazidi women who were traded as sex slaves by Islamic State.

Australia accepted 17,555 refugees in 2015-16 under the humanitarian program, with the highest number (4358) from Iraq. This year Australia will accept 18,750 people fleeing persecution in their country.

When Nihad arrives she will live in Toowoomba, which is home to quite a sizeable Yazidi community, including some of Nihad’s relatives. Nihad is looking forward to seeing her relatives again but also wants to become part of the Australian community.

“I don’t want to come just to see the Yazidis; I want to change my life, I want to change everything,” she said. “Australia will become my first home and my last one.”

Senator Seselja said Nihad’s desires to live an Australian life was common.

“I’ve seen that from so many people who come, not just refugees but from migrants, and it’s wonderful that they can come and want to integrate,” he said. ”I think that’s a great attitude to bring with them.”

But as Nihad looks forward to embracing life in Queensland, she will not entirely close the door on Iraq and the horror she has lived from that August day in 2014 when a cry rang out that dramatically changed her life: “IS are coming.”

About 10,000 Yazidis are estimated to have been slaughtered or kidnapped in the few days that followed. Thousands have never been seen or heard of again. Sinjar is now a rubble and nearly 50 mass graves have been uncovered.

“When I go to Australia I wish to help my people in Iraq because they need us,” she said.

Henry Sapiecha

Can your violent partner be rehabilitated? Here is the report

angry-masked-man-image www.goodgirlsgo.com

Behaviour change programs are highly effective for domestic violence perpetrators.

Two thirds of violent men who attend behaviour change programs completely stop abusing their families within two years, but they always fear slipping back into their old ways.

The first Australian study into the long-term effects of interventions for domestic violence perpetrators found that court-ordered participants in behaviour change programs were the most likely to stop being violent.

Monash University followed men who attended behaviour change programs in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia for two years after they completed the program.

Monash social work professor Thea Brown said 65 per cent of men were classed as violence-free at the end of the study. This meant they no longer physically, emotionally or sexually abused their partners, or made them afraid.

“That’s a good outcome. The men do improve considerably,” Professor Brown said. “It shows that the programs are effective.” After the initial three-month program, most men continued to use professional help to remain violence-free.

Men who had been ordered by the courts to attend a behaviour change program did better than their peers. Professor Brown suggested this could be because they were more tightly monitored, had been rattled by their court experience, or feared the legal consequences if they didn’t succeed at changing their behaviour.

All the men said it was difficult to remain violence-free. “None of them ever felt they were in a secure position and wouldn’t slip back,” Professor Brown said. “It’s very hard to do as well as they should every day of the year.”

One man said: “I only feel confident when I’m doing the program.”

This daily battle was identified by some of the men’s partners who contributed to the study. “He’s good most days, not every day,” one woman said of her partner. Overall most women were optimistic about the future with their formerly violent partners.

Half the men had broken up with their partners before they started the behaviour change program. Forty per cent of the program participants were born overseas.

Older men who were in relationships and had a higher standard of education were marginally more likely to permanently change their behaviour. However Professor Brown said: “We still don’t know why some men change and some men don’t.”

Men said the program facilitators, rather than the actual content, made the difference to them. They also liked the group dynamic. “They found a lot of individual support, they felt they were being accepted by other people, they felt less evil,” Professor Brown said.

Men were disappointed the programs didn’t provide any help with their parenting.

The programs failed to reduce the incidence of mental illness among domestic violence perpetrators. Thirty per cent of violent men have mental health problems. The programs did halve the incidence of alcohol and substance abuse.

Professor Brown said her research, which was funded by Violence Free Families, showed there was a need for closer monitoring of participants in men’s behaviour change programs, and proper exit assessments that could refer men to ongoing support services. Parenting advice also needs to be provided.

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Henry Sapiecha