The Victorian family violence legislation defines emotional or psychological abuse as behaviour that ‘torments, intimidates, harasses or is offensive’, and Tanya lived through this every day of her life.
Tanya, whose name has been changed for the purpose of this article, came to Australia to study, experience a new country and finish her degree.
Instead, she had to see her landlord making advances towards her, threatening her of violence and physically touching her without consent.
Image credit: supplied
“I was three or four weeks into the country, and I found a home. Soon I started to think that my landlord was being predatory.”
“I told my friends that just the way he looks at me makes me uncomfortable and I felt that he kept looking at me,” says Tanya.
Tanya said that it didn’t take a long time until the landlord started to make advances towards her.
“So one day, I was just sitting down in my living room and watching TV, and the whole couch was empty, but he would just sit right next to me and scoot next to me against my wishes.”
“If I got up, he would stop me and it got to a point that I just started to get bitter about his advances where I started to get angry,” says Tanya.
Tanya also said that the landlord tried to touch her face one day when he was under the influence of alcohol without her consent.
“My landlord forces me to socialise with him, tells me that I don't drink, I don't do anything fun, telling me I’m disrespectful and Im rude.”
“During the interaction, I had something on my face, so he just basically touches me without my consent, touches my skull to ask me what is that,” says Tanya.
The landlord also was constantly teasing her, and telling her that she didn’t have enough money to survive Melbourne. Tanya found this very demeaning.
“At the time, I didn’t have a job, so I didn’t have food in my groceries, and constantly made fun of me in front of people saying why do I even need that much grocery; you barely have any food.”
“The way he said and talked to me, it was very demeaning, and extremely hurtful,” says Tanya.
Image credit: Dashu83
Fearing for her safety Tanya decided to move out from the house and confront her owner to give her bond back.
“He started saying disrespectful things about my parents, and telling me that I will hit you, in the middle of the night, he asked me to move out and called police on me when I disputed with him.”
“As I had no legal proof that I was living in the house, the police asked me to move out without my bags which were trapped inside the house, thankfully a friend helped me.”
“Next day, I had to sneak into my own house when he was not there and pack my bags and get out. I still left a lot of things in the house itself as I was frantically packing,”
“I had to call the police again, and because police were there he handed me my bond back in cash while telling police that he himself was the victim,” says Tanya
When SAARI Collective asked Tanya if she contacted any NGOs, the government, or her family to get help she stated that she was so new to the country that she didn’t even know what the laws were.
“I wasn’t even aware of these organisations, coming into the country I had no clue how things work here, and as a woman who grows up where I come from, you sort of get used to many of the things.”
“I didn’t want to tell my parents because I didn't want them to have this burden on them. They are already scared about sending a daughter alone to this country,” says Tanya.
Tanya wishes that an experience like this never occurs to any other international student, and asks them to legally get a house without being scared.
For housing support providers, see SAARI's companion article: Int’l students are housing market’s most helpless targets
Nishant Kulkarni is a freelance writer based in Melbourne, and a regular contributor to SAARI.
Cover image: dashu83