Domestic violence survivor finds her voice – and uses it to help others

Murray Bridge teenager Ebony Von Rochow is determined to see change. A new awareness-raising video is part of that.

A year ago, Ebony Von Rochow was not in a good place.

She had just moved out of an abusive household, struggled to make it through year 12 at Murray Bridge High School, and had no idea what would come next.

All she knew was that she wanted to help people.

It was during that dark time that she found her voice.

“I use my voice to speak for the children that are forced to grow and learn around toxic behaviour, who don't quite know how to use their voices yet,” she said at Unity College on Tuesday.

“I speak for women who are too scared to speak out.

“I speak for men who don't know that they have a voice.

“And I speak for myself, as a survivor of domestic violence.”

Twelve months later, she is working towards a qualification in child, youth and family intervention; she is in a happy, healthy relationship; and she lives in a safe household.

She was proud of what she had achieved, she said.

But more than anything, she wanted other survivors to achieve the same thing.

“Domestic violence does not need to define someone’s future, define who you are and who you can be,” she told a crowd of abut 60 people.

“There is a future ahead ... no matter your situation, and there will always be a way out.”

Video clip launched to raise awareness, send message

Miss Von Rochow was speaking at the launch of “You Are Not Alone”, a short video created to encourage help-seeking by locals caught up in abusive situations.

It was created by the Murraylands Domestic Violence Awareness Group, formerly branded White Ribbon, in collaboration with Regional Development Australia’s Catherine Hughes and with contributions from more than a hundred locals who sent in video clips.

In a year like 2020, when physical events had proven impossible to organise, social media was the next best way of reaching people, awareness group member Shawn Hicks said.

“We need your help now to spread our message,” he said.

“We want to see how far this can go.”

Mayors and executives, school leaders and students, each stood up in turn to reinforce the messages being sent out from the Steeple.

Domestic violence affects everybody.

If you are suffering, know that you are not alone.

Reach out.

Resources were available locally, including A Right to Be Heard, a booklet full of numbers to call, explainers and other helpful information – it was available from community service providers, GPs and police.

People were standing by, ready to help, including at the Murray Mallee Adelaide Hills Domestic Violence Service, The Haven at Murray Bridge Community Centre, and DVINA.

Mr Hicks said the awareness group was committed to making people aware of the issue of domestic violence, and to making it clear that it was unacceptable.

Thirty-seven Australian women had been murdered by a current or former partner so far in 2020, he said.

That was 37 too many.

“We must work towards the type of community that enables our families to grow and to hope, and enables them to build better lives for their children; a community where the weak are safe and the strong are just,” he said.

That meant healthy relationships built on respect, trust and care, Miss Von Rochow said.

Partners needed to be able to set boundaries, giving privacy, communicate and express their opinions.

“The first step with bringing domestic violence to an end is starting with ourselves and the people around us,” she said.

“It’s about teaching the new generations to come that domestic violence is not okay, and how we can all make a difference.

“Days like this show that we as a community will not stand for such behaviour.”

  • Get help: Domestic Violence Crisis Line 1800 800 098, Lifeline 13 11 14, 1800 RESPECT (737 732).

  • Report domestic violence: SA Police 131 444 or, in an emergency, 000; Child Abuse Report Line 131 478.

Photos of Ebony Von Rochow (top); Shawn Hicks (second from top); cardboard cut-outs at the launch (third from top); and Brenton Lewis, Tim Law, Dave Burgess, Bridget Mather, Michael Sedgman and Mr Hicks (bottom): Peri Strathearn. Video: Murraylands Domestic Violence Awareness Group/YouTube.