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Domestic violence survivor's plea for Adelaide memorial


She survived regular beatings as a child, protected Adelaide women from their abusers in adulthood, and now, at 85, Helen Oxenham is campaigning to establish a city memorial for the victims of domestic violence.

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Her father’s violence left Oxenham with profound emotional scars.

“I’m sure my neighbours heard us screaming,” she recalls.

“My father was mentally sick.

“He would have a row with us if [we] scuffed our shoe.

“He would hit us and our mother would come and defend us, and he would hit her.”

During her adult life, she has set up the first Christies Beach women’s shelter, and spent her time and money caring for women and children there.

She sold lamingtons beside a supermarket to pay the rent on the house that contained the shelter where the women would come for safety – furniture was sourced from a dump, and restored.

“Their stories were much more horrific than mine,” she says.

The shelter, established in the 1970s, still offers support to women today.

Oxenham says it has become intolerable to keep reading news about the deaths of Australian women as a result of domestic violence in recent years.

“So many women are dying – it’s now an epidemic.”

We need somewhere to go to sit, and cry, and talk about it, and maybe to heal

“Every time I hear a story of a woman being killed it brings me back to my story.

“It never leaves you. It never leaves you.”

Domestic violence survivor Helen Oxenham. Image supplied.

Domestic violence survivor Helen Oxenham. Image supplied.

She – along with supporters Léa Rebane and Josh Riter – presented this week to the Adelaide City Council, asking for support to erect a memorial statue for the victims and survivors of domestic violence.

Oxenham believes domestic violence survivors and victims need a place to express solidarity with each other, to share stories and to mourn.

“We need somewhere to go to sit, and cry, and talk about it, and maybe to heal,” she tells InDaily.

“It’s time we opened up pandora’s box and stopped the silence.”

We have enough statues of men with guns… I want somewhere to mourn our dead

Many of the women for whom Oxenham cared suffered violence at the hands of husbands that had returned from the Vietnam War.

“We have enough statues of men with guns,” she says.

“Women suffered the same – they give their lives for their kids.

“I want somewhere to mourn our dead.”

Rebane, a long-time friend of Oxenham’s, told Tuesday’s council meeting the grounds opposite the Women’s and Children’s Hospital would be an appropriate setting for a statue, which could cost between $15,000 and $30,000.

She says the group had had initial discussions with the council about options for funding a memorial statue, following their presentation this week, and that they will also be approaching corporate entities and community groups to help fund it.

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