At Donna’s side from the first hearing to establish charges, right through to sentencing, Support Worker Deidre was instrumental in enabling her to give good evidence.
Donna sat in a tiny windowless room, away and out of sight, yet she was petrified.
She was in a District Court and in front of her were two screens, one showing the judge, the other lawyers and police. Another camera in the room was directed on Donna showing a live feed of her to those in the court. She couldn’t see her former partner and abuser, but she was only too aware he was there.
“I thought he might break out. I was even told he was in shackles. I was told that he couldn’t move, but I was still terrified,” Donna said.
At Donna’s side was Victim Support Worker, Deidre, a constant and calming presence.
“Nobody could have stopped me walking out of there if it wasn’t for knowing I had that support. I was that terrified. And if I hadn’t testified, he might have got off on a technicality,” says Donna.
“Donna was under so much pressure,” remembers Deidre. “Being in there, knowing that the offender is on the other side, knowing there’s a lawyer, knowing she’s going to have to answer questions. She was really, really terrified,” she said.
"Today when someone asks me about all the people I’ve supported and who’s had the most benefit from that support, Donna’s at the top of the list.”
Deidre was there for Donna from that first hearing where they established the charges and whether her ex would stand trial, right through to sentencing. It was a harrowing process that took more than 18 months and several trips back to that room in the courthouse with Donna going through the pain of re-telling her story and constantly reliving the hurt.
Detective Wayne Poore was the officer overseeing the investigation into Donna’s abuser. He said that the role of Victim Support was critical in keeping Donna calm on the witness stand.
“Deidre’s support was instrumental in enabling Donna to give good evidence.”
As her Victim Support Worker, Deidre has seen Donna at different stages in her journey from their initial meeting in a police car outside the Women’s Refuge, to the person she is now. Donna says as a result of her support she’s become more confident, articulate and determined to help others in the same position she was. "As a result of Deidre's support I have become more confident, articulate and determined to help others in the same position as I was."
“The first day I met Donna was in the back of that police car. She was a lady that was broken, downbeat, who would not make eye contact with me. I just let Donna be who she wanted to be at that stage. Over that week of the first court appearance, we started to get to know each other a bit more and Donna was a bit more open to talking with me,” Deidre said.
“From that time, to the Donna at the end of it, I’ve seen a very different Donna emerge. Today when someone asks me about all the people I’ve supported and who’s had the most benefit from that support, Donna’s at the top of the list.”
Donna has since started an online gift box business. Carefully and delicately packaged and curated, the box contains seven gifts you open over seven days, each with an esteem boosting affirmation. She’s been giving them free to women at the Refuge at the beginning of the same incredibly difficult journey that she went on. Donna knows and understands that this is where healing can start.
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