Housework and soap are the unlikely highlights in Azelene Williams’ life right now – and it has nothing to do with protecting her family from coronavirus.
Confined to her Perth home, Azelene has recently discovered that making pretty soaps, and dusting with headphones and an audiobook, are great ways to relax, stay positive and express her creativity.
As one of Ruah’s first domestic violence advocates, Azelene learned to value the simple pleasures very early in life.
She was almost 17 when she met her first boyfriend, seven years her senior. The starry-eyed teenage romance quickly turned into an abusive and controlling relationship and Azelene was lucky to escape with her life as she made a daring dash from home, battered, bruised and in her nightgown, a week before her 20th birthday.
“So many people ask why I didn’t leave earlier,” Azelene said. “I still struggle to answer but I felt guilt, shame and fear … not just for myself but for my whole family.
“Life is full of challenges. In the end it’s getting up that pulls us through the dark, painful days.”
“My advice to anyone in an abusive relationship is that you need to find someone to talk to – even if it is just walking to the corner and striking up a conversation with the staff in a café. It is OK to say ‘I’m not having a good day’. Whatever it takes, just make that connection and start that conversation.
“Speak up. Get help. Reach out to the local support groups. If you are really worried, call the police. I definitely waited too long to ask for help but I was isolated from family and friends and too scared to say anything.
Now in her 40’s, Azelene has found a new calling and is currently completing a social work degree.
“Not bad for a girl with dyslexia,” she laughs. “I have emphysema so it is a big risk for me to leave the house right now and I’m discovering new ways to feed my mind and my soul, like dyeing my hair bright purple, designing vision boards and having fun making soap.
“Recovery is all about finding the positive in a negative situation and learning to reframe things. Take a breath and make a list of everything you have always wanted to learn about. If you can do one or two courses now – there are lots for free or very low cost online – perhaps you will be better able to look for a job later or volunteer.
“Women need to practise self-care and take time for themselves. It isn’t easy, particularly if the kids are home from school. I do it by getting up very early. I love exercising so I do that first thing in the morning then sit on the couch outside with a mint tea and have some time to myself.
“Social media is a useful way to stay connected. It is a really good time to feel part of the community because we are all in this Covid thing together.”
Read more of Azelene’s story. Download her free ebook BROKEN Breaking the Silence.