guler’s story gives hope for recovery from family violence

Posted on 17th November 2017

Guler, the eldest child of hardworking migrant parents, experienced violence – physical and emotional – initially administered by her mother from the tender age of four, as a latchkey prep child. In her teens, 20s, 30s, and early 40s as a student, professional community worker, community radio broadcaster, and wife, Guler’s experience of abuse and fear for her life was a constant.

From age four to 40 Guler encountered abuse of all kinds, including in her adult years, sexual abuse. Each day was shrouded in fear and confusion as her self-worth eroded and mental health deteriorated.

“Confronted with death all the time”, Guler knew she had to leave her marriage. To stop the cycle of violence she needed also to sever her “toxic” relationship with her mother. Both seemingly insurmountable challenges steeped in deep emotional turmoil and physical risk.

With exceptional support from cohealth workers “who went to extra lengths to help me deal with the realities of my situation, including things like using code language to make sure I was safe to talk”, Guler planned and executed her marital escape.

She spent many years labouring over and intellectualising her relationship with her mother and chose to create one last (and failed) chance for resolution, then ended that relationship too.

Support from specialist health workers, her own arts practice, and her choice to advocate for others experiencing family violence, were key to her recovery.

On and off since adolescence Guler attended cohealth – “it was the only place I was allowed to go” – seeking assistance and support from medical, counselling, and other staff and volunteering as a community advisor and member of the committee of management. Guler refers to cohealth as her “solace and refuge”, and “the only relief from the private and family violence” she was experiencing.

“I was supported emotionally (by cohealth staff). They touched my heart. Much healing happened”, Guler said.

Her arts practice was an avenue for self-expression and provided a platform for advocacy and to let others know they are not alone and there is hope.

Today Guler is in a healthy and loving relationship. She continues to access support from cohealth and is actively involved in cohealth’s service development via participation as a community advisor. She is committed to her arts practice and her recent sculpture “Question Why?”, a bronze woman in the shape of a question mark standing upon the globe, pays tribute to survivors of family and private violence.

Guler Altunbas
Question Why? 2016

Question Why is on display at cohealth Collingwood, 365 Hoddle Street and provides a place of reflection for people who have experienced or be affected by family violence.

cohealth has specialist counselling for women with present or past experiences of family violence.

Confidential 24 hour phone counselling to support people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse is available call 1800 737 732 (1800RESPECT)

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