We first met Tegan in 2018 when she escaped a violent relationship while she was still pregnant with her youngest child, Hudson. She was the victim of brutal violence and was forced to give birth in a different town to avoid being found by her former partner. Tegan was referred to our Linker domestic violence service who worked with her to ensure she and her children were supported on their journey to safety . Learn more about Tegan’s story with the Linker service here.
Five years on, we caught up with Tegan to see how her life has changed. Tegan said, “No one should ever have to go through what I went through, but I wouldn’t be who I am today without it.” She says having gratitude for where she is today helps her to heal from the past. “I was tested in a way that was almost inhumane. It helped me to learn how strong I am.”
Tegan’s ultimate goal is to use her experience for good, to help other children and families overcome violence and rebuild their lives. In addition to being a Mum to Hudson and her other four children (from a previous relationship), she is completing two degrees – a Bachelor of Social Science with a major in Psychology and a Bachelor of Education in Primary Education. Tegan is contemplating juggling work and post-grad studies when she completes her bachelors next year. When reflecting on her passion for learning Tegan says, “all that work that I do, no one can take that away from me. It gives me a different perspective on what I’ve been through and has helped me heal.”
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about some of the things that happened but then I look back and can see how far I’ve come.”
Tegan would like to see the legal system change to better support domestic violence victims. She speaks about the trauma of being questioned all day long by the perpetrator’s lawyer. “It’s mentally exhausting the way they wear you down. I feel really passionate about the court system needing to change. The victim gets treated as a criminal.”
“I wish there was more support for the children when dealing with domestic violence. People say, ‘they’re young, they’ll get through it,’ but it still sits with them. There’s still stuff that the kids bring up. My 9 year old recalled the other day about how he would hide in his bed. My 17 year old also sometimes talks about the impact the violence had on him.”
“Hudson experienced the violence in the womb. He has a lot of trouble regulating his emotions and has an underdeveloped central nervous system. There are studies that show a link between this condition and stress caused in the womb. It’s something I want to learn more about.”
Hudson has been getting support from medical specialists to help him bridge the gaps so he’s ready to start school next year.
Tegan’s study in primary education and psychology has lead her to explore how classroom environments are impacting children who are experiencing trauma from domestic violence. It is an area that requires further research but studies show that a teacher’s approach can have a significant impact on children facing trauma. Tegan acknowledged that for many children, school is the place that they go to feel safe when there are problems at home.
While Tegan deserves all the credit for her achievements, she says she has never felt more supported than what she does right now by her family and friends.
Despite everything that Tegan has gone through she feels that it has made her family closer. She believes without Barnardos’ support to leave the relationship she wouldn’t be here to tell the story. “If I hadn’t left that night he would have killed me. I can’t over-think that side of things because it’s quite a dark place.”
“It was hard to leave because you are leaving all those securities. You feel like you don’t know where you are going or what you are doing. It’s like someone has ripped all the other pages out of your book. You have to start by sitting with some really difficult feelings but the good news is that you get to choose what’s next as you heal.”
For those in the same situation Tegan says it’s important to start doing small things for yourself. “Start studying or going to the gym. Go as slow as you want but just start chipping away at it. You just have to keep moving forward.”
When asked about how she feels about life now Tegan says, “I love who I am today – wow, that was big to say – but I do, I like the person that I am. I’m looking after my kids, I’m here, I’m present, I’m very capable of doing this on my own, which I never thought I would be. Let alone studying and all the other things I’m doing. I’m looking forward to seeing what the next 5 years brings for us.”
“My kids are my world. I’ve done this for me but I also do it for them and I want to show them that they are capable of doing all this too.”