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Connection and courage the key for Sheree

A serious health issue forced pre-primary educator Sheree Lucas Neto out of the classroom last year so she had already adjusted to life at home when COVID-19 arrived. But, like many people, she faced new challenges helping her kids adapt to life away from their friends and school.

“Being at high-risk of serious illness, I knew it was important to keep the kids at home, so we’ve been self-isolating since the end of March,” said Sheree.

“Stay strong is the biggest message. This will end, we will come through the other side.”

“My son (11) has been okay with it so far, he is happy playing games, riding his bike and chatting online with his friends. During term time we got some schooling done and I tried to bring day to day life into learning, one day we made dumplings and he did all the measuring.

“My 14-year old daughter found it more challenging and didn’t understand the concept of having to stay at home and not see her friends at first … which is a pretty normal teenage response!

“We’re all getting used to it now, I’m just taking this day by day, trying to stay calm and not overthink it.”

As one of Ruah’s first domestic violence advocates Sheree is committed to using her experience to educate younger generations about healthy relationships and to empower other women and men to get out and build a better life.

You see, Sheree knows the cycle of domestic violence all too well. She witnessed her mother’s abuse for many years from when she was just seven-years of age. At 16, she found her ‘soulmate’ and without being aware of it at the time, entered her own abusive relationship.

“Soon enough, the abuse began.  It wasn’t just physical abuse, it was emotional, verbal, mental and sexual. I endured 16 years of this nightmare,” she explained.

It was in this relationship that Sheree had her two beautiful children, and as they grew up, she could see the impacts the violence was having on them.

“Eventually, I found the courage to break the cycle, the cycle I had entered as a child and that I so desperately wanted my children to avoid,” said Sheree. “It’s now really important for me to educate them about what a loving and respectful relationship looks like, and to let them know what they witnessed was not normal.”

Thinking back to life then, Sheree reflected on the challenges being faced by people who are currently living in an abusive relationship whilst in isolation.

“If I could offer any advice, I would really encourage people to reach out to a friend or to a frontline worker, come up with a code word or some way to let them know when there is trouble at home. There is also support on social media from women with lived experience, with a number of Facebook groups you can connect with,” advised Sheree.

“Stay strong is the biggest message. This will end, we will come through the other side.

“I hope this might give women strength – when they are able to leave isolation, they shouldn’t stay, they should get out and build the life they deserve.”