Ruby Smith* was just 11 years old when she was introduced to an outlaw bikie gang.
Drawn in by older friends and a difficult home life, she then spent the next two decades immersed in the underground world.
“There was definitely a sense of camaraderie. You could face the world together, like a surrogate family,” she said.
Ms Smith’s relationship with a bikie afforded her a level of respect in the gang hierarchy.
But she said it was a relationship fuelled by domestic violence.
“If they had a fallout with one of the other blokes, you could be their punching bag for taking their frustration out,” she said.
Years have passed since Ms Smith escaped her old life, but she said she wanted to use her story to expose the violent culture of gang life for women.
Tracy Lindeman said she had a similar experience during her time in a bikie gang and recalled witnessing the consequences on a young member.
“She had a broken arm. I said, ‘Oh, how did you do that?’She said, “I stepped out of line’.
Where to turn
Breaking free can be tough, especially when it is the only life that domestic and family violence victims have ever known.
The federal government has launched a new program to help women financially and support them through their transition to a new life.
The two-year trial offers financial assistance for people to leave unsafe domestic situations and help them set up a home of their own.
UnitingCare Queensland will lead the project, offering up to $5,000 in vouchers, goods, services and access to support.
One billion dollars has been promised to help end violence against women and children.
UnitingCare general manager Luke Lindsay said financial insecurity was a major barrier for people wanting to leave a violent relationship, and the new program provided an opportunity to overcome that.
“Not physically having access to money or resources or having somewhere to go are leading reasons why people cannot escape violent relationships,” he said.
“Now, by having access to some means, it will empower people to make the decision to leave, and importantly, enable them to do so.
“Additionally, they will also have access to a network of services that will support them setting up their new home.”
Ruby Smith has built a new life for herself in Queensland, but it was not an easy escape.
“My ex-partner and three of his crew hit the road and travelled to Far North Queensland looking for me,” she said.
“You literally have to cut everybody off until you can get a gauge and get somewhere safe.”
She said it was the kindness of strangers that saved her.
“If those people hadn’t been able to keep my location safe, the results would have been very different now,” she said.
“I wouldn’t be speaking with you, put it that way.”
*Names have been changed for privacy.
Source: Thanks msn.com