ONE step at a time, walk in a survivor’s shoes.

Immerse yourself into the world of a domestic violence survivor.

Maggie Bell is a survivor, a survivor of domestic violence for 28 years.

“Every week in Australia 5000 police calls are made relating to domestic violence. It is one every two minutes,” Maggie said.

“One in three women are in a domestic violence relationship.

“Five women were lost this week.”

But Maggie’s exhibition is not just about the domestic violence, it’s a celebration showcasing one woman’s creative endeavours – giving power back to the survivor.

Maggie met Chris of UpBeat Creative Arts Therapy 18 months ago, and what started as the desire to draw manga characters has evolved into a full exhibition showcasing Maggie’s work relating not only to domestic violence, but also her other work.

“I had this crazy idea – an exhibition.

“Chris has helped every step – his commitment to me and his other clients is incredible.

“It’s an undesirable topic – too confronting for many people, but we need to talk about the perpetrator.

“To stop saying individuals can just walk out.”

Domestic violence is power, it is control over another person, whether physical, emotional, psychological, financial, or any multitude of ways.

“One lady was being constantly monitored. Her e-tag was being monitored. Friends in the community were discussing her with her husband.”

Even innocently, individuals are giving details of one’s movements to their perpetrator with dire impact.

For Maggie she experienced 28 years of coercive control.

“Just because I’m not showing any physical signs, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Even going to the police station can be terrifying for the victim.”

In small communities, everyone knows everyone, speaking out isn’t easy and comes with incredible risks, whether a code protects one or not. It can be a few simple words to a perpetrator without intent that can result in another victim.

“He was the ‘nice guy’ – he was very good at portraying a different persona in the community,” Maggie stated in relation to her perpetrator, her ex.

“If we all knew the real person we would never enter into the relationship.”

Even working with Chris, a man, was very different for Maggie initially.

“With Chris, there is never any plan for the day.

“The art is intuitive – in my mind’s eye, it comes to me.”

Chris explained: “Maggie has a very eclectic style. Mixed media, found objects, from collage to portraiture on rocks, stitching. She has amazing sewing work.”

Maggie added: “I work with unvalued objects. Collages on old saws – the handles worn and soft, the piece coming with its own history and soul.”

“The end product is not always the starting idea.”

From pressed tin flue caps with tattoo koi fish to rolled paper on wooden palings,

Maggie’s artwork is thought invoking, in some situations shocking, but beautiful.

A stunning wedding gown, Maggie has embroidered the bodice – a fairy-tale from the front, the rear stitched with words and the harsh reality of life under the roof with a perpetrator.

Maggie’s own artwork supressed in her previous life.

“It’s only been the last eight years I’ve slowly began doing things again. Luckily, Chris has fully encouraged and supported me – I have 100 per cent control over the exhibition.”

Statistically 1 in 3 women in the room at Maggie’s exhibition will have been or are in a domestic violence relationship.

In 2016, 96 women and children were killed, one of the highest fatalities from domestic violence.

Of the 96 individuals, 25 were children – and these women, children and unborn babies have not been left out of Maggie’s exhibition.

“I wanted to honour women; I could have been one of them. We are very blasé with statistics.”

Included in her exhibition are items from some of the victims and the survivors.

Tarang Chawla, his sister Nikita a victim – violently murdered by her partner; Amani Haydar her mum, Salwa, stabbed 30 times in a frenzied attack by her husband.

For Maggie her own pair of shoes.

The insidiousness of domestic violence – being trapped inside a trap.

With individuals, even women, not understanding the full extent of domestic violence, Maggie is often asked why she stayed. A very hard question to repeat the answer to, and similarly one of the reasons Maggie found art therapy.

“Chris doesn’t ask why – why that yellow instead of the other. Art therapy (to me) is the most therapeutic. I don’t have to talk – it’s the perfect non-verbal therapy.”

In the flow state, Maggie is completely immersed in her art.

“I could be out there all day. Total freedom to be myself, express myself 100, I don’t make art for other people.”

‘Electric driftwood’, ‘Dirty Martini’ and ‘Just one thing’, three of the many artworks on display over the Easter long weekend.

The complexity of domestic violence, the extent and the wide array of variables, means many men and women do not understand domestic violence and why you cannot just grab your coat and walk out the door.

The exhibition is raising awareness, planting a seed in the community, because (a victim) speaking out often comes with incredible risks. I am lucky to be able to do what I do. To speak at conferences and be on a co-collaborative research panel – the only one in the world.

“To use my long-lived history to change it for the women who come after me, to be impactful and help other women. We are experts by experience.

“There is no degree for this – if there was no-one would do it!”

Maggie’s exhibition will be on display at the Coronet Bay Hall over the Easter weekend with live music provided by Bernadette O’Rourke, and others.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 000. If you need help or advice, call 1800Respect on 1800 737 732, Safe Steps 1800 015 188, Gippsland Centre Against Sexual Assault on 1800 737 732. You can chat online 24/7 at 1800respect.org.au.