Tara’s Angel is saving lives
There is an Angel saving the lives of people who’ve had the ability and courage to get away from domestic and family violence. It’s Tara’s Angel, and with your support there will be many more to come.
The murder of Tara Costigan by her former partner in 2015 stunned and rocked Canberra to the core. Fuelled by grief and the desire to shift the balance from tragedy to hope, Tara’s family set up the Tara Costigan Foundation. Over the past two years the Foundation has evolved into a professional charity and is quietly getting on with helping victims, their families and friends.
The Foundation’s priority is Tara’s Angels, which is a unique post-crisis service helping people rebuild their lives. Tara’s first Angel is a fully qualified social worker, counsellor, mentor, guide and trusted friend to many in our community. In just eight months Tara’s Angel, along with a small support team of volunteers and Foundation CEO Nadia Pessarossi, has helped 56 families in the ACT and region.
Nadia says the Angel helps maintain the momentum of each client’s decision to leave a violent situation. “We’re getting amazing results, but most of it is just being there, listening to their needs and coordinating services. For example, one woman has full custody of her children and has now gone back to uni; we’ve saved three women from being homeless; and two women have got new jobs.
“Our main support is kindness. There was one woman who was feeling very suicidal who called me saying she wanted to give feedback to promote the Tara’s Angels service because for her, she says the Angel saved her life.”
Nadia is dubbed the ‘in-house angel’ of fundraising. “If we could encourage 500 people in Canberra to donate five or ten-dollars a fortnight, we could put another two Angels into our community.” Nadia also welcomes social media ambassadors. “Please go on our Facebook page and follow us. Please share the stories of what’s happening in the community. Please keep the awareness moving – it can’t just be when someone’s murdered because there’s terrorism in our homes now,” she says.
Nadia says the Tara Costigan Foundation is to family violence what the McGrath Foundation is to breast cancer. Tara’s Angels is modelled on the McGrath breast care nurses. The other similarity between the Foundations is their enduring family connection.
Nathan Costigan is Tara’s cousin, and while his physical appearance is not exactly ‘cherubic’, his open sensitivity and emotional intelligence shine through. Nathan sits on the Foundation Board and has a busy role as the family’s voice on behalf of Tara and other victims.
“I think once you get over the shock and heartache of what happened, and obviously with a crime as serious as Tara’s, it’s even harder to comprehend because it was so violent, it takes a while to process. It’s something I can’t get away from but I’ve accepted it and I don’t want to get away from now.
“I grew up with a single mum, so I’m extraordinarily protective of her, and I’m the biggest mummy’s boy – and proud of it. But growing up, everything I did was male dominant and it’s taken me 34 years to work out that if we start with respect and love, and go from there, then we’ll all be a lot happier.
“I’ve got a little boy and I want him to treat women the way he treats his mother. When Tara was murdered I think I was emotionally fuelled to help.”
So now fuelled with the passion of a vigilante, Nathan is about to divert his efforts away from his beloved role as coach with the Tuggeranong Hawks AFL Club, and increase his commitment to continuing the conversation about domestic and family violence.
“I’ve chosen to not re-sign as coach so that I can have more time with my son and family and to become more involved with the Foundation.”
Nathan says emotional violence is a sleeper issue that gets even less attention than physical domestic and family violence. “For me domestic violence was obvious – just look at the size of me – but I wasn’t aware of emotional violence.
“If someone’s controlling the person fully without touching them, such as controlling finances, telling people what to wear and who they can talk to, then that’s emotional violence. And that’s what Tara suffered for 12 months before she was killed.
Nadia adds there is a collection of 23 signs of emotional violence.
“In the course of normal relationships there are always arguments, but if it’s constant, if it escalates, or if you are scared with another person – regardless of whether it’s your partner, your daughter, your son, or your mother or father – then that’s family violence.
“The horrific side is that one woman a week is being murdered, but every day one in three women suffer this feeling, and this is really frustrating and upsets me” she says. That’s the steely determination that drives both Nathan and Nadia, but it’s always enveloped in kindness and love.
“Canberra is a very open community, they listen and they have big hearts. Having a bush capital to work with where everyone knows each other, it’s very uplifting when we ask for help,” says Nathan.
If you’re interested in showing your support for the Foundation visit www.taracostiganfoundation.com.