Sharon Karyasa was born in Melbourne in 1964 to working class parents. She had an idyllic childhood, full of love and adventure. Sharon dreamed of becoming a journalist, but ended up not going to university, making her dream unattainable. But this didn’t stop her from becoming a writer. Sharon’s memoir Scarlett Voices in the Shadows was initially self-published in Melbourne in 2016, then reprinted in Jakarta in December of that year when Periplus accepted the title for distribution. Sharon now lives between Australia and Bali with her Balinese husband Made.
Why did you decide to live and work in Bali?
I had a healing in Bali that resulted in a pivotal turning point in my life. I was visiting Bali in 2010 with my son on holiday. That year had been the most physically and mentally challenging of my life. I had been diagnosed with third degree melanoma and had the stitches removed two days before. The wound site had become infected. In addition, I had another injury to my arm as the result of a fall.
Where did this healing take place?
While we were visiting Batuan Temple near Ubud. An elderly woman appeared from nowhere and asked if I would like a healing. After praying she blessed us with holy water. My son had a black blood blister on the palm of his hand. After we left the temple my son told me the blister had disappeared. It was at that moment that a miracle happened. As I blinked my eyes, water ran from them. It wasn’t tears. The water flowing was holy water. I blinked again and I could see clearly. The following morning both the wound site on my leg and the one on my arm were miraculously clean.
Why did you write your memoir?
I wanted to share my journey in order to give hope. My intention was to write an easy to read, entertaining (though sometimes shocking!) and enthusiastic story that would inspire people that things can get better. To keep battling on and not cave in even when faced with horrendous obstacles. I wanted to travel side by side with my readers, quietly whispering love and reassurance to keep on going, just as my shadow voices did to me. Then one day a light would shine at the end of the tunnel and that’s when real miracles can happen.
How did you get involved in advocating against family violence?
My involvement resulted from what I feel was divine intervention. It started when I discovered a document at a Geelong Women’s Network meeting. Written by Research Assistant Ludo McFerran from the University of New South Wales, the document discussed how to adopt a clause into workplace agreements that would allow victims of violence up to 20 days paid leave to get their lives back into some sort of order. I decided to implement the measure into my workplace at the Surf Coast Shire, a local government authority, in 2010. Today more than 1.6 million employees in Australia have access to paid domestic violence leave and this number is increasing.
Do you feel comfortable talking about your experience with domestic violence?
Yes! I want others to know how to recognize it and to stop it. In 2010, I was knocked out unconscious by an ex-boyfriend and held against my will. My life has taken a serendipitous turn since then, in part because the truth is out there now as described in my memoir. Only recently I experienced another form of violence in Bali when I was shoved into a swimming pool at a five-star resort by a man who was evidently incensed by my enthusiasm for my memoir. This happened on a perfect day in Paradise. It goes to show that violence against both women and men can happen anytime and anywhere.
How far-reaching is family violence?
There are no geographic or socio economic boundaries. Family violence is immeasurable. It’s a far bigger concern than terrorism. I believe this is one of the most important discussions that we should be having. After I started the victims of violence initiative eight years ago in Australia, other countries have moved the clause forward. I understand that New York is looking at it closely. I was astounded when a survivor stood up at my book launch in Melbourne in 2016 and thanked me for founding the initiative. She went on to say that she has used the leave that I fought for after she had been assaulted.
How much do you deal with family violence in your memoir?
Although a life changer, my attack was just one small part of the book that actually covers a variety of issues. The entire package will give women hope. As a woman, I struggled to fit into a patriarchal society that was considered normal amongst my friends and family. I spent years rebelling against society, traveling and searching for answers. My dependence on alcohol in later years resulted in low self-esteem. I became a survivor after my assault, hence my involvement in advocating to empower survivors. My book is a tale of empowerment.
Do you support efforts against domestic violence globally?
Education is the key. I am thrilled that more women now have a voice and are finding the courage to stand up and tell their story. The #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns, have been phenomenal successes and catapulted the conversation about family violence onto the international stage. Last year I attended the premier of The Handmaids Tale in Los Angeles and met the critically acclaimed author Margaret Atwood. The multi award winning series (based on her dystopian novel) has highlighted a horrifying fictional reality. The series graphically portrays a world in which women are treated with intolerance and injustice. I also met with representatives at Los Angeles City Hall to discuss the family violence clause and its groundswell success. I continue to scribe thought-provoking content on my blog. I believe that writing is my greatest weapon.
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