Roia Atmar says there is help for domestic violence victims.

The scars around Roia Atmar's neck remind her every day of how lucky she is to be alive.

The mother of four was doused with turpentine and set alight by her former husband and left with severe injuries to about 35 per cent of her body 17 years ago.

Ms Atmar now uses her experience as a survivor of domestic violence to help other women escape abusive relationships.

"When you are a victim you often do not realise that there is help out there waiting for you and there are people who care about the situation you are in," she said.

Ms Atmar works as a housing support officer with the Joondalup-based Patricia Giles Centre, which gives emergency accommodation and support to women and children.

She hopes speaking about her own experience will inspire other women - particularly from ethnic backgrounds - to take the first steps towards a safer life.

Ms Atmar came to Australia from Pakistan at the age of 14 after her family arranged for her to marry an Afghan man living in Perth.

The first year of marriage was relatively normal but soon after the birth of their first child things began to change.

"From there it just got worse and worse and worse to the point that he would also get my children involved in the violence," Ms Atmar said.

"The night he poured turpentine on me I was holding my month-old daughter in my arms and tending to my son when he came into the bathroom and actually set me alight."

At the hospital, her husband told police the fire was accidental and it was only after a social worker told her she and her children could be protected that she finally spoke up.

Her husband was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm and was sentenced to 12 years jail but was paroled after 5 years.

Ms Atmar has kept a violence restraining order in place that prevents him trying to contact her.

She has a duress alarm in her home linked to the police communications centre and - as part of a new program sponsored by Telstra - her mobile phone acts as a mobile alarm when she is away from the house.

She felt blessed to be in a country with law and order and people willing to help if things went wrong.


News break - September 5

The West Australian

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