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This Teen Is The Reason Why Her Peers Are Being Taught About Domestic Violence

"When I was younger I didn't understand the concept of domestic violence."

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Josie Pohla didn't feel safe in her childhood home, where emotional, verbal, and physical abuse occurred often.

Anna Mendoza/BuzzFeed News

"When I was younger I didn't understand the concept of domestic violence," the 16-year-old told BuzzFeed News.

"I didn't understand that it wasn't normal."

When she was 12, Pohla, her mother and her brothers were subjected to what she has described as a "major domestic violence incident" that left them homeless for nine months as they hopped between friends' houses until finding more permanent accommodation.

Here, Pohla said, the violence continued at the hands of another family member.

"I just thought, you know, that is just the way families are, and I had no reason to believe otherwise," she said.

Her mother killed herself eight months after the family found its new home, when Pohla was 14.

She then posted a petition online (under the pseudonym Rachel), which called for the NSW education system to include content about domestic violence.

"I wanted help but didn't know how to get it," Pohla wrote in the petition.

"If domestic violence was addressed within the public schools' educational criteria, I could have gotten help and saved my mum.

"Nobody deserves to go through what I have been through."

More than 100,000 people signed the petition.

"It was maybe two or three months after my mum had passed away and I was just thinking about how sad it was and how bad it made me feel, and I felt like I didn't want to let anyone else go through that too," Pohla told BuzzFeed News.

"I waited a few weeks before even making it public because I was so afraid of what other people would think, and I never wanted anyone to look down on my family for what it was like at the time."

The NSW police commissioner at the time, Andrew Scipione, met with Pohla and "got the ball rolling" to involve minister for the prevention of domestic violence, Pru Goward, who worked with the education department.

Domestic violence prevention was last year taught in the state school curriculum for the first time.

Anna Mendoza/BuzzFeed News

"[Schools] have introduced it and [are] talking about healthy relationships and unhealthy relationships, and what that is like, and it is really cool," Pohla said.

"You're not a real man or woman if you think it is OK to use violence against someone that you're supposed to love."

Education at a young age might prove important for men who have grown up "thinking they're superior" to women, she added.

"A lot of people who have been victims of abuse fall into the category of being in a manipulative and emotionally abusive relationship because they don't know any better."

Pohla has paused her campaigning efforts for now.

Anna Mendoza/BuzzFeed News

"Since I made the petition and it was successful, I've just been taking a break."

She loves music, photography, her miniature poodle Charlie and most importantly, memes: "I like all memes, just not stale ones; I don't like stale memes."

Goward described meeting Pohla as an "honour".

Pru Goward
Mick Tsikas / AAP

Pru Goward

"[She] is a remarkable young lady who had the courage to share her tragic story and her ideas for educating children who may be experiencing domestic violence in their home," the NSW minister for the prevention of domestic violence said.

“Too often children in households where domestic violence is the usual state of affairs do not recognise it as abnormal and unacceptable.

“We now have an opportunity in years 7-10 in NSW to educate young people to ensure that they are empowered with the knowledge of what domestic violence is, and how they can identify possible ways to protect themselves and others.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing violence and need help or support, there are national and state-based agencies that can assist you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).

Gina Rushton is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Gina Rushton at

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