If they leave their husbands after alleging domestic violence, they are not barred from applying for permanent residency and remaining in the country. Last year, the television current affairs program 60 Minutes ran a story that alleged that three Russian women had accused their husbands of violence to secure independent residency.
"It gave the totally wrong impression," says Jeffreys. The story simply assumed that because the men were acquitted the women were lying." The horrific stories of women who are bashed or murdered can, according to Jeffreys, serve to obscure a more everyday trauma that of economic exploitation.
In the 12 months to the end of June last year, 191 Russian women were granted prospective spouse visas in Australia.
That places Russian brides fifth on the list of spouse visa recipients, behind only women from Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand and China.
Elena Polyanskaya walks through the arrivals gate wearing dark jeans and a pale blue top, her fine, blonde hair cut boyishly short. As they drive they talk about the emails they have been sending each other and the awkwardness slowly ebbs.
She is exhausted after a 54-hour journey from her Russian hometown of Nizhny Novgorod, but the moment Richard Bosward sees her, he decides she is beautiful. It is just six weeks since Bosward first tapped "Russian brides" into his computer and paid 0 to Elena's Models, an internet site that listed Polyanskaya's email address.
You just have to see if there is a physical attraction." Polyanskaya stayed in Perth for 10 days and at four o'clock one morning they both woke and Bosward asked her to marry him. The couple was married at Bosward's home on September 28. The icing on the wedding cake depicted the Russian and Australian flags. The Russian bride business has been booming in America since the mid 1990s.
She paused "I hadn't had time to think" but she said yes. "Since marrying Lena, we've gotten to know four or five other Australian/Russian couples guys pretty much my age, who've been married before and have found it very hard to get any Australian woman to marry us," says Bosward. In the past decade, according to Adams, as many as 10,000 American men have married Russian women.
If the two intellects fit, you're most of the way there. I prefer to live with a husband and children." Polyanskaya flew home, quit her job, and enrolled in a full-time course in English, along with her 16-year-old daughter Genya and her son Vasily, 12. They like to have a man, but, at a distance, a sort of three-quarters-time guy." Australian men aren't the only ones finding it difficult to convince women to settle down, says John Adams, co-founder of A Foreign Affair, the world's largest website devoted to Russian brides."In Russia, nobody asked me to marry them," says Polyanskaya today. "A lot of the men want to have families," says Adams, who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his Russian wife, Tanya.(The other two men with whom he founded the business have also married women from Russia.) "It is difficult for them to find women who want to start a family in the same age range."A lot of men aren't able to let go of their privileges and relate on an equal level with women.They expect the women to fit into the traditional family that the man controls, and sometimes controls through violence." Jeffreys has noticed an increase in domestic violence against Russian women reported through women's networks.