Domestic Violence. How can we move forward as a nation?

Yet another story to wake up to in the news of yet another woman killed at the hands of her partner. Hannah Clarke was set alight along with her three Children earlier this week on their way to routine school drop off by her estranged husband. You see this is all too familiar to me. I grew up in a household with an abusive father - he was physically and psychologically abusive to my mother and at times us as well. However mum always copped the worst of it. Heres a brief timeline of my childhood.

3 years old - witnessing my dad break down at the start of his downward spiral when my poppy died (his dad) 6 years old - being hidden under the bed by my 8 year old sister so we couldn’t be hurt or witness my mother being beat up. 8 years old - being punished by him in tears to keep trying to get the brakes to work on my bike. I was learning without training wheels and had to do it over and over again, when mum came downstairs to stick up for me - he proceeded to drag her around the floor by her hair. 9ish years old - witnessing my father hang my mother over the edge of our two storey balcony by her throat and pleading with him to stop. 11/12 years old - I sat down with my mum and asked her why we lived with this monster and what plan we needed to put in place to leave.

2 weeks later we moved out with my two siblings into an old small duplex unit, we started over and didn’t take anything from the family home. We had an old futon as a couch, second hand cutlery and crockery, an old washing machine we were kindly given and we were the happiest we’d been in years. What followed for the next 4 years however, was absolute hell. Things got worse before they got better and my father didn’t leave us alone, he continued to threaten my mum behind closed doors and manipulate her so he could stay in our lives. Mum kept a stable job, was running us around to sports and putting food on the table. By the time I was 16 we had put all orders on him possible, first a DVO and then a restraining order. All just pieces of paper - he still proceeded to park 50m up the road from our house and torment us to come out and talk to him. At this point I ended up having to leave high school because I was so stressed out having to deal with such traumatic issues that no teenager should have to deal with.

How it ended for our family is a lot more fortunate to that of Hannah Clarke and I can gratefully say that my dad didn’t fire the gun at my mother. But at a tree instead after he kidnapped her in front of myself and 2 friends one Friday night, when we were watching TV and playing hairdressers. He went to jail for only 1 year after that which meant we had to sell our house and rent a secret unit with an undisclosed location. He wasn’t one bit reformed - if anything he came out angrier.

I am no professional - what I am though is a grown woman with the life experience of someone that lived and breathed domestic violence. What do I think should happen? How do we as a country move forward and prevent this type of thing from happening? Here are my thoughts. The sad reality is - is that this can happen to ANYONE - domestic violence does not discriminate and it has many faces. However there is a lot more to it than just labelling Rowan Baxter a monster. This man was once a baby, once a toddler and once a child. Prevention starts with supporting young people/children and also having stronger and healthier communication with our kids and supporting them with their feelings and emotions. Hannah Baxter needed more resources available to her and my bet is that she would have asked for help from authorities many times only to be given a piece of paper that stated he could not come within 20 metres of her and her children. What good is that piece of paper now? That man needed to be heavily monitored by police and law enforcement.

“75% of women that are murdered by their partners are murdered AFTER they have left. Murder is a decision that is deliberate and driven by the need to exact revenge and achieve the ultimate act of power and control." Narcissistic perpetrators cannot handle loss of control and when its lost they will do anything to gain it back. Why do we have to wait for extreme circumstances in order to be taken seriously? Stupid laws like having enough evidence that he has harmed you or your children BEFORE you take more action is just plain stupid. Women in these situations are so scared and so confused about what to do next the last thing they are thinking about is keeping a file in the house of all the abuse they have endured by the person that they are meant to feel safe with. We need to invest in safe houses, facilities and funds to set these women up in undisclosed locations away from their attacker. We need to educate young children around how we can communicate effectively with our peers and that violence towards women or anyone for that matter is unacceptable. We need more education around drug and alcohol abuse as you will find more often than not drugs and alcohol are involved when the perpetrator strikes. We need to educate adults to look out for the early signs of women or men with anti social and violent behaviour and how we can offer support for these people and also how we can protect ourselves from such occurrences. We need to start leading by example as women and showing our daughters how we want to be treated by treating ourselves with love and respect first, followed by that of others. Teaching our boys that there are healthy ways of letting out our anger and that its ok to share emotions with others and not suppress it.

I remember people saying to my mum ‘just leave’ - the plain simple fact is - that is the most dangerous decision you will make, hearing that from people and doctors and police that have never had experience of living with someone like that is a cop out. We need more professionals that have life experience dealing with domestic violent abusers and these people need to start educating others of the signs and warnings in the lead up to the abuser exploding at breaking point. Hannah Baxter has been let down by our poorly monitored system, along with countless other women. Our country may be facing other really pressing issues right now like climate change and political warfare but domestic violence needs a light shone on it and something needs to change - 1 woman is dying every week in Australia at the hands of her partner, this isn’t an issue - its an epidemic.

I may be only 1 person but I am making a promise to myself and all the women in this country that has suffered at the hands of a violent partner that I am going to do everything I can in being pro active to healthier change, I am so tired of being triggered every time I hear a horrible story like this and I am so tired of the unimaginable lives that are torn apart like that of Hannah Baxters Family. We can all help raise awareness and we can all play a part in altering this awful culture that is taking over our country - just by living more consciously and taking more notice to the signs - reaching out to people you may suspect are in trouble. You could save the next Hannah just by speaking up. Rest in peace Hannah, Laianah, Aaliyah and Trey. Belle x

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