Congratulations Australian of the year! Here’s what I want to say to Rosie Batty…

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My friends, family and followers know that I was the target of domestic violence in 2013 which left me traumatised until I reached the point of frustration: this shouldn’t happen to people!

From there I became a powerful machine, driven to start campaigning on my own … but no one died and no one knows about the trauma experienced – therefore it’s just another case forgotten. No headlines, no news. So I want to contact Rosie Batty and ask her for support in my quest to change AVO laws – nationally, and build in mandatory support to stop the abuse cycle and change the statistic that one target of domestic abuse is murdered each week.

I have a solution and I want it to be heard. So here goes…:

Dear Rosie,

Congratulations on becoming Australian of the Year! I can’t express how much it means, even to someone like me who was also a target of domestic abuse – you have demonstrated a shining example that trauma can lead to growth – and that can start immediately.

Your strength is inspiring beyond words. I don’t think anyone could comprehend your experience and in that isolation you’ve found this amazing light that you are now radiating out to others. The education you’ve raised about domestic violence and why women don’t leave is also inspiring. You have done some amazing work.

As you know, there’s more to be done. And it’s so important this is implemented as soon as possible, because as long as it’s not – people are at risk. You know it, I know it and anyone who has been the target of domestic violence will know it.

One of the reasons people are dying in these situations is our Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (AVO) laws are not breaking the abuse cycle, and therefore they’re not forming the protection they should. In fact, there’s two issues that are very apparent: first – no one thinks it will happen to them. Second: everyone thinks an AVO means people automatically have to stay a certain distance away from each other. That was ALL I wanted! Yet to get this, there needs to be serious threat to life demonstrated. So you can get an AVO against someone and then head straight out to the pub together after and talk about how they’re not going to stalk, harass, molest and assault you. How is this even allowed? If it’s serious enough for police intervention, and serious enough to take time off work to stand in a court room, then how come that piece of paper makes ZERO attempt to cut through the abuse cycle whatsoever. And don’t get me started on how you need to put your address forward for it!

I am the first to put my hand up and admit I was addicted to a man who abused me, and that in itself destroyed my self esteem and self worth, and kept me in the cycle even longer. He tried to kill me on three separate occasions, the last time he tried to run me down in his car … that wasn’t a threat, it was the action, right there. To the point that he ramped into me – the physical body of me trying to get away – three times. It was on CCTV, however, I thought I deserved it. I blamed myself. How could I put myself in that situation again … and yet he was nice again right after: “It wasn’t like that, I’d never do that to you”. And he’s the believable type … I was an intelligent woman and yet, I kept going back to him.

If an AVO was in place, where I could have trusted it would break the abuse cycle, I would have taken that option. But it didn’t exist. And it still doesn’t. That terrifies me. And what’s worse – and you would be first to know – it doesn’t protect children: at all. If I know anything about my abusive partner, it’s that the first thing he would go after if we had it was our children, our pets and then me if he could find me. Where my abuser kept getting me was he told me he was “hurting” because I didn’t love him anymore and I “just didn’t care”. Being empathetic, I’d fall straight back into his trap – exactly as he wanted me to. Let me share an email I received from my abuser, which the police still refused to respond to because there was no direct “threat to life” in it:

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A lovelock is a padlock with our names on it and the dates we dated. Is it not insane that I’m being threatened for something you could just buy at Bunnings? And for the record: Narcissistic Abuse/Psychopath 101 is their obsession on soul mates and their romanticised philosophy love that is so far from fact and not the basis for a healthy relationship.

Now, the thing is, at 5 foot 2, meaning it was out of reach, and with NO muscles and nothing to use to cut it down with … I did not cut that lovelock down. But why did I not flinch that it was gone? Why did I not respond to this threat except to go straight to the police? Because if he didn’t have it – he couldn’t come back to me weeks, months, years later and hoover me back in: AGAIN! I knew whatever pain was ahead for me would be the last of a very LONG dark and painful period for me. It was a romance that isolated me from all friends and family and kept me trapped, terrified and silenced. But I was not going to find it, least of all have it returned to him.

Following my relationship, with zero support from our law and police because there’s no “threat for life” in this message, I put myself into my own witness protection program. I changed everything about myself as best I could and I spent more than ten thousand dollars trying to get safe from him.

What I needed?

I needed an AVO that not only said he couldn’t contact me, but I couldn’t contact him. Why? Because he manipulated what happened and he made it look like I didn’t care, which made me go to him and hoovered me back in. But if I knew legally I couldn’t go there and if I did then there would be consequences, then I would’ve been out of there and his ongoing harassment also would’ve stopped. Keep in mind as I write this, 2/3 of women served with an AVO in New South Wales are known to be the target of ongoing domestic violence according to New South Wales Woman’s Legal. And I look outwardly to other women, the women who are slain or where separation abuse does escalate … and I’m talking about situations like yours, Kate Malonyay’s and more recently Leila Alavi.

What I’m trying to say is if there was an AVO that literally cut through the abuse cycle: if the accused was to be punished, with harsher penalties for breaking it (because let’s face it – psychopaths aren’t deterred by two years in prison and a $1,500 fine … at least not in New South Wales) and the target was to be at risk of the current penalty – then perhaps that would be enough. And once that order is in place, there’s no relinquishing it.

Talk to the police – listen to their frustration as they chase their tails seeing the same cases over and over again. Why does this happen? And how is it that when I went to get help I was told “It’s just a piece of paper, it’s not going to do anything … if he wants to kill you, he will”. How terrifying are those words to someone in a domestic violence situation? How is it that our police are so desensitised to the fact that AVOs don’t work that they actually drive people way from getting the protection they need?

Ironically, the police were so sloppy with my case, I never would have trusted them to protect me. I guess that’s the issue … when you experience it and you know how bad it is: only you know, at the end of the day, what protection you need and how to go about getting that. And when I say that: let me make it clear I mean in escaping and vanishing from their radar, not in counter-attacking or anything like that. Just like most targets, I was just trying to get away…

Anyway, that’s my first suggestion.

“We don’t want to punish the target, they’ve been through enough” … one police person told me.

Bullshit! If this was in place, would your experience have happened to you? Would it have happened to Kate or Leila? Sometimes you need to put harsher terms in place in order to protect people. And if there’s a child involved, they should be protected by the same order as their primary carer. How is that not already the case?

“But my daughter loves her dad,” one of my friends told me who has been trapped by domestic violence and staying solely for this reason. Really? I loved my ex partner … I didn’t even know he was abusing me really, until I got out of there and clear from him, and does that mean he’s the best thing for me? Because I loved him?? One thing I think you know once you’ve suffered as bad as it could get, is if they can do it to you, they can do it to anyone and the defenseless are the ones who should come first. Ironically: they don’t!

I did what I had to do to get clear and safe of my situation and while my abuser intended me to feel shame for it – I don’t and I never will. For me, it’s not what he did to me, but it’s what I do what was done to me. I’ll never go back to seeing him for the man he wanted to be, but for the person he really was. And as heartbreaking as it was for me to accept, they were worlds and lifetimes apart from each other.

Second, there’s nothing mandatory with an AVO. Perhaps a target is “offered” counselling, but it should be a mandatory six week to six month program with specialist assistance, paid for by the government. How is it that we can afford Jury Duty but we can’t afford this kind of support? Why? Do people in domestic violence situations deserve to be there? Is that the overall belief?

And what about the alleged psychopath who is served with the Apprehended Domestic Violence Order? Why isn’t there follow up with a mandatory six week to six month anger management course? Because according to police there needs to be a threat to life before anyone will take action against anyone. How is it ok for these people to be on the street??

So what I’m proposing is the minute that court hearing concludes and an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order is put in place (let’s hope the magistrate puts the correct address on the order to begin with … and that’s not tongue-in-cheek!) then these people set up six weeks of appointments for their mandatory counselling to get rehabilitated.

Will this stop one person in Australia dying each week at the hands of Domestic Violence? I don’t know – but I do know it’s enough to break the abuse cycle. I’m confident of that. I’m confident that it stops the time-wasting bullshit associated with our current AVO and domestic violence system that has things going in circles, and if anything – ironically, it supports the abuse cycle in itself and worse: it ties these two people together.

One lawyer went as far as to tell me that an AVO is the “ultimate control” against someone. Want a bet? The ultimate control is what you have, Rosie: it’s not just stepping away and forgetting it to keep safe – it’s owning what happened and helping others with your knowledge.

Rosie, people listen to you: please help. Not for me, but for the sake of the lives of so many other people.

I hope our legal systems and police will continue to listen to you and support you in your quest.

Best wishes,

Sarah.

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