Trigger Warning: This story contains accounts of violence that some readers may find distressing or trigger painful memories. Please know you are not alone, reach out to family or friends or contact a local counselling service. If you or someone you know, are experiencing Violence of any kind, please contact your local Police immediately.
ENOUGH IS WELL AND TRULY ENOUGH!
This is Teresa Bradford. She started this week a forty year old woman. Married, Mother, Murdered. Teresa lost her life earlier this week, when her estranged husband broke into her home and stabbed her to death, in front of their children, before then killing himself. He was out on bail, for previous Domestic Violence charges, after attacking Teresa in November last year.
Teresa is not the only story like this to come out of Australia in the last few years. A young woman lost her life, when her partner drove her off the road because she had gone to the police to seek help to get away from him.
Sadly, these instances are becoming more and more common. On average at least one woman is killed a week in Australia by a current or former partner, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology. We are doing better than at one point in 2015, it was two per week and every time I opened Facebook or watched the news there was a new story about yet another woman being killed.
Now this is not a one sided argument. Women are not the only ones to experience violence, in fact I have seen stats showing that one in four women in comparison to one in three men experience violence at the hands of their current or former partner and put quite simply, those numbers are frightening.
I will not hypothesise as to why those numbers are reported the way they are. I will not comment on gender stereotypes. I will not try to make excuses for those numbers. I will however, say this, STOP. Stop using your fists to resolve your problems. Seek help, walk away, but most of all KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF!
KEEP YOUR FUCKING HANDS TO YOUR FUCKING SELF.
It’s that simple.
There are so many things wrong with those statistics, and I don’t have the capacity to handle them all. I understand and have seen Domestic Violence against Men. I know it exists. It’s still wrong. We can enter a conversation about gender expectations and how systemic macho expectations of men are, but that is not the purpose of this particular conversation. Men, please know though, you have not been forgotten, your voices have not been silenced and you are not alone. Today however, I am focusing on women because that is the experience I can relate to.
I understand Domestic Violence against Women, because I am a survivor. Without going into intricate, painful detail, I was a victim of Domestic Violence at the hands of my then current partner.
In 2009, I was nothing more than a statistic and I can assure you I didn’t even feel worthy of that title. Between 2007 and 2009 my then partner had systematically stripped me of the confidence and cheekiness I had as a spritely 18-year-old ready to take on the world. I gained approximately 30 kgs because we ate nothing but crap, I stopped talking to my friends from high school, family was no longer important, and I did everything for him.
I left in September, after a spectacular fight, but I was still invested in the relationship, so I went back. That was the first big mistake I had really ever made in my life. Walking back into that house was the worst thing I could have done, the second I crossed that threshold, he knew he had the power. I was young and naïve and despite pleas from my mother, I stayed. In the October, I found out he was cheating on me and had been for the majority of our relationship and the only reason he wanted me back was “Well, it’s nice having a slave to do everything for me”. I wish that wasn’t in quotes, but that’s what he sent to her, his ex. I called him out on it, and that’s when my life really turned upside down. That night, I ended up in hospital. I broke through rock bottom with the force of a spaceship exiting the atmosphere. I will never forget the look on mums face as she walked into her home and saw me sitting on the floor, battered and bruised. It was her that took me to the hospital. I had already been to the police, while I was there he was sending me harassing and threatening text messages. They told me to come back the next day, or the day after to make a statement.
You’ll need a doctor’s report on your injuries and make sure they take photos
That’s what the police officer said to me. As I sat in their reception area, the bruises getting darker, shaking, crying, essentially having a panic attack because of the ordeal I had just been through and the male police office told me to come back later.
A seasoned police officer told a scared, battered, 20-year-old to come back later.
I wasn’t the first to be forgotten by the one organisation charged with protecting me and Teresa wasn’t the last. The difference between Teresa’s situation and mine, is he hadn’t previously assaulted me and been charged with it. He wasn’t out on bail despite police pleading with the magistrate to keep him locked away. He didn’t kill me.
This is what is systemically wrong with our legal system. We cannot cope with the sheer number of complaints, and yes I am aware there are some who are not genuine, but why are more and more women being assaulted? Are we becoming more violent or is it a case of as we grow we have changed our thinking and decided that no, this is not acceptable behaviour? Decades ago, these acts were well hidden and society never knew.
It was as I was falling apart, lying in a hospital bed waiting for the doctor to tell me how many ribs I had broken, that I realised I had to do something and I couldn’t live like that anymore. The problem with that was depression is a cruel beast and had different plans for me.
After weeks of enduring threats to my safety, the safety of my cat, and my other belongings, as well as threats of suicide if I didn’t return, I sadly returned to that house.
I like to tell myself I went back to save Mischief, but I know that’s not true, I went back because he had worn me down so far over the years, I thought he was what I deserved.
In December 2009, I left and this time it was with my cat, half my belongings and for good. He displayed the same behaviour as last time, but this time I had a witness and I was getting out before he went crazy again and I lost more than my confidence.
I made it out alive, but that wasn’t the end of the saga, he would have another attempt when I went to retrieve the rest of my belongings and this all formed part of the court case I brought against him in 2010.
In October 2010, almost a year to the day he put me in hospital, he was stalking me, and threatening my safety, all because I demanded he pay for the WII that he had, but was in my name. I showed the text message to my boss, who told me that if I didn’t complete the forms to open a civil Domestic Violence suit against him, she would. The perks of working for a female lawyer I suppose. She helped me complete the forms and it was then time to write down everything that happened in that two years. I took me over a week to complete my affidavit. I had to keep stopping and starting and try to remember events I had tried to block out.
I never heard from him again. Once I lodged that paperwork, he knew that if he contacted me, I would have no hesitation in contacting the police and he would be charged. Still to this day, six years later, I haven’t heard a peep from him.
Just because I didn’t hear from him, that didn’t mean he didn’t have his ways of finding out about me. It was during that four months between original application in October to finalisation of the case in February 2011 that I became familiar with social media privacy settings, and also learnt who were my real friends. I still have a super locked down Facebook profile, that is if you can find it in the first place, my Instagram is public, but I never share where I am whilst I am still there, I actively stay away from Twitter because its shit and I have this blog and my LinkedIn is locked down enough that you cannot see anything current about me. It’s all the last thing I did, whether it’s the last job or last educational pursuit I completed. I also do regular spot checks of my social media and believe it or not Google results for my name and variances. All because he circumvented the Facebook block I had in place, and used one of his friends who had actually helped me move out, to gain access to my page and try to use that against me in court.
The court case was just horrible, I represented myself, because I was the big bad paralegal and stubborn as I was, I wanted him to hear me and not through someone else. I found strength in answering his lawyer’s questions and recounting the entire experience without showing emotion, because in my mind it showed him that he didn’t affect me and that I wasn’t going to let him win. I guess you could call it my last act of defiance. I won that case, despite the obvious tactic by his defence to throw mud at me and see what stuck, I won. I was awarded a two-month Domestic Violence Order that expired 22 April 2011.
It may not seem like much, but to me it felt like the world. I wasn’t safe by any standard, a piece of paper is no defence against a knife, but I had wounded him mentally. He lost and I knew he would hate that.
I had won the battle, but I’m still fighting the war.
I will always have that relationship in the back of my head. It wasn’t my first relationship, but it certainly left more of a mark on my mental health than any other. So for the last seven years, I have been living with these flashbacks, memories, triggers and injuries. But at least I’m alive. Despite the setbacks and the hurdles, I had to jump through, not him, me. I am still alive.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 158 people were killed in 2015 in a Family or Domestic Violence environment. This is simply 158 people too many. Although, their data is experimental and doesn’t include Queensland or Victorian victims unless it included sexual assault. You can view their information here if you like.
The point here, and I’m aware it’s a very long winded point, is that you need to keep your hands to yourself.
Angry at someone? Talk to them about it. Too angry to talk? Walk away, calm down, come back and talk. Feel like raising a hand to them? Go and take a boxing class. Walk into any gym and take it out on a punching bag. Do not ever raise your hand, or any other weapon, to another human being. Its honestly that simple.
I have been in that position where I was so angry, I was about to use my fists instead of my words. I’ve still never hit anyone in a violent manner. I walk away. Really, I don’t get that angry that often, I usually get a bit yelly and then I move on and I have a conversation stopper right hook. I choose not to use it; I’ll reserve all of that energy for if my life is in danger. So for the record, I fully support self-defence.
Please, I beg of you do not raise your fists to hurt another. Raise them in protest over the lax laws and policing of these atrocious crimes.
If you’re in Australia, please see below helplines:
National domestic violence helpline: 1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT.
In an emergency call triple-zero.
Readers seeking support about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467.
MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78.