THOUSANDS of people will take part in White Ribbon Day marches on Wednesday, November 25 in a move to help stop violence against women. Don’t ask her why she stays – ask him why he does it? is the message of this year’s campaign. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the issue must be elevated “to our national conscience” in September when he announced a $100 million support package for women and children at risk. In this exclusive interview, LYNN GRIERSON talks to victims of domestic violence who say change can’t come quickly enough.
FROM the victim’s perspective, a person who asks why anyone would stay in a relationship that could result in death seems naive.
For their reality is one of entrapment; of a life lived in fear for loved ones and a legal system that fails to protect them.
“If it were easy to leave, we wouldn’t be here.”
When does good love turn bad and what are the warning signs?
A group of four women try to explain how mental and physical abuse is normalised over time and escape is not a safe option.
Fear was far from their thoughts in the early days of romance and seduction.
They say the controlling behaviours were subtle and barely noticeable at first.
It was easy to ignore the niggling voice inside because “everything was generally okay” and self-doubt took hold.
“Maybe I could be more caring, more loving, he says he needs me and only I understand him,” are typical thoughts that recur.
Dominant behaviour is often an early sign of something more sinister.
They say their partners were charmers “on the outside”, especially in front of friends and family.
Behind closed doors, it was a different story.
Many of the men exerted power through underlying psychological manipulation.
“We dated in high school and the first few years I just put it down to us being stupid teenagers, then our relationship became serious in our 20s,” said one victim.
“He knew how to play the perfect gentleman” slowly he began to remove me from my family and social groups, isolating me from support and influence.
“It started with him wanting me to become involved with his family, spend more time at his home,” she said.
Another victim said her partner frequently told her “this is where you should want to be” and it was her duty to support him.
“I played the part; he had a strong sympathy card because he had some issues and I was deeply in love with him,” she said.
A third victim said looking back, there was always doubt she chose to ignore.
“There’s a point when you don’t trust yourself to be right and you justify staying by telling yourself we’re okay, I’ve known him a long time. I hung on to that,” she said.
“A lot of things are put into a box and life goes on.
“I hung on to him as someone else, and he grew into the person he didn’t want to be. He said “I will never be my father”.
A fourth said her mother saved her.
“I completely broke down in tears and told my mother “I don’t want to be his mother”.
“My mother said “this is beyond our expertise, we must get help”.
“Mum recognised the need for an unbiased view. This relationship has impacted hugely on my entire family out of concern for me and I have lived in fear for their safety.”
Several of the women said violence restraining orders (VROs) helped stop them falling back into “bad love”.
“I used the VRO as strength; each VRO lasts two years; you’d think that would be long enough, wouldn’t you?
“But several VROs later he continued to stalk me.”
Perpetrators of domestic violence often drink excessive amounts of alcohol and may take drugs like methamphetamine (ice).
“My partner’s controlling behaviour was compounded by the drink, and the drugs that came later.
“He has serious mental health issues and I realise I can’t fix him.
“No one wants to be seen as a victim and when I finally got help, I learnt I had experienced traumatic bonding syndrome.
“Gaining that knowledge was like finding the final piece in the jigsaw puzzle, knowing there was a science behind it.”
Traumatic bonding is a strong emotional attachment between an abused person and his or her abuser.
Domestic violence crosses all socio-demographic groups and cultures.
Next week, the Gazette talks to one of the many local service providers that offer support and advice.
Women’s domestic violence – 1800 007 339
Men’s domestic violence – 1800 000 599
Parenting line – 1800 654 432
Family support – 1800 643 000
Join the Midland March That Matters for White Ribbon Day at 11am to 1pm on Wednesday, November 25. Meet in Juniper Gardens (behind Midland Dome). Enter from The Crescent or Cale Street. March starts at 11am following by speakers, free sausage sizzle and information stalls.