During the summer break I had the opportunity to read ‘A Mother’s Story’ by Rosie Batty. I was well aware of Rosie’s story and the tragic circumstances surrounding the murder of her son Luke in 2014. Her son attended Flinders Christian College, a school that we know well and they lived in Tyabb, an area I also know very well. Rosie has since become the voice and the face of the campaign against domestic violence in Australia. For her courage and passion she was named Australian of the Year in 2015. I don’t think anyone will ever forget the manner in which Rosie faced the media the day after Luke’s death and spoke about the impact of domestic violence in our country and need for all of us to know more and do more to prevent these tragedies. Rosie has become the voice of the marginalised in our country and has used her infamy to influence our leaders in Canberra.
Last year, along with members of our School Board and senior male students, we took the pledge against domestic violence, in front of the audience on White Ribbon Day at the Wellington Entertainment Centre. I have heard many people speak on this topic and I considered myself quite informed, however, it was not until I read Rosie’s book, that I began to understand the depth of manipulation, fear and endless anxiety that is created when families are subjected to this form of abuse. Rosie and Luke’s story began the day that Rosie first met Luke’s father and continued through to 14 February 2014, when Luke was killed by his father. It was a daily sense of fear and uncertainty, as Luke’s father used every means possible to manipulate and threaten. It is very difficult to imagine what could lead a person to treat others in this way and to eventually take the life of their own son, yet this is a story that is played out every day in homes across Australia. It is not restricted to the poor or the addicted, it crosses all boundaries of ethnicity, affluence and profession and it always involves high levels of threatening and manipulative behaviour.
2015 Research from the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria shows that:
- Globally 1 in 3 women experience partner violence
- 1 woman is killed nearly every week in Australia due to family violence
- 7 in 10 women murdered in Australia are victims of family violence
- Children are present in 1 out of every 3 family violence cases reported to the police
Most of us will know of someone who is currently experiencing domestic violence, however, we will most probably not pick up the signs and if we did, we will not know what to do or where to get help. The victim will plead with us to say and do nothing. Rosie Batty was surrounded by people who knew of her abuse and she was entrenched in a system that was supposed to be supporting and protecting both Luke and herself, however, friends and the system failed in protecting Luke and saving his life.
As a society we must do everything possible to help those who are subjected to domestic violence on a daily basis. We must know and look for the signs and risk factors, we must act decisively and supportively and we must always seek to protect those who need help.
Support is available on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) for those experiencing the effects of domestic or family violence. The Men’s Referral Service (MRS) is contactable on 1300 766 491, offering counselling, information and referrals to help men stop using violent and controlling behaviour.