Imagine the joy of being newly married and expecting your first child. Leanne found herself in that euphoric place, but it was then that the violence first began. She was four months pregnant the first time her husband knocked her into the wall, repeatedly. And all the
hope for a joyful future was knocked out of her. Leanne’s name has been changed to protect her privacy, but this was her reality.
Right now, in Australia, there are hundreds of women in similar situations to Leanne’s. Did you know that on average, one woman per week is murdered by her current or former partner? Domestic and family violence plays a part in more than seventy per cent of cases involving the death of a child.
Centacare’s Domestic and Family Violence Services have been established to support women and children in situations like Leanne’s. Leanne and her children attend counselling at the Family and Relationship Services Centre on the Gold Coast every week. She recounts her marriage to one of our counsellors:
“When Jack and I first met he was incredibly kind. He told me he loved me on our second date! We shared our faith and had so much in common. Right from the start we were in a bit of an ‘us’ bubble. I was flattered and I felt a little overwhelmed. “The first seven months of marriage was just about perfect. We had the occasional fight – Jack was always jealous – but I was content. That’s why it came as such a shock that first time. I was four months pregnant and we were arguing. I started walking away and Jack grabbed the back of my head and bashed me into the wall. It must have been three or more times… everything just kind of froze. I was on the carpet sobbing. He was standing over me and I could see that he was scared too – and sad. Maybe that’s just what I wanted to see.”
This is not an unusual response in victims of domestic violence. Our human instinct is to look for hope, to rationalise unexpected behaviour. Many women struggle to come to terms with the fact that their life-partner is abusive.
For Leanne, these incidents took the form of broken fingers and bruised ribs. Threats to burn the house down while Leanne and the kids slept. In the end, it was an altercation between her children that pushed Leanne into action. Her 16-year-old son, David, came home angry from school and pushed his sister into a wall. “It instantly took me back to that first time Jack hurt me and it was like a lightning bolt that mobilised me.”
“My dad called the Centacare DV Service for me – they told him exactly what we need to do and then he came to take us away. I was at a safe-house when I got a text message from Jack. He said if I don’t come home he’d kill himself and it would be my fault.” Leanne was appointed a counsellor as soon as she arrived at the service. She shared the message with them they were able to tell her that this was just another control tactic. A way for Jack to manipulate and punish her. In the end she sent her father to their home.
Police officers at the house stopped Leanne’s father from entering the home – Jack had taken his own life. “I guess I’ll never know if I would have been able to stop him. If I had gone straight away, would he still be alive? Would I?”
Support and donations from our generous community mean Centacare can provide a space for David to speak safely about his feelings, his anger, and his fear. In addition to giving Leanne and her daughter the care and love they need to regain their dignity and trust in others, donations to Centacare helps young men like David understand why his dad acted the way he did, and that he has nothing to be ashamed of.
You can make a tax-deductible donation to support families like Leanne’s today.