How my daughter’s abusive relationship changed the course of my life

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Video above: Parents of murdered woman Hannah Clarke, who was killed along with her three children by her ex-husband, told Insight about their plan to support other at-risk women and children. Watch the episode of Insight. on coercive control here.

Disclaimer: Some readers may find this content distressing.

It was 5:00 a.m. on May 1, 2017 – a phone call changed our lives.

He was a cop from Morningside Police Station – they had our daughter with them, she had been physically assaulted by her then partner. Words that no parent ever wants to hear.

My daughter had found herself in an increasingly violent relationship with an older man, to whom she had been introduced by her first boss, after graduating from college. He was well known in the community for his work with vulnerable children. When she met him, she felt reassured, given his reputation, that he would be an honest man. To her credit, after leaving another long-term abusive relationship a few months earlier (a relationship that had been defined by very strong elements of coercive control), she began to recognize all too familiar red flags. After three months, she broke the relationship. We know, however, that the most dangerous time for a woman in an abusive relationship is when she decides to leave – my daughter was no exception. The following weekend, her attacker convinced her to meet him one last time, resulting in injuries to her in various places on her body.

We went to court with her several times over a six-month period. Initially for a Domestic Violence Order (DVO), then to have another condition added. I was overwhelmed by what I saw. So many women of all ages, from all walks of life and from many cultural groups were waiting to appear before the magistrate. Believe me when I say, domestic violence has no stereotype.

I was so impressed to see workers from various domestic violence services supporting all of these women – most of them who were alone there. It was this experience that prompted me to explore ways to use my expertise to support these women as well.

Carolyn pictured with her daughter.

Provided

In 2018, I founded Beyond DV, a Brisbane-based charity that focuses on supporting women and children as they rebuild their lives after domestic and family violence.

We offer a wide range of innovative recovery programs, as well as other practical aids, from our center in South Brisbane. If the needs of our families cannot be met through existing programs, we are very proud to create our own. We do not receive any recurring government funding and rely on the generous support of the community.

As an organization, we want our women and youth to once again believe in themselves and believe that there is real hope for a future free of violence and full of opportunity.

This year, a new goal has also emerged for us – educating young women and men about healthy relationships and the signs of an unhealthy relationship – with a focus on coercive control.

In partnership with Sue and Lloyd Clarke of Small Steps 4 Hannah, as well as young VD survivors and representatives from other VI organizations, our intention is to organize a number of mother and daughter VD awareness sessions. and father / mother and son across Brisbane.

Hannah clarke

Hannah Clarke with her children Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey on the first day of school 2020.

Provided by Sue and Lloyd Clarke

After successfully conducting a pilot program in November 2020, several mothers reported after the event that their daughters had recognized signs of control in their own relationships and had chosen to leave. Other moms said they did not realize themselves that some of the behaviors discussed during the session were abusive. Knowledge is power.

The charity also gave us a platform to advocate for change, including identifying repeat DV offenders, considering previous DVOs when sentencing offenders, and introducing laws. of coercive control.

For nearly four years, we had been gagged for publicly identifying our daughter’s abuser, as he continued to nurture new relationships with other kind and compassionate young women, who believed in the personality he was showing. in the world. We felt helpless, knowing they were in danger but unable to warn them.

Towards the end of 2020 we were finally shut down, when our daughter’s abuser was convicted of domestic violence offenses against another woman and was sentenced to jail in the community. Due to his public profile, he was exposed through the media and the mask was eventually removed, to reveal the true identity of the person who had traumatized several women for so many years.

My husband and I sat in silence in the courtroom to contemplate our journey – that night I finally slept peacefully.

My daughter, who is now married to a newborn son, told me on Mother’s Day last year, “I wouldn’t wish anyone what I’ve been through, but God never gives you anything. you can’t manage and watch. what we were able to create ”.

We never asked for this to happen to our daughter or our family, but life has a very strange way of putting you exactly where you are meant to be, doing exactly what you are meant to do. When it comes to the issue of domestic violence, we all have a role to play.

If you or someone you know is affected by sexual assault, family violence, or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT at 1800737732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In case of emergency, call 000.

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