‘Carol’, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is a survivor of domestic violence. She says her former partner had been emotionally manipulative and abusive during their relationship.
‘He treated my dogs better than me,’ she told UniPollWatch.
Now, a number of years after she found the strength to leave him, he is using the justice system to maintain some control over Carol and their son.
‘I’m so re-traumatised, I am so re-triggered by this whole process,’ Carol said.
‘I’m scared, often in the court system these perpetrators seem to behave like sociopaths. They can actually really turn it on. They can turn on the tears, they can put on this whole performance that makes it look like I am in the wrong.’
One particular holiday is seared into Carol’s memory. ‘From a week before we left he was incognito,’ Carol told UniPollWatch. ‘Leading up to it he is still saying, “yes, we are going on this trip”, but in a very threatening angry tone. He wouldn’t answer any questions about what the plans were.’
Later, Carol found out she was pregnant. Her then partner began threatening her saying, ‘this better be a healthy child and it better be mine’. Although Carol had tried to leave many times, when she became pregnant, she still wanted the relationship to work out.
‘Throughout the pregnancy, the only messages I got from him were pretty much threats, you know, “you need to be put down like a sick animal”, this kind of stuff.’
After the child was born her then partner, once again wanted to be involved in Carol’s life. It was then Carol started to feel empowered to call law enforcement.
‘When he was just turning up whenever he wanted and threatening me in my home and telling me what to do, I called the police,’ Carol said.
The police response wasn’t consistent, according to Carol. At times, she felt like police weren’t taking her seriously.
‘I think immediately these police should have been saying to me, look you know, get some help, this guy is obviously abusing you. Nobody said that to me,’ Carol said.
Even now, years after they separated, Carol’s ex is still free to turn up at her house whenever he likes.
In the lead up to the Victorian election, Carol has a clear message for politicians. ‘You need to be taking women and children seriously. What happens in the home, if it was on the streets these men would be locked up.’
She’d like to see more powers given to police, and reforms to the family court to put women and children’s safety first.
In an interview with UniPollWatch, Labor Opposition Leader, Daniel Andrews said, tackling family violence is something he is ‘personally very passionate about’.
‘Too many families are torn apart by family violence. We need to recognise that this is a broken system.’
If Labor wins office, Mr Andrews has promised a royal commission into family violence, to be completed by the end of 2015.
‘More of the same policy will mean more of the same tragedy,’ Mr Andrews said. ‘That’s why we made the commitment to instigate that Royal Commission … [to] give us a way forward.’
Deputy Premier Peter Ryan has criticised Labor’s policy as an expensive delaying tactic, saying the Coalition ‘is getting on with the job’.
‘The Government is not willing to put more families at risk by procrastinating and delaying rather than implementing a real plan to make families safer.’
The Coalition has committed $150 million dollars towards a family violence ‘action package’, including a prevention campaign, trialling GPS monitoring for ‘high-risk’ perpetrators and additional support for victims.
It has also promised increased penalties for breaches of family violence orders.
For the Chief Executive Officer of Women’s Health in the South East, Susan Glasgow, it is good to see family violence on the election agenda.
Women’s health groups are calling for ‘investment and leadership in the primary prevention of violence against women’ as a top health priority.
While she has welcomed both parties’ commitments to family violence, she is particularly pleased about the Coalition’s $41 million pledge to invest in a prevention campaign.
‘Unless you start with primary prevention it is never going to be any different,’ Ms Glasgow told UniPollWatch.
‘The type of training and information we provide gives [women] options.’
Matilda Marozzi is a graduating journalism student from RMIT University