Women write about the fury and fear of domestic violence

VIOLENCE in relationships is a fact of life for one in three Australian women.

Some will die. Most will have their lives torn asunder. 

Sherele Moody turns the pages on a new book that's shining a light on domestic terrorism.

"The last couple of years have seen violence against women batter its way onto every front page in Australia and much of the world. Lisa Harnum, Reeva Steenkamp, Fiona Warzywoda, Jill Meagher, Kelly Thompson, Kim Hunt, Mayan Prasetyo - all women whose names we came to know after their deaths - while one Australian woman whose name we'll never know was killed by her partner each week."

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She said:
She said: "One day she phoned me and said, 'Mummy, Oscar's driving like a lunatic.' And I said, 'Well, you just put him on the phone.' INM

SAMANTHA Trenoweth is one of the lucky ones.

She is among the few Australians who have not experienced domestic violence first hand.

But, like most of us, she has been touched by the toll.

Last year across the nation, 50 women were killed by men who professed to love them.

Since the start of this year, the names of 17 women have been added to the roll call of deaths.It's a shocking and - ultimately preventable - set of statistics that has the Sydney journalist and author fearing for the next generation.

Her book Fury: Women Write About Sex, Power and Violence considers the often-dangerous power dynamics between the genders and how we can tackle inequality to make the world safer for the next generation.

Fury: Women Write About Sex, Power and Violence, by Samantha Trenoweth.
Fury: Women Write About Sex, Power and Violence, by Samantha Trenoweth. Photos Contributed

Fury features essays by writers and commentators including Mandy Sayer, Anne Summers, Van Badham, Susan Chenery, Meena Kandasamy, Fahma Mohamed, Helen Razer, Clem Bastow, Max Sharam and Natasha Stott Despoja.

"The book came about because I was noticing so many headlines in the newspapers at the time - there just seemed to be one headline after another - particularly about family violence, but also all kinds of other violence against women as well," said Trenoweth, the 53-year-old editor of Bewitched and Bedevilled: Women Write the Gillard Years.

"I thought, 'it's 40 years after second-wave feminism so how is it that we're having this epidemic of violence against women?'.

"I guess like so many people I thought that surely feminism had solved all these problems."

 

"She knew he always carried a knife in his pocket - it was easier to give in."

 

AT 52, Mandy Sayer is one of Australia's ground-breaking female writers.The author of the multiple award-winning Dreamtime Alice recalls the three years of her childhood that she spent bouncing between relatives' places, refuges and hotels as her mother tried to escape her violent stepfather.

"We first fled to the safety of a relative," she writes in Fury.

"In this case my mother's sister, a single mother raising four kids on a housing commission estate in Sydney's south-west."It took only two days for my stepfather to track my mother and me down, threatening to kill us if we didn't return."

Sayer says back then domestic disputes were of little interest to police: "They told us, repeatedly, that they were unable to arrest a man for merely threatening murder."

Sayer and her mother tried to leave Hakkim behind five times, but he always found them and dragged them home.

"He had beaten my mother badly the night before and not even a thick layer of make-up could hide the bruises ringing her eyes," Sayer writes of their second escape.

"While on one hand I was relieved to have escaped Hakkim and his violent rages, on the other I was terrified of what would happen if he found us again - or even if he didn't."

Eventually Sayer's mother was able to get a "life-long" apprehended violence order against Hakkim.Sayer says it was only possible because of a feminist-run women's refuge system that organised free legal support, housing and protection."I've learned one eternal verity: the most dangerous time is not when a woman and her kids are living with an abusive partner; the most dangerous time is when they attempt to leave," Sayer writes.

Mike Knott

 

"Violence against women is the tip of the iceberg. It is the most horrific and shocking symptom of an all-pervasive disease."

TRENOWETH'S Fury looks at the total disregard some men have for women, using smart and passionate narratives to reveal the problem crosses every social divide.

But most importantly it tells the stories of women who have clawed their way back from the pit of despair despite the dangers confronting them.

Trenoweth said she was shocked when many of the writers she approached revealed they were victims themselves.

"I was really surprised because most of the women in the book I'd approached, I didn't know they had had a close encounter with violence," she said

."It just gives an indication, I guess, of how many women in our community are affected by violence. "Even if it's not them personally, it echoes from generations back."

 

"Everything we did together as a family, from church on Sundays to the evening meal, was executed with all the joy of a bomb disposal squad in an underground bunker. Dad was the bomb. We never knew when he would explode."

DOCUMENTARY maker Ruth Hessey's father brought his battles in Vietnam home to Queensland in the 1970s.

The former Anglican chaplain found his sense of purpose among the "young, frightened men he'd comforted and counselled" during 12 months in the steamy hell of another country's war.

"God was needed out there and Dad was too," Hessey writes.

But once he left, that sense of purpose evaporated, leaving him a shell of the bloke he was before he left.Like many Vietnam veterans, he brought home an injury no one could see - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

PTSD destroyed his soul and ruined the lives of his wife, daughter and son for years to come."My father's war continued long after he was air-lifted out of Saigon," Hessey writes.

Hessey recalls her own "Apocalypse Now".

"My Vietnam War started every morning before school," she remembers.

"It was napalm for breakfast, followed by minor explosions throughout the day."She says the blasts were unexpected and inevitable.

"He punched walls, kicked doors, pounded tables and drove like a maniac," she writes.

"Our daddy had been replaced by a terrifying person whose temper snapped without provocation, lifted the roof and shook our flimsy house."

Like many victims of domestic violence, it took years for Hessey to gain control of her life.

She struggled with an eating disorder for almost three decades, she lost contact with her brother, she was gripped by panic attacks and insomnia wracked her body most nights.

"My fighting sprit saved me as a teenager," she writes.

"But it took me the next 30 years ... to disarm myself."It's only in the last few months that I've finally been able to adopt an attitude of non-violence towards myself."

- APN NEWSDESK



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