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"If we took violence against women seriously, the Bourke Street victims would still be alive."

Warning: This article deals with domestic violence and terrorism and may be distressing for some readers. 

Three months before James Gargasoulas would kill six people in Melbourne’s Bourke Street mall, he punched his girlfriend, who was 19 weeks pregnant, repeatedly in the face.

It was October 2016, and the 26-year-old was convinced his partner was cheating on him.

“He punched me with his clenched right… fist in my left eye. It felt like he then tried to eye gouge me,” she told police at the time.

“I don’t know how many times he punched me in the face… I was so scared.”

Nine months before that attack, Gargasoulas had intentionally t-boned her car because of his paranoia about her cheating. She was left with spinal injuries, and spent more than three weeks in hospital.

Speaking to ABC’s Four Corners on Monday night, Gargasoulas’ brother Angelo said this violence wasn’t an anomaly. He’d seen it many times before.

Watch a snippet of the Four Corners investigation here. Post continues after video.

Video via ABC

“I’ve seen him drop a woman onto the floor, drag her by the hair, knock a woman unconscious, completely,” Angelo told the program.

So why, then, was the Coober Pedy-born man in a maroon sedan able to commit one of the most deadly mass murders in Australia’s recent memory?

Why was the repeated physical assault of his girlfriend – not to mention a criminal record that was 20 pages long – not enough to keep James Gargasoulas off the streets of Melbourne?

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Just over two years before the Bourke Street mall terror attack, a man walked into a cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place.

It was just before 10am on a Monday morning when Man Monis asked to see the manager, Tori Johnson.

But Monis wasn’t just any potential customer, walking in off the street. He had been charged with 43 counts of sexual assault. He had a history of domestic violence. He was accused of conspiring to murder his own wife.

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Still, the 53-year-old was able to hold 18 people hostage, in a siege that cost two innocent people their lives.

sydney siege
Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson both lost their lives in the Lindt cafe. Image supplied.

Over a decade before Monis approached the Lindt cafe, seven women accused him of sexually assaulting them at a 'Spiritual Healing Practice' in western Sydney.

Then, the year before the terror attack, his ex-wife - a 30-year-old woman and the mother of his three children - was stabbed 18 times, doused with petrol and set alight. Monis had been at the park with his children when it happened, but the woman responsible was Amirah Droudis, his new partner. He was charged with orchestrating the attack.

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But it's not only the Bourke Street rampage and the Lindt cafe siege that point to a disturbing link between domestic violence and terrorism.

There's the London Bridge attacks.

The attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices.

The Manchester bombing.

The Pulse nightclub shooting.

The Parkland massacre.

The Sandy Hook shooting.

All instances where the perpetrator had a history (or alleged history) of violence against women. All instances where these men were nonetheless free to walk into schools, nightclubs, concerts and other public spaces, and commit acts of unimaginable evil.

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Joan Smith, author of Home Grown: How Domestic Violence Turns Men Into Terrorists, has perhaps published the most thorough exploration of the link between violence against women and terrorism.

Using multiple case studies, including some of those listed above, Smith shows that in the case of many recent attacks, "the perpetrators have practised in private before their public outbursts".

"Men who are used to beating, choking and stabbing women at home are considerably further along the road towards committing public acts of violence," she argues.

Smith, who is a journalist and human rights activist, ultimately says that "If we want to stop terrorist attacks and mass murder, we have to get much more serious about recognising the profoundly misogynistic violence that's going on behind closed doors".

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The youngest victim of the Bourke Street terror attack was three months old. His name was Zachary Bryant.

Zachary Bryant. Image supplied.

He was in his pram when he was hit by the maroon sedan driven by James Gargasoulas.

He, and countless others, might still be alive if Australia had taken domestic violence seriously.

Many victims have gotten fed up waiting for decision makers to act and have started campaigning for themselves.

Take It Seriously is one campaign made up of survivors urgently calling for better laws to protect women from violence.

Their spokesperson explains that “stopping family violence starts with taking it seriously enough to outlaw in all its forms.”

“Right now only physical and sexual violence is a punishable offence, any other abuse victims go through is ignored,” says Jess Nitschke.

You can find out more about Take It Seriously on their website or on Instagram.

If you or your loved ones are affected by Domestic violence, please contact 1800-RESPECT or visit the National Sexual Assault and Domestic Family Violence website here.

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