real life

'I was thrown in a jail cell for throwing a sock at my abusive ex.'

This story mentions domestic violence and sexual assault.

When Jacinta* told her abusive husband she was leaving him, she thought her life would finally start to turn around. 

Although he took it badly, he did seem to accept it, so Jacinta moved into a separate part of the house. They figured it would be easier financially until they could work things out properly. 

But Jacinta’s husband found a new way to exert control over her.

Watch: Can You Spot The Red Flags Of Domestic Violence? Post continues after the video. 

"Intimacy was no longer a part of our relationship, but he clearly thought it was okay to act on his desires," shares Jacinta. 

In the middle of the night, she would hear him slowly walking upstairs and creep into her bedroom, where she lay wide awake, but pretending to sleep.

"He would lift the blankets and begin to touch me. I would roll over onto my stomach but that wouldn’t deter him."

He blamed his behaviour on her. After all, she was lying 'half-naked in bed', he told her. "What am I supposed to do?"


Then things got worse. Jacinta’s former husband took their young son away, blocking her number, leaving her with no idea where they were, or when they were coming back.

Jacinta reported the kidnapping to the police. The detective, she says, was "kind, compassionate, and respectful". He asked her if there were any other behaviours to report, so she told him about the ongoing sexual assaults

"He told me that what I had reported was a crime and that he didn’t need my permission to proceed with investigating," says Jacinta.

"The detective was so understanding of the nuanced nature of DV. I was certain that my ex-husband would move out, and that I didn’t want to press charges—I believed it would make our divorce more complicated."

But things became more complicated anyway. Out of the blue, Jacinta’s ex announced he’d be withdrawing all financial contributions to the household and their child - while also refusing to leave. She was terrified. Angry. 

He taunted her, telling her it was "her turn now", referring to her time out of the workforce to take care of their child. 

They argued, emotions running high. Jacinta flicked a school permission note towards her ex, hoping he’d find it in his heart to help support his son. 

"It amounted to $10.20."

He didn’t waver in his stance though, leaving Jacinta despairing for her future. For her son’s future. She picked up a sock and threw it towards the doorway. The sock hit her ex-husband.


The accusation. 

Jacinta was at work when the police called. 

"They would send a car for me, they said. To my place of work."

Her ex-husband told police Jacinta had thrown a ‘stack of papers in his face’, hitting the left-hand side, and leaving a mark on his cheek. "The paper didn’t touch him," she says. She was also accused of 'assault with a piece of clothing'. That was the sock. 

"It was the worst experience of my life. Humiliating and degrading. I continually asked to speak to the detective that I had reported the sexual assault to, only to be told that 'he was busy'. 

Jacinta spent the next seven hours locked in a cell, next to a convicted sex offender, occasionally checked on by "misogynistic and aggressive" police officers, who told her what to say and how to act. She recognised the sex offender as a prominent member of her community and became scared of being recognised herself. 

"I was given one cup of tea through the whole nine hours I was there. It was a grim place. I had my jewellery taken off me. I was fingerprinted. I was considered a perpetrator of DV."

At one point, Jacinta was left in a tiny glass holding cell, just wide enough for her to squat down in, and long enough to stretch her legs out. 

"I have permanent injuries from a significant accident in my 20s. The confinement was excruciating."

She was afforded some kindness though; a glimmer of hope. 

"When I left, the acting senior sergeant walked me out of the station and said that I should tell my lawyer everything that I had told him about my situation. When I started crying, he said his job was to help 'good people like you'. He understood what was happening, but it was too late. The junior constables had already made their decisions."


A legal nightmare. 

Jacinta has spent the last almost 12 months trying to navigate a complicated legal system, describing the experience as "trauma in the truest sense". 

"I often reflect upon my situation. I have two university degrees, I am educated. I think about the women who have not had the opportunities that I have had to gain proper legal representation. People who cannot navigate the system due to circumstantial barriers."

Eventually, the time came for Jacinta to appear in court. After years of domestic abuse, she would be attending the court as a domestic violence perpetrator

"My barrister spent about half an hour negotiating with the police prosecutor redacting information that was not relevant," says Jacinta. “About 80 per cent of my ex-husband’s statement was blacked out. Only 20 per cent was relevant. 

"Yes, I was angry that he wasn’t spending time with our child. Yes, I was crying and asking for him to financially contribute to our home. But should it amount to this? I had the support of the most incredible lawyer and barrister, I felt reassured in their presence."

In the end, Jacinta was in the courtroom for just 10 minutes. 

"The magistrate dismissed the case with no charges. It was a waste of time and valuable resources. I had to see my ex-husband there. Although I was deemed the perpetrator, I sat there knowing the reality. 


"This was a great mis-justice. A sex offender gets the opportunity to take his ex-wife to court because she ended a marriage."

Despite lingering trauma, Jacinta describes her relief at the outcome as profound. 

"I had been in a state of crisis for 12 months. It impacted my work, my friendships, my self-confidence. It is through this that I realise that I made the right choice by leaving my husband."

What needs to change?

"When I was being fingerprinted, I was told that I was this constable’s first arrest. When a charge that doesn’t reach the threshold of DV is reported, it shouldn’t be up to children to make that call. They should have a system in place that looks at prior reporting."

Jacinta believes an experienced domestic violence advocate should be available for consultation. 

"My ex-husband would always say 'I’m calm. You’re crazy.' Police officers should be trained in recognising DARVO responses in men. When he turned up at the police station, he was holding a take-away coffee. This was calculated."

Calculated, and also extremely common. 

DARVO stands for deny, attack, reverse victim and offender, and is a tactic used by perpetrators against victims to humiliate, undermine and control their victim. By presenting the victim as the perpetrator, they are further silenced, due to fear, shame and guilt. When police arrive, the victim’s response becomes the focus, rather than the perpetrator. 


What to do if you’re misidentified as a perpetrator. 

If you find yourself on the receiving end of a false accusation by a perpetrator, contact a specialist domestic violence consultant immediately to make connections with the appropriate legal representation, suggests Jacinta. 

"For me, without Brigid Justice, I know I wouldn’t have had the right care and expertise. Men like this are not creative, they have the same modus operandi.”

Most importantly, tell someone. 

"Speak to your friends, they can see the bigger picture before you can. There is no shame in this situation," she says. 

"I know now that I am a powerful woman with a voice. If this can happen to me, this can happen to anyone. We are not alone in being preyed on by controlling men. Recognise their red flags. Call them on it."

*Name has been changed due to privacy.

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. 

Mamamia is a charity partner of RizeUp Australia, a Queensland-based organisation that helps women and families move on after the devastation of domestic violence. If you would like to support their mission to deliver life-changing and practical support to these families when they need it most, you can donate here.

Feature image: Getty.