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"I got goosebumps when Luke Batty died. Because I could see the same thing happening to my girls."

domestic violence system failures
“I could just see exactly the same thing happening to my girls.”

Trigger warning: This post deals with domestic violence and may be triggering for some readers.

When Rosie Batty lost her 11-year-old son Luke at the hands of the boy’s mentally unstable father in February, Trisha* felt the hair on her arms stand on end.

“I got goosebumps. Goosebumps. Because I could just see exactly the same thing happening to my girls,” she says.

The 35-year-old mother of two tells Mamamia she has been pleading with authorities for almost a year to prevent her abusive and mentally ill father from having regular contact with their two young daughters.

But she’s felt dismissed by authorities at every turn and now, she’s scared her children are at risk of suffering Luke’s tragic fate.

“Every step of the way I’ve been failed. Every step of the way. The police have failed, the Magistrates’ Court has been failed, the Family Court has failed,” Trisha says.

“I think the entire system has become so jaded against this sort of thing that they just don’t care any more. So when they get a genuine case… they can’t see it.”

“He looked at me and said, ‘you’re gone’.”

Trisha, who works as an executive assistant in Perth, says her ex-husband Shane’s* abusive outbursts started when she was six months pregnant with their first daughter.
domestic violence system failures
Rosie Batty attending her son Luke’s funeral in February. (Photo: FIONA MCCOY/AFP/Getty Images)
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“He had diagnosed ADHD so he could always blame his temper snaps on that. I believed that and for the longest time I would try and help with the ADHD and try to control his mood swings… but it deteriorated,” she says.

“We got married after two years when I was six months pregnant with our first daughter, and that’s the first major incident I can recall,” she says. “I was in tears and just hysterical because he was kicking the doors.”

When their second daughter was three months old,  in December 2013, the abuse escalated.

“He was hungover he’d had a bender the night before,” Trisha says. “He started throwing things at me.”

Trisha gathered her two baby daughters, left to live with family, and ended the relationship. Initially, she tried to facilitate a relationship between her baby girls and their father – but a month and a half into that arrangement, Shane made his first death threat.

“I wouldn’t let him back in the house, and it wasn’t going the way he wanted,” Trisha says.

“He dropped our daughter off one day; he’d driven away with her in the car and was doing burnouts,” she says. “I grabbed her and put him behind me. He looked at me and said, ‘you’re gone’ — and made that neck slashing motion across his neck.”

“Tell Trisha that you’d be swinging from the rafters.”

Since then, Shane’s behaviour has become increasingly frightening — and it’s not only directed towards Trisha.

“He’s threatened to take justice into his own hands with regard to the children. He’s made threats saying, ‘one woman dies a week at the hands of her own partner because he’s denied access to his kids’,” Trisha says.

domestic violence system failures
“He threatened to kill me. He’s threatened to take justice into his own hands with regard to the children,” Trisha says.
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“The witnesses that I had for my VRO [violence restraining order] final hearing, he threatened their families. He’s called them on the phone and said, ‘Just think about your families’ – and nobody does anything about it.”

Trisha says she voiced her concerns to police three times in the weeks in the lead-up to the hearing – but claims police said they wouldn’t be able to charge him.

“I have all the emails, all the text messages, all the records of phone calls, but no one wants to see them,” Trisha says.

“The police can only issue ‘warnings’ as (Shane) skates cleverly around the edges of the VRO.”

On one particularly distressing occasion, Shane allegedly sent Trisha’s best friend a text message saying: “Tell Trisha that you’ll be swinging from the rafters”.

Trisha claims the police responded by suggesting that somebody had stolen Shane’s mobile phone.

“They didn’t want to pursue that line of enquiry,” she says.  “We’ve both got infant children, and they’re just saying ‘Sorry; well if something does happen, give us a call’.

“So we’re thinking, okay, so once he’s broken into his house and is attacking us, then we’ll give them a call.”

“Rosie Batty’s experience is mirroring exactly what’s happening to me.”

Last month, Rosie Batty announced that she wants the inquest into her son Luke’s murder to address the “systemic” failures in Victoria’s child protection system, and Trisha tells Mamamia she would wholeheartedly welcome a similar move in her home state of Western Australia.

domestic violence system failures
“He is using our children as weapons of vengeance to further punish me for leaving, and the courts are letting him.”
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“Unfortunately, her experience is mirroring exactly what’s happening to me at the moment,” Trisha says.

“Shane is mentally unwell and the children are being exposed to it,” she says. “As Rosie’s been saying, if someone had looked at the whole overarching system instead of just limited segments of it, they might have had a clearer picture.”

The result of these “systemic failures,” Trisha says, is that Shane is still allowed supervised visits with the children – despite his chilling and repeated threats.

Trisha claims the Family Court brushed aside her concerns, insisting on only taking into account Shane’s behaviour during his two-hour supervised weekly visits with the children, despite the fact that “for the rest of the week, he’s acting crazy”.

“Without Shane’s abuse towards us being legally recognised or convicted… the rights of him as a parent are being placed over the rights of my children to live in an emotionally and physically safe environment.”

“The children’s lawyer (also) said to me, ‘Can’t you guys just mediate this out?’,” she says. “They were about the sixth person who’s said that to me within the Family Court system.”

He greatest fear is that although Shane “might love the kids, and they might love him too,” his rage towards her might drive him to perpetrate his abuse on their tiny, defenceless bodies.

“It’s not about the kids,” Trisha says. “He wants to win; it’s all about winning… He is using our children as weapons of vengeance to further punish me for leaving, and the courts are letting him.”

“Luckily since they are so young, my girls know nothing of the storm raging around them. They are both happy and healthy,” she says.

“But the system that’s supposed to be supporting the kids has been failing them. And you just can’t bring enough light to it.”

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* Names have been changed.

You may also be interested in reading:

The following women and children were some of the victims, or alleged victims, of domestic violence in Australia over the past two years. Mamamia will continue to update and publish this gallery each time the epidemic claims another life.

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Today is White Ribbon Day. You can support White Ribbon Australia’s social media campaign here.

If you believe you may be an abusive partner, you can receive help via Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277. If you have experienced, or are at risk of domestic violence or sexual assault, you can receive help by calling 1800 RESPECT – 1800 737 732. If you are in immediate danger please call the police on 000.

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