opinion

'To my beautiful friend Hannah Clarke: I’m sorry I couldn’t do more for you.'

If you or someone you know is impacted by domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732. In an emergency, call 000.

To the most courageous woman I know, Hannah, and her three beautiful children Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey.

I’m writing this letter because I feel strongly that your story needs to be told, even though your voice has been taken away.

 The decision made by Rowan to take your life and that of your three children is the result of a twisted belief system that you needed to be punished for leaving the relationship.

This was not an act caused by mental health issues or financial problems; this was a premeditated, deliberate decision to end your life and that of your beautiful babies.

Women and violence: the hidden numbers. Post continues below.

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We met each other at the start of September 2019. I joined your gym and took my three young children with me to the 9:30 am classes. Our children were the same ages and got along instantly. You made us feel welcome and part of your CrossFit family.

I remember one day, not long after meeting you, walking into the gym in tears. We had been struggling with my son’s sleep for months, and I was feeling very low. You hugged me tight whilst I cried, you gave me so much comfort as a mother of three who knew what it was like.

That’s who you were; warm, caring and someone that anyone would feel instantly comfortable showing their vulnerable side to.

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Hannah on the left in black, with her friend Manja on the right. Image: Facebook.
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Over the next few months, our girls became closer and asked for playdates.

We started to develop a friendship, and I felt a connection to you like my kids did to yours. (We never ended up having that playdate, and I feel robbed of the chance to build on those beautiful friendships, for myself and my children.)

Just before Christmas, there was an announcement made that the gym was closing down. I reached out to you, and you told me you left Rowan on December 5, 2019. You confided in me about the family violence you had experienced for the past 10 years.

We had previously spoken about my role as a worker for a domestic violence service and you told me, "I knew when I met you, I met you for a reason."

I am sorry that I couldn’t do more for you whilst you were going through this horrific ordeal, but I do believe we met for a reason: for me to be your voice when your voice has been taken away from you…

At first, you were confused and told me that you had never thought you were in an abusive relationship, as you explained: "he never hit me." We talked about the different types of violence including financial abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse. You had experienced all of them.

I asked you if he had ever threatened to kill you or the children, and you told me he had not. But there was one thing he had said, really matter of fact, when you first got together 10 years ago, and that was that “he had told his ex-partner with whom he had a child, that if she was to leave him he would take the child and end his own life and that of the child."

He never did, but you told me that this comment has always stuck in your mind.

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Aaliyah, Trey and Laianah. Image: Facebook.
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Just after Christmas, you had to take the necessary steps to keep your children safe.

On Boxing Day, you met their father at a park so he could spend time with them. You told me he picked Laianah up and started walking away. You asked him what he was doing and told him that your car was the other way, all whilst Aaliyah was distressed, crying for her father to put her sister down. Without any regard for the emotional damage to the children, he proceeded to take her. He said, "I told you, this is your fault."

This is the act of a man who believed he owned his children and his wife, that they were objects to be controlled. This is not love; this is coercive control (a pattern of threats, intimidation, assault and humiliation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten their victim).

He is NOT the victim.

But the nation is confused. I see questions circulating the internet with how could such a seemingly loving father do such a thing, "Was he really like this?" "His Facebook posts said he loved his children?"

And this is the thing: PERCEPTION IS POWER. The more he convinced the public of the love for his children and for you, the more he was able to exercise his coercive control by isolating you and manipulating others into perceiving him as a good partner.

But I Hannah, I SEE YOU. I see you for the courageous woman you are. I hope the rest of the world will too.

May you rest in love and peace with your beautiful babies. Shine bright, my beautiful friend.

1800 RESPECT: 1800 737 732

Relationships Australia: 1300 364 277

Lifeline: 13 11 14

If this post brings up 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. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

This post originally appeared on Manja Whaley's Facebook and has been republished here with full permission.

Feature image: Facebook/Manja Whaley.

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