This week, a woman who is living in fear for her life wrote to me.
She had written a story that she hoped Mamamia would publish about how she feels when her husband comes home every night. She hears his key in the lock and his feet on the steps, and she wonders if this is going to be the night that he kills her.
Her. Or her children.
She wrote that she would have to immediately delete the email after she had sent it, and for me to be very careful with responses, because if he were to see what she had written… Well, she doesn’t know what he would do. But it wouldn’t be good.
She painted a picture of a life lived in such an escalated state of stress that she had almost willed herself and her small children into a state of non-existence, to silently tiptoe through the world for fear they would do anything that might displease him.
It’s not a life at all. But when you have children, and you are responsible for them, you keep moving. Anything to keep them from harm. Anything.
There were many tragedies within that email, but one of them is that Mamamia gets so many that are similar. Every day, our submissions inbox fills with a steady trickle of stories from women who live in fear. We publish many. But we couldn’t publish them all. They would be too devastating to read, day in, day out. And those of us who are not living our lives in fear have a limit to how often we can confront that brutal reality. Even now.
But yesterday, I thought of that woman, and of all the others, desperate to tell their stories.
I thought of how betrayed they were by what happened in a Queensland court.
— ABC News Brisbane (@ABCNewsBrisbane) December 9, 2015
Women who are fed a daily diet of ‘You Are Worthless’ and ‘You Are Disgusting’ and ‘Do You Think Anyone Would Care If You Died?’
Women whose default emotional setting is shame. Shame at “allowing” this to happen to them, shame for loving someone who cares for them so little, shame for not being able to protect themselves and their children.
Yesterday, a court sent those women a message: Your husband could kill you. He could strangle you, and drag your lifeless body to the side of a creek and hope you get washed away, eradicated from the face of the earth. He could lie about it, and cry crocodile tears, and tell everyone that he was the innocent one.
Baden-Clay’s conviction was overturned on Monday morning:
He could do all of that. And then he could still win.
You really don’t matter. You really are powerless.
Gerard Baden Clay has not yet walked free, although reports are circulating that his lawyers are pushing for exactly that, and soon. His reputation is in tatters, his family forever torn apart. If the verdict of manslaughter is not overturned, he will indeed accept that his lie has been exposed, that he did kill his wife, Alison, that he did take his daughters’ mother from them. That his actions brutally ended one life and devastated many, many more.
But he will still win. Even locked away in prison, he holds the power, along with a team of highly-skilled, expensive lawyers, he holds the power to change the narrative, to tell his side of the story, to convince the highest court in the land that he is just a man who made a fatal mistake in a misguided, unthinking moment.
Allison’s side of that story will never be heard.
And all of the women who are trying to be heard, who feel that they are shouting, nightmare-like, at the top of their lungs but no-one can hear them, are told yet again just how little they matter.
The power isn’t yours.
No-one cares what happens to you.
You are worthless.
These women are why, when you hear that the focus on family violence has been overblown this year, you hear wrong.
There are many, many Allison Baden-Clays in Australia. Too many. They are crowding Mamamia’s inbox daily. And they have no power in silence — someone needs to tell their stories.
Those women were betrayed in that courtroom yesterday, but they matter.
And their voices will be heard.
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