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"We'd never heard of coercive control." A letter from Sue Clarke, to her daughter Hannah Clarke.

May is Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month and, at Mamamia, we're sharing women's stories of bravery and courage. If you have the means, please donate to RizeUp to help women and families move on after the devastation of domestic violence.

This post deals with domestic violence and could be triggering to some readers.

Dear Han,

Remember when Dad and I did that media conference six months after you left us, and it just rained all day? It was at the park near home – the one the Brisbane City Council now calls Hannah’s Place.

We know how much you hate fuss and attention, so we joked it was probably you up in heaven arranging for it to rain so everyone would just go home.

But they didn’t go home. Dad and I stood up in front of the cameras, in the pouring rain, and Dad sent a message loud and clear to the politicians.

He told them that we had heard enough talking and enough promises, and it was time to make coercive control a criminal offence.

Watch: Coercive control is a deliberate pattern of abuse. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

Of course, six months before that, when you and the kids were taken, we’d never even heard of “coercive control”. We had seen it firsthand, but we never knew it had a name.

And we certainly never knew that those patterns of suspicious, manipulative behaviour can so often spiral into physical violence and even murder. We know that now, and that’s why we were standing there in the rain that day, trying so hard to stop it happening to anyone else.

And this week, nearly two years later, we’ve finally had a win. This week, in the Queensland Parliament, the Premier said she was joining the fight to H.A.L.T. domestic violence and coercive control.  

That’s our catch phrase for the Foundation we set up in your name, and here was the Premier picking it up and running with it. And she read out the precious names that make up that acronym – Hannah, Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey.

So if you didn’t like the attention you were receiving on that rainy day in 2020, you certainly wouldn’t have been thrilled with how much attention you were getting in Parliament.

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And of course, we would prefer that we had not been there. We’d rather that we’d never had to start on this journey to criminalise coercive control. To be honest, I’m like you – I’d prefer not to have all the attention.

But life is not always what you expect or hope for, and our only choice was to use that attention we were receiving to stop coercive control. To H.A.L.T. it, once and for all.

So we can chalk up a win in Queensland. They are going to legislate by the end of next year to end those little acts of coercive control in a relationship – snooping on a phone, checking on someone’s location, vetting what they wear or who they see.  

By themselves they may not seem like much, but they are pointers to worse behaviour down the road. Pointers to stricter controls, to violence, and worse.  

I remember how it happened for you – you weren’t allowed to wear pink because it was for little girls. You weren’t allowed to walk off the beach in a bikini.

You and the kids would be prevented from seeing us – a little power game just so we all knew who really was the boss.

Then your phone was tapped, your car was tracked, the house was bugged. And we know how that story ends.

Listen to True Crime Conversations and follow the story of Hannah Clarke and her three children that sent shock waves across the country. Post continues after podcast.


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So that’s why it’s important that the Queensland Government is moving to stop coercive control early, before it gets out of hand. They are also putting more resources into supporting police and training them to recognise the signs.

They are going to support more education for young people, so they also can recognise the signs and so they know what a positive, healthy relationship should be.

And importantly, there will be programs for perpetrators, because early intervention is a much better option than having to call the police later down the track when coercive behaviour spirals out of control.

Queensland is now leading the nation on this issue, and the Small Steps 4 Hannah Foundation will now turn our efforts to ensuring other states follow. Tasmania has laws in place, and New South Wales is looking at it.

We need the rest of the states to get on board. And don’t worry – now that Queensland is done we’re going after the others.

But as Dad likes to say - there is one more piece of the puzzle. It’s not just about the laws. We need all Australians to join the H.A.L.T. campaign.  

As he says to young men, you need to recognise those signs of control when you see them in your mates, in your family members, and even in yourselves. And we you see them, you need to speak out. Get help if you need it.

We can’t keep on ignoring the warning signs and turning a blind eye to coercive control. And we can’t just leave it to Government.

And so we won’t. We’ll keep fighting – for you and the kids, and for so many others like you who need a voice. Yes, we’ll keep asking governments to stand up, but we’ll also keep asking all Australians to stand up and speak up.

Just like you, we will continue to hate all the attention and the fuss. But we know that’s the way to bring about the real change that will keep your memory and spirit alive.

So just like the rain at Hannah’s Place on that wet day in 2020, we are not going to stop. 

Love Sue

Sue Clarke is the mother of Hannah Clarke, and grandmother to Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey. With husband Lloyd and son Nat, Sue co-founded the Small Steps 4 Hannah Foundation to campaign for coercive control laws and promote respectful relationships.

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.

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

Feature Image: Supplied.