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Matthew Newton: The day after

Matthew Newton

Matthew Newton appeared on A Current Affair last night to answer some tough questions about his very public derailment over the past few years.

You can watch the interview here

Whatever your feelings about him (or ACA), it was pretty gripping television.

Does he owe the Australian public an apology?  Certainly not, but one would think that Brooke Satchwell, Rachel Taylor and whomever else he’s belted over the years might get a look in while he’s establishing his own victim status on prime time television.

He wouldn’t want to cause them any further embarrassment he tells us, or bring the incidents any more attention, though by the very act of committing to a lengthy interview with A Current Affair he is doing exactly that, isn’t he?

Matthew is effusive when it comes to his own suffering, peppering his conversation with words like destruction, harm, panic, scars, breakdown, devastated, sad – all in an effort to help us understand what he’s been through.   He turns a question about his final assault on Brooke Satchwell into an answer about his escape from a psych ward and his concussion.   Matthew’s conviction for that assault was quashed, but he doesn’t feel he got off too easily he assures us, he feels he was not treated properly at the time for his mental illness.

He’s right about that of course.  Late diagnosis after years of misdiagnosis is the greatest frustration of many sufferers, and many more family members who suffer alongside them.  Matthew’s talent for articulating his experience is a gift few share and he was able to explain some aspects of his illnesses – which he says include “manic depression, acute obsessive compulsive disorder and some personality traits connected to those two” – honestly and with candor. He says he is now on daily medication to treat his health.

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As gifted as he is though, why were there so few words for his victims?  Was there ever a dawning realisation, as the medication and therapy did their jobs, of what he had done to those women who loved him?  Who trusted him?  What he’d taken from them?  Is it fair of me to have expected to hear some of that in his comeback showcase?

What of the night that ended his engagement to Rachel in Rome?  “I wanted to kill myself.”  Really?  Because she thought you wanted to kill her, and so did everyone else watching you do it.

Tracy tells him straight that we want to hear he’s sorry, and in what feels like a test of his mettle asks him to take responsibility for damage his episodes have caused.  Matthew declines to do so for reasons ranging from privacy to dropping others in it and the conversation is quickly steered back towards Matthew’s own struggles.   That’s what therapy is all about, I get it, but frankly I’m shocked that his psychiatrist and others encouraged this attempt at a televised make-good without considering the black-eyed elephant in the room – that Matthew is a repeat perpetrator of domestic violence.

I want Matthew Newton to talk about his domestic violence.  I want to know that he understands that’s what it was.  I want to hear how his mental illness contributed to him beating people he loved.  I want him to help other abusers to understand how this happened in his life so that they can stop it happening in theirs. Is that too much to ask?

Is that even a fair thing to ask of a man who is clearly struggling with his demons and making concerted – and commendable – efforts to treat his illnesses? Does he owe anyone anything? Maybe he doesn’t. But I’ll be honest and say I expected to hear it.

Matthew Newton has the experience, the support, the talent and the forum to make an incredible difference in the lives of unknown thousands of victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.  I hope that one day – perhaps when he is more stable –  he’ll rally all of his advantages indeed be the man he can be.

Meshel Laurie is a comedian and broadcaster. You can catch up with her on Nova’s Drive Show with Tim Blackwell and Marty Sheargold 4-6pm on weekdays.

Did you come away from Matthew Newton’s interview with a changed view of him? Did it help you to better understand mental illness and how it affects sufferers and their loved ones? If you are familiar with mental illness or have been touched by it yourself did his comments resonate with you?

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