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Every woman needs to watch this interview.

Murder victim Lisa Harnum

When you’re in hell, extreme heat starts to feel normal. That’s all I could think of when I watched the excellent Sunday Night story about Simon Gittany, the man who killed his 30-year-old fiancee Lisa Harnum by throwing her from their 15th floor apartment balcony.

Because the most disturbing quotes in an incredibly chilling interview with Gittany’s new girlfriend, Rachelle Louise were the ones where she responded to journalist Ross Coulthart’s questions about Gittany’s treatment of Lisa Harnum before her murder in 2011.

Referring to the documented pattern of controlling behaviour Gittany displayed, Coulthart put this to Rachelle Louise: “He told Lisa just to wear basic clothes. That she couldn’t wear dresses, just to wear pants. And she wasn’t to go to clubs anymore because he got uncomfortable with all the guys around and not to wear high heels to the shops.”

“Well, he doesn’t like me to wear high heels to the shops either,” replied Rachelle Louise, shaking her head slightly in a “duh” kind of way as if that was a just, and obvious, and imminently reasonable demand to make on your partner. “But the other stuff I don’t believe at all.”

Why Rachelle? Why don’t you believe it? Have you been so brainwashed by your abuser that your understanding of basic acceptable behaviour in a relationship has become twisted into a place where there’s an enforced dress code? Do you see nothing wrong with that?

Rachelle Louise on ‘Sunday Night’

It got worse. While her justifications for all Gittany’s past involvement with police were laughable (he was “defending himself” against a policeman when he bit off half the officer’s ear; he was “taking the wrap” for a mate when he was caught with bags of drugs and cash down his pants), it was her matter-of-fact explanations for what transpired between her murderer boyfriend and Lisa Harnum before her death that chilled me to the bone.

Showing her the below image, of Gittany covering Harnum’s mouth and dragging her back into their apartment mere seconds before throwing her off the balcony (something his defence team and Rachelle Louise insist never happened, claiming that Harnum committed suicide), Coulthart asked Rachelle Louise what she saw when she looked at it. “What does that show?” he asked.

“Simon’s hand over her mouth,” replies Rachelle Louise with a dead, steady gaze.

“I find that quite horrifying,” offers Coulthart after a long pause.

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“It really does look horrifying when you look at it that way,” acknowledges Rachelle Louise. She swallows, and then quickly continues, “But you’ve got to understand also that Simon’s acting instinctively.”

Wait – what kind of man’s instinct is to forcibly stop a woman screaming for help?

“They have a relationship where she would run away from him and he would chase her and that’s exactly what he’s done. She’s run, he’s chased her, she’s screamed, he’s put his hand on her mouth and brought her back inside.”

Ross Coulthart interviews Rachelle Louise

This moment is everything to me. It’s every answer to every question about why women stay with men who physically or emotionally abuse them.

Rachelle Louise is a seemingly intelligent, extremely articulate 24-year-old woman. And yet, after getting into what one can only assume is an emotionally abusive relationship (at best) with Simon Gittany, she now lives on a planet where it’s perfectly reasonable for a woman to regularly try to escape her fiance by running away and where the acceptable response is for him to chase her, muffle her screams and drag her back to wherever he wants her to be.

Yes, he dragged her. He didn’t ‘bring her back inside’. He dragged her against her will.

And, even when presented with the physical, photographic evidence that Gittany chased Lisa Harnum and covered her mouth and stopped her escaping him by dragging her back to their apartment (before throwing her off the balcony), an outwardly mature adult woman sees no problem with that.

It’s on her spectrum of normal.

That is exactly why women stay. Because, like a frog in boiling water, at first, the water is pleasantly warm. You get used to the temperature. Your version of normal is slowly, insidiously and disastrously re-calibrated. You don’t notice that your life or your sanity is in danger until it’s too late.

It was too late for Lisa Harnum. And while Rachelle may not understand this for many years, her death and the subsequent jailing of her murderer will save Rachelle Louise from a possibly similar fate.

Did you watch Rachelle Louise on Sunday Night? What did you think?