'My daughter was murdered by her ex-partner. We need to talk about domestic violence.'

“It does take something traumatic for something to happen in all people’s lives before they become concerned enough to do something,” White Ribbon ambassador Roger Yeo tells me when we first speak.

Until four years ago, Roger’s family didn’t have any personal exposure to domestic or family violence or violence against women.

“It was just something that happened to other people in other neighbourhoods. It was something you watched about on television and didn’t really think very much about,” he says.

“But when Rachelle was murdered, we learned how quickly the problem was a pervasive one and the extent of how it impacted people.”

rachelle yeo
Rachelle with her mum, Kathy. Source: provided.

"I know now, and I didn't know this before, but this [domestic violence] is all around us," he continues.

Like too many Australian women, Rachelle Yeo, Roger's only daughter, was murdered at the hands of her ex-partner*.

It was July 2012 and after ending their relationship, Rachelle was stalked by the man on Facebook, at work and at her new home.

Eventually, he broke into her apartment and stabbed her to death.

rachelle yeo
Rachelle Yeo. Source: provided.

Two years later, Rachelle's ex-partner was found guilty of murder and sentenced to a minimum of 22 years in jail.

When I asked Roger what 31-year-old Rachelle was like, he laughs before responding, "How long is this interview meant to go for?"

"Obviously I have a bias," he says, adding, "She was an absolute joy for us right from the moment she was born. She always had a big smile on her face."

rachelle yeo
Rachelle with her dad, Roger. Source: provided.

"She was the kind of person who knew her own mind really well and didn't hesitate to speak it, that did get her in trouble occasionally, though.

"Most of the time she was enthusiastic and had lots of diverse interests - travel, climbing, making healthy food, fancy dress parties, looking after the environment.

"But I guess the most important thing that struck up more so after she was gone was her amazing ability to make everyone she met feel like they were the most important person in her life," he continues.

"Everyone talks about her like they were her best friend. And I find that remarkable; I run into it all the time. How can you have 30 people who think you're their best friend? I think we always knew it but we realised the truth of it after she was gone; her ability to keep people feeling good about each other was pretty amazing."


Roger says working with White Ribbon in the aftermath of Rachelle's death was cathartic in some ways, but mostly, he's just determined to see more people talking about an issue that affects so many lives.

"The more we understand it, the more we realise how pervasive the issue is and how important it is to be involved in something that eventually and hopefully will change the attitude and behaviours that cause men's violence against women in our society," Roger says.

His dream is to see at least one million Australian men take the White Ribbon oath - a pledge promising to not inflict violence on women or children and to help the community to eradicate domestic violence.

rachelle yeo
Rachelle with her mum, Kathy. Source: provided.

"I think talking about it is the start. The more you talk about it the more people think about it," he says seriously.

"It's uncomfortable; that's no question... but my attitude is, the more we think about it, the more we talk about it in the backyard or at a barbeque or after church or wherever, the more people come to realise it's something they do need to think about."

By some twist of fate or cruelty, White Ribbon Day falls on 25 November, just one day after Rachelle's birthday. She would have been 35 this year.

*Often, victims of domestic violence become footnotes in their own deaths, overshadowed by the perpetrators of the crimes. As such, Mamamia has chosen not to name Rachelle's killer out of respect for her memory, and the memories of all victims of domestic violence.