By Sarah Ferguson.
It’s hard to imagine in Australia today there is a need for refuges, places where women and children live protected by sensor alarms and security cameras. But forty years after the first refuge opened in Sydney’s inner-west, the need is as urgent as ever, writes Sarah Ferguson.
I wanted all of us to hear the resounding answers from people who live in these toxic relationships and the police, lawyers doctors and community workers who see the consequences.
In hospitals and police stations and the safe rooms of courts, in houses and refuge bedrooms late at night, I got the answer to that question many times over. Perpetrators of domestic violence seek to control their partners, often beginning with small seemingly banal steps, until the victim’s sense of themselves is lost. One woman with a safe room built into her house to protect her from her violent ex-husband told me it was like living in a cult. And on top of that they feel shame and embarrassment for the predicament they are in.
We began the series in a prison and a refuge. We started in prison to catch the beginning of a 10 week program aimed at preventing violent men from re-offending: day 1 and 10 offenders considered at high risk of returning to jail. They were resistant, unwilling to accept responsibility and inclined to blame their partners. (One of the most violent men in the group came up to me in the tea break and told me he had watched my last series, the Killing Season, or some of it anyway. He wasn’t that impressed.) That day we were waiting for news from the refuge, one of the young women there, Jessica* was due to have a baby and I wanted to get there before the baby was born.