The news reports came flooding in of a tragic murder /suicide in country Victoria. Reporters were deeming it another case of domestic violence, where an argument had broken out between a couple in their family home. It was believed that the children had been in the home during the argument but that the father had let them go to a neighbour’s house before shooting their mother and then himself. As I read those words instantly my mind envisioned four little kids, running from the house in terror, the oldest at nine, in my mind was probably clutching the 2 year old, and running for their lives. My heart began to shatter as I felt the thoughts touch something deep in my heart and then suddenly there it was, the memories of three other children being pushed out the door, by their terrified mother, begging them run, to seek refuge at a neighbours, whilst she stayed behind the closed door to endure the continuing wrath of yet another enraged man, who too had access to a gun.
I remember my own heart beating in terror, pounding as though it was going to smash through my chest. It was hard to breathe through the fear, it was hard to run, but run we did. I remember being so scared for what would happen to my Mum. Why didn’t we call the police? Why didn’t the neighbours call the police? These are the questions that I am asking myself now, perhaps 27 years after the last incident and the answer, as best as I can try to fathom, separated by some many years, is because it was a normal part of our life.
It wasn’t the first time that we had been forced to run to our neighbours during an explosive outrage. My stepfather was a very frightening man, who would make many many manipulative threats to keep us compliant. Slung on his hip, worn for his employment was the ultimate in terror, an ever present reminder of my biggest nightmare. This was our normal, and after so many years, i had felt that there was no help on the horizon, that we just had to make it through until he calmed down and then it would be as though nothing had happened, until the next time. Although It may have been resolved for him when the anger subsided, but not for us kids, the memories and the intensity of fear will always remain.
When I was 12 years old, I remember receiving a phone call from my best friend telling me that her step father had killed her mother before turning the gun on himself, leaving behind six children. To this day I cringe as I remember my idiotic, 12 year old shocked response that said “Oh no! Oh I’m so sorry, are you sure?” After exchanging a few more words, she was gone. I didn’t know where she was living, I didn’t know how to contact her and I didn’t know when I would be seeing her again. I remember being completely shell shocked for her and her siblings, who I also knew well. My greatest fear had just become her reality and never again would I doubt that step fathers can actually kill mothers.
Awareness and support for victims of domestic violence wasn’t as well publicized in my childhood as it is now and I personally have many issues pertaining to intervention for victims of domestic violence, and appropriate followups, but regardless of my views and all the awareness we now have in Australia, still we are tragically watching unfold another horrifying murder in what is being described as a normal family. Relatively normal, on the outside, is my take. The papers are saying that neighbours and friends described, the father in this tragedy, as a great guy, and that they were a normal family. I wonder if that’s how our neighbours perceived us, normal? Or was it just how they perceived him, normal with a temper?
Most offenders have friends, they have work mates and bosses and I guess unless they are unusually depicted as a stand out, type of weird, then most of these offenders appear to be average normal people, with average families and that’s how others relate with them, simply by the face that is presented to them.
Our neighbours were his friends, they went fishing together. Truly, I wonder now just what did they think when we would go running seeking refuge? Did they ever think that this is getting out of hand? Or did they just see the face of their fishing mate and think that perhaps as kids we were exaggerating? I don’t know and I am absolutely baffled. I try to put myself in the neighbour’s position without the bias of living through it and how I would actually respond if faced with the same situation. I imagine three horrified kids come running through our gate, saying “Dad’s gone off again”. I imagine that I can hear the yelling, without understanding the words. I imagine a thought process on whether to call the police on your friend, including the struggle of dobbing in your mate. But no matter how I imagine it, I cannot remove myself from the bias of living through it, or of seeing my friends family devestated by the worst possible outcome, where a relatively normal person, hits that point in rage where there is no turning back. And I cannot imagine not ringing the police for assistance to help the victims in their time of terror, no matter how normal it may appear to them .
Normal, everyone seems so damn normal, our life was normal, this families life was normal, and often even in all its terror, these types of scenarios also appear normal because that is how we are conditioned by our surroundings and circumstances, its what we know. But people, killing mothers is not normal, killing children is not normal, terrorising women and children is not normal. Nor is the other horrific act that is out of control, where adults think that they have a right to rape other people’s children, it is not normal, yet horrifically it is those appearing normal to their extended family, friends and co-workers that are committing these heinous acts behind the closed doors of what the neighbourhood deems “just a normal family.”
As the number of deaths of women, killed in cases of domestic violence grow with each passing year, my hope is that society will begin to get an attitude of making the necessary calls in order to potentially save a life. If you know of someone, who is suffering in a domestic violence relationship, even if they appear relatively normal in the times when things are ok, if you are concerned please make the call, you don’t know the reasons behind why they cant, or why they haven’t been able to themselves. #makethecall
Many of us will always have the tragedies of what has gone on behind our closed doors, forever etched in our memories. I’m hoping my blog will be a place where we can explore some of these topics in later posts. One thing I do know though is that, however painful our past, it does not have to determine our future.
Before I close, I want to express my heartfelt sympathy to the children who lost both their parents following this horrific tragedy last month, my thoughts and prayers are also for the extended family and friends of both parties.