In the very first paragraph of the introduction, the brief statistics given have enough force to make you stop and reread them. In the office of Safe Steps, Victoria’s 24/7 family violence helpline, the phones, at their busiest time, ring every three minutes. THREE minutes! A woman will return to a violent abuser seven times before leaving, SEVEN times! These statistics are beyond alarming, they are a warning that should have been heeded long ago. This simply cannot go on. Hill also says early on that she tries to use the term domestic abuse rather than domestic violence because in many cases there is no violence, but the mental abuse can be just as severe, just as destructive, in many cases more so. Hill also turns the question, “Why does she return to him again and again?” around to “Why does he abuse her again and again?”. So, first paragraph of the introduction, the book has not even really begun, and the reader knows they are in for some horror stories, but stories that should be told, stories that may have the power to help change this dire situation. Knowledge is power, and the more people who know about these stories can only be a step in the right direction. Even if it is only a step, a step is progress. I do not want to bog you down in a quagmire of statistics, but these statistics should be told, people need to know these statistics. Of the 87 thousand women killed in 2017, 30 thousand of them were by an intimate partner and 20 thousand a family member. In Australia, a country that I am proud to call my home, one woman a week is killed by somebody she has been intimate with. Suddenly that proudness loses much of its lustre. How can this be happening? It shocked me to the core. Here is a frightening thought, while you are reading this a woman is being abused in some form, not just one woman, but many. Because for everyone we know about there are myriads of women who remain in the shadows living in fear. And Hill points out there is no stereotypical abused woman. All women are affected, from all walks of life, it is not just the poor, the uneducated, the indigenous, it is everyone. One lady was a highly successful doctor who now lives on the poverty line because of legal fees in trying to keep her abusive husband away from their daughter. This is another form of abuse faced. Most times, the abuser controls the money in the relationship, threatening the abused with financial ruin if they try to leave. Court costs in legal battles, as with the doctor, can be astronomical, again resulting in bankruptcy. So physical abuse is only once side of a multi-faceted problem. Hill also goes on to say that just as there is no stereotypical abused woman, there is also no stereotypical abusive man. They also come from all walks of life and have different reasons for abusing. From the insecure guy who is afraid that he is going to lose his partner, so he locks her away, denies her access to friends and money. To the coercive controller who enjoys the abuse, manipulates the abuse for more pleasure. Then you have the abuser who just wants to take everything he can from her and then leave a ruined, damaged life in the rear view mirror as he moves on to new prey. There is no point in going into detail about any one particular story, or anecdote, it’s sufficient just to say that they are all horrific and are all completely different and happened to completely different people. But all the tales told contain the one dominant point. Fear! What it must be like to live your whole life, virtually every waking moment, in fear. This cannot go on. However, it is not all doom and gloom, and progress is being made. Since 2014, there have been changes. There has been progress made in the legal system. In Queensland, in 2016, legislation was changed to make non-fatal strangulation punishable by up to seven years imprisonment. As strangulation is one of the more common and dangerous forms of physical abuse, this legislation made immediate impact, and in the following year almost 800 people were charged with it. The two most potent weapons in combating this abuse are Awareness and a complete overhaul of the legal system. Change is being made in the legal system, but sentences need to be much harsher. Awareness needs to be pushed in all communities. You cannot fight something you cannot see. For the sheer amount of work and research that Hill has done, and how she has brought all of this whole domestic abuse issue into the format of this book, and presented it in a structure that is compelling, informative, eye opening, and quite frankly, jaw dropping, I simply must give this book 5 stars. There is no denying that it is a distressing book, Hill manages to impart a personal feel to the book, and you will feel for these victims. I know that many people will be unable to read these horrendous stories but kudos to Hill for producing this book. And if it saves even one life it has all been worth it. 5 Stars. A worthy spot on the Stella longlist.
Jess Hill is an investigative journalist who has been writing about domestic violence since 2014. Prior to this she was a producer for ABC radio, a Middle East correspondent for "The Global Mail" and an investigative journalist for "Background Briefing". She was listed in "Foreign Policy's" top 100 women to follow on twitter and her reporting on domestic violence has won two Walkley awards, an Amnesty International award and three Our Watch awards.
There is a wonderful podcast with Jess talking about the book and domestic abuse here - https://soundcloud.com/UncommonSense-rrr/interview-with-jess-hill-see-what-you-made-me-do-power-control-domestic-abuse