Stop asking my husband “Did you push her?”

“Did you push her?” has been the awful question frequently addressed to my husband, in my presence, after I broke my ankle 5 weeks ago. I fell down our stairs, he wasn’t home.

When I first heard people ask him “Did you push her?” I was shocked but assumed it was a one-off tasteless comment. Now I’ve heard it multiple times, from both genders. Often from strangers who know nothing about us, but sometimes from friends who should know better.

Even a health worker asked him “Did you push her?”

Yesterday I went for a blood test about an unrelated matter. The phlebotomist, a health worker, asked him “Did you push her?”  She had just been alone in the room with me and certainly had not checked for domestic violence. That was the only time I’d been alone with a health worker, without my husband, who has been transporting and caring for me since my accident.

“Did you push her?” is not funny.

“Did you push her” is not a joke. I’m not laughing and neither is my husband. It minimises domestic violence and it’s silencing of victims. Imagine being a victim of domestic violence and someone jokingly asks the perpetrator (in your presence) if he pushed you. He’s certainly not going to admit it and she’s likely to be too fearful to say anything. The question itself may increase her danger by antagonising the perpetrator.

Don’t assume you can recognise a victim of domestic violence

Maybe you’re thinking they’re only asking my husband “Did you push her?” because its so obvious I am not a victim of domestic violence. That argument assumes a domestic violence victim can be identified at first glance by a stranger. None of my recent clients who had been attacked in their homes by their partners had a sign on their heads saying “victim of domestic violence”.  They do not have downcast eyes. Their clothes aren’t torn and bedraggled. They do not have obvious bruises. They were all women – a busy, thoughtful mum of 4 children, a successful business woman and an older semi-retired woman (who looked a lot like me).  All were in dangerous situations.

Don’t assume you can recognise a perpetrator of domestic violence

“Did you push her?” also assumes that a perpetrator can be identified easily.  I have lost count of the times clients have told me that violent perpetrators in the home, were upstanding community citizens. You cannot recognise a perpetrator through a casual interaction.

“Did you push her?” belittles the high rate of domestic violence in Australia.

These statistics are from Mission Australia:

16% of women (1.5 million) and 5.9% of men (528,800) have experienced physical violence from a partner since they were 15.

On average, one woman per week is killed by a current or former partner.

On average, one male per month is killed by a current or former partner.

Stop giving tacit approval for domestic violence

“Did you push her?” along with the nudge nudge, wink wink, that I’ve often seen accompanying the question, seems to carry with it tacit approval that it’s ok to push a woman down the stairs. Is this really 2021? Have we learnt nothing? The question disgusts and saddens me.

How you can help if you suspect an injury was caused by domestic violence?

First stop asking “Did you push her?”

  • Take the victim aside. Privately and quietly ask them what happened.
  • Ask them directly “did someone hurt you?”
  • Believe them if they tell you they were abused.
  • Respect them if they don’t want to talk about it.
  • Ask what you can do to help.
  • Direct them to 1800Respect the Domestic Violence Hotline
  • If they are in immediate danger call 000

Waiting outside the psychiatrist’s office

Getting there

My friend is terrified of lifts so we climbed up the dingy stairwell to the third floor, only to find our exit door locked. After pointlessly pulling at the securely locked door a few times, we turned and scurried back down the stairs, to find the door we’d entered through also locked. Anxiety slowly rose in my throat. What if we’re stuck in the stairwell for eternity?

Empty office corridoor

Frantically, we descended further flinging open the lower ground floor door to the street, bursting out into the bright sunshine. We re-entered the building, now no option remained but to brave the lift. My friend scooted into the back corner, her body firmly pressed against the walls, arms folded against her chest. Her eyes startled with fear and yet also relieved that we were the only ones locked in the confined, windowless space that she hates so much.

The long hallway to the inner city psychiatrist’s office was bland and soulless, terracotta tiled floor, cream walls and mission brown fixtures – a flashback to the ’70s.

Waiting outside the psychiatrist’s office

The psychiatrist, unknown to my friend or me, greeted her warmly, even though we were 10 minutes early.  The psychiatrist had received a myriad of documents and clearly knew that this appointment was going to be distressing for my friend. Despite the kindliness of the psychiatrist, my friend looked pleadingly at me as she slowly followed her to the psychiatrist’s office.  She Continue reading

Survivors and Solicitors

Survivors of child sexual abuse, who courageously gave evidence to The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, are now torn between applying for compensation through the Redress Scheme and/or launching legal proceedings against the perpetrating organisations. Neither pathway is easy and neither has a guaranteed outcome. Historical child sexual abuse cases are notoriously difficult to win given the passage of time, lack of witnesses and the legal requirement for detailed information.  Survivors and solicitors embarking on the marathon journey into the world of trauma and legal processes need to be well prepared.

Acknowledge the legal process will trigger trauma symptoms

Female survivor alone

Applying to the Redress Scheme or undertaking legal action is likely to be distressing. Revisiting the abuse, providing statements, and arguing your case may trigger flashbacks, nightmares and other trauma symptoms.  During this time be proactive in care for yourself.

Gather a support team

  • Invite someone, other than the solicitor, to join you on the journey and be your support person.  Ask them to accompany you to appointments, read information, discuss the case with you and retain the focus in appointments when you are distressed.  Give consideration to who you would ask. Another trauma survivor may also be triggered by the process.  Perhaps there could be more than one person to assist you.
  • Inform your family and friends that the legal process is likely to be stressful and lengthy. Try and be clear about what you need e.g. “After appointments, I may be distressed, can you spend some time with me?”  “Can you come for a walk sometimes to help me manage the stress?”  “I may just need a hug or my handheld, will you be able to do that for me?”
  • Access support through a psychologist, counsellor, social worker,  or caseworker and schedule regular appointments in advance.

Commit to a rigorous self-care plan

Legal cases may go on for years and are stressful. They are indeed a marathon and not a sprint. Continue reading

Silenced!

 

Victims voices and stories

are often silenced.

 

A parent abuses a child, yet that same parent is also responsible for feeding and sheltering the child. Fear of retribution deftly silences the child.  No adults are seen as safe.

Condemnation and punishment await an unruly and antisocial boy, who has no words to describe his chaotic emotional world or the abuse he is experiencing. Opportunities for disclosure are lost.

A teenage girl internalises her shame, silenced by the myth of the perfect family. No one would believe what happens in her family. The self-inflicted slashes on her thighs scream her pain, but no one hears. Continue reading