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SARAH FERGUSON: For six months, I'vebeen filming on the front line of Australia'sdomestic violence crisis.Police deal with 650 domestic violence events, on average,in Australia every day.
POLICE DISPATCHER: Do you need to see police?
WENDY: He hit me in the face.
SARAH FERGUSON: One every two minutes.240,000 a year.
SPEAKER 1: Domestic violence is one of the great shamesof Australia.It is a national disgrace.
SARAH FERGUSON: We filmed with forensic doctorswho see the consequences.
MARIE ANITAS: So how do you think that one happened?This lump on the side?
SARAH FERGUSON: And in the courts.
JUDGE: You must not assault, mos molest, terroristthreaten, or intimidate.
SARAH FERGUSON: I spent time livingwith the victims of domestic violence, mothers and children.
WENDY: The first night she said, Mommy, what if that's Daddycoming to yell at you again?
SARAH FERGUSON: What are you afraid of?
JOE: Him coming back and breaking my door.
ISABELLA CULLEN: He wants to be in control of me,and he can't stand losing this control.
SARAH FERGUSON: And met the perpetrators of violencein prison.Do you understand what you're like when you'vegot someone in a headlock?
SPEAKER 2: Yeah, I'll tell you, shewouldn't have been feeling too good.
SARAH FERGUSON: What do you think you need to change?
SPEAKER 3: My relationship with women, I suppose.
SARAH FERGUSON: And as we filmed, horrors kept mounting.
REPORTER: [INAUDIBLE] police havecharged the husband of a missing woman with her murder.Because he believed she was having an affair.
SPEAKER 4: You can't, um, take it in.
REPORTER: Tara's Brown's car was forced off a Gold Coast streetyesterday.
REPORTER: Attacked as she was trapped inside the wreckage.
REPORTER: Violence against women in this countryhas now reached epidemic proportions.
SARAH FERGUSON: In fact, it's alwaysbeen with us, hidden away like a dirty secret.It's just that now we're finally paying attention.
SPEAKER 5: We should be outraged.We should be furious.
SARAH FERGUSON: Like you, I've watched those terrible stories,but I've never really known what domestic violence is.How does it start?How does it escalate from control, to violence, evento death?Why do men do it, because it is largely men?And why do women stay with them?
SPEAKER 6: How do you do that to someone you love, man?I don't, can't comprehend it.[HITTING HOME WITH SARAH FERGUSON]
SARAH FERGUSON: This is Blacktownin Sydney's outer west.Local police command has one of the busiest domestic violenceunits in the country.6:00 AM, I'm here to join the morning shift.All right.And when you come to court, are you coming with a solicitortoday?And it says here that you've been in an arranged marriage.
SARAH FERGUSON [continued]: Is that true?Yeah, so he's still intimidating you?It doesn't really make any difference, but I'll make sure,I'll change it on the AVO.Yes, I'm sure it depends what your solicitor's informed you,but your solicitor would probably like it longand drawn out.Now, if anything happens and you're in any danger,you need call triple 0.But we'll seek to go ahead with the AVO.
SARAH FERGUSON [continued]: NOW, Now, what happened?
SARAH FERGUSON: In the domestic violence unit,Constable Janell [INAUDIBLE] and senior Constable Deb Leeare preparing cases for court.Have you got a very big list today?
JANELL: Yeah, I reckon.What do you reckon?
SARAH FERGUSON: Looks pretty big.How many cases a day?
JANELL: 40, 50.I think the most we've ever had a court on one occasionwas 100.
SARAH FERGUSON: In most of these cases,police are applying for an order to protecta woman from a violent or threatening partner.
JANELL: I think that's the one I spoke to you that's beento the forensic doctor.He's made full admissions except for the strangling her.This is an AVO to be varied to add condition four.
SARAH FERGUSON: Last year in New South Wales,police applied for more than 37,000 Apprehended ViolenceOrders, or AVOs.More than 100,000 were taken out nationally.Deb Lee and Janelle [INAUDIBLE] areon their way from the police station to the courthousenext door.
DEB LEE: I start to feel very sorry for the victimsat this point.Just the pressure and the difficulty of coming to court.Just the formality of it is intimidating.
SARAH FERGUSON: One day a week, Blacktown courtis given over entirely to domestic violence cases.
LAWYER: Right.OK, as I said, I'm going-- they're just AVOs.So any charges are over here.These AVOs.Beautiful, awesome.
JANELL: Other than the kids witnessingwhat they're witnessing that basically [INAUDIBLE],you've got a charge and everything,so that's going to go ahead.I'm not sure what you're doing legally,if you're getting legal advice.So what we're going to try to change todayuntil it goes to hearing is, at the moment,you can't contact or approach her.
SARAH FERGUSON: Janell moves between the accusedand the victims.
JANELL: Hello, how you going?
SARAH FERGUSON: The court provides a safe roomfor victims, secure from their partner's intimidation.For the first time, a camera has been allowed inside.Is your ex-partner coming in today?
SPEAKER 7: Yeah.
SARAH FERGUSON: He's here?
SPEAKER 7: I saw him this morning at registration.
SARAH FERGUSON: Is it good for you havingthis room where you can go to--
SPEAKER 7: Yeah.It's good not having to be anywhere near him.And having people around me for support.
SARAH FERGUSON: What happens to you when you see him?
SPEAKER 7: I kind of just get very nervous, and scared,and shaky.
SARAH FERGUSON: Police and court advocacy workershelp the women prepare for their cases.
JANELL: I'm Janell.How you going?I'm the domestic violence officer from Blacktown.I've spoken to your husband.I've told him to seek legal advice,because the threats he made to you were very, very serious.The other day, we took out an Apprehended Violence Order.This AVO is the police application.It's not your AVO, OK?
JUDGE: There's an application before the courtby the police for an apprehended domestic violenceorder against you.
SPEAKER 8: Yes, your honor.
JANELL: Your honor, seeking 1ABC and 10for a period of two years.
JUDGE: And do you understand what an apprehended violenceorder is?
SPEAKER 8: Yes
JUDGE: Do you agree to the orders beingsought against you, or do you oppose them?
SPEAKER 8: I agree to them.
JUDGE: You must not assault, molest, terroristthreaten, or intimidate.You must not go within 200 metersof the place of residence, [INAUDIBLE]approach or contact in any way.Do you understand those things?
SPEAKER 8: Yes, sir.
JUDGE: Any breach of that order is a criminal offense.The order is made, you're free to go.
SPEAKER 8: Thank you.
SARAH FERGUSON: Throughout the morning,accused men come and go as AVOs are considered by the court.
JUDGE: That order continues for five years.To the microphone, please.
SARAH FERGUSON: Some defendants are also charged with assault.
JUDGE: The facts tell me that therewas an argument between you and someoneconnected to your family.So tell me what happened from that point on.
SPEAKER 9: First started with talking, then just got violent.Then I ran to the garage and got a hammer.
JUDGE: Well I suppose, I'm tryingto understand why you would do that.
SPEAKER 9: Just got a mental problem or something.
JUDGE: Too often, people try and pass off violence as somethingthey can't control.Almost as if, well, it's not really me.It's someone else who is subject to impulsesthat they're not responsible for.That's just a bit too easy.
SARAH FERGUSON: In the safe room,Janell prepares a woman to testify against her husband,who assaulted her.We'll call her Claire.
JANELL: They'll ask you specific questions.Just answer those questions.You don't have to rush into it.This is your time to go, what's happened to me is wrong,so I'm going to take my time to answerthese questions for my future.
SARAH FERGUSON: Claire and her childrenfled the family home after the assault. Her daughteris terrified of seeing her father.
CLAIRE: And she just started shakingbecause she saw her dad now briefly as we walked in.
JANELL: You have to say to yourself that he's not entitledto make you feel like that.
CLAIRE: I feel guilty that my children were subjected to it.I'd give you my right arm if I could have left him years ago.
JANELL: You've been living in this violence for a long time.Today is your day to take the control back.
SARAH FERGUSON: Court is winding up.We couldn't take the cameras into the courtroomfor Claire's testimony, so I met up with herafter the case was over.Her husband was found guilty of assaultand given a suspended sentence.Claire lives a virtual prisoner in her home.
CLAIRE: What if he finds us, Sara?What if he comes and hurts one of my children?I don't go out unless it's really imperative Ineed to go somewhere.I don't leave the home.You know, what if he is down on the street?What if he is stalking me?
SARAH FERGUSON: He's considered such a threat,Claire has a security system paidfor by a government program called Staying Home LeavingViolence.
CLAIRE: I do you have the locks changedon the doors and the windows.I do have a safe room that we can go into,God forbid if he does come here.We can just lock it.It doesn't unlock, only from the inside, not from the outside.So he couldn't get in.I do have an SOS device.It's the next best thing as having a police officerright there.When I am in trouble, for example if I saw him,he's coming after me, whatever [INAUDIBLE] press the SOS.
SARAH FERGUSON: And who gets that?
CLAIRE: The security first of all.And they'll ring me straight back on this device.In the event that I did press SOS and I didn't speakto anybody on the other line, they'll automatically thinkthat she's in a position that she cannot speak.Straight away the first available policewould be there, straight away.
SARAH FERGUSON: Is it possible that youthink you're more afraid now than when you actuallywere with him?
CLAIRE: Definitely.It's just hard to explain, but when you're in that situation,it's much easier than when you're out.You know where he is at all times.You know, OK, he'll be out from certain hours.You know, OK, he's got angry, he has lashed out,OK, he's going to calm down.And there's certain peaks in the relationship, as well.Now, and because he no longer has control over us,
CLAIRE [continued]: so who knows what he'll do next.He's lost his control.
SARAH FERGUSON: When we started this series,I knew there was a domestic violence crisis in Australia,but I didn't know there were womenliving with SOS devices and safe rooms built into their houses.And Claire, like lots of the women I met in Blacktown,was a professional woman with a good job.The police and the magistrate were clearthat domestic violence isn't restricted
SARAH FERGUSON [continued]: to any one suburb or any one section of our community.100 kilometers north of Sydney, on the shoresof Lake Macquarie, cameras are installedin a house on a quiet residential streetunder the same program that's protecting Claire.
SARAH FERGUSON [continued]: Five months earlier, Isabella Cullen's husbandpunched her in the face and was charged with assault.He was bailed to his mother's house in Queensland,but now he's returning to Lake Macquarie for the trial.
ISABELLA CULLEN: Um, he flies down from Bundaberg tomorrow,but I know he'll be here.
SARAH FERGUSON: You think he'll come to the house?
ISABELLA CULLEN: Yeah, he'll come.
SARAH FERGUSON: And what are you afraid of?
ISABELLA CULLEN: Oh, just try and push his way in the door.He'll probably walk through all the roomsand just see what's going on.If he's angry, he'll take my phoneso I can't call the police.That's the first thing he does.He always takes my phone.
SARAH FERGUSON: And how is he able to do that?
ISABELLA CULLEN: Strength, he just grabs it off me.
SARAH FERGUSON: The trial in three days.
ISABELLA CULLEN: We'll see whether he gets sentencedor not.Whether he goes to jail, or they let him out on bailand he hangs around here somewhere.
SARAH FERGUSON: There's a lot of people faced with the situationthat you're in, they end up in a refuge, or they run.What made you stay here?
ISABELLA CULLEN: This is my house.I know that if I left here, he would follow me.
SARAH FERGUSON: Ben Cullen is forbidden by court orderfrom approaching Isabella.Now, there are security cameras trainedon each side of the house.How much comfort will that give you, do you think?
ISABELLA CULLEN: He won't care, but at least I'llhave the proof that he's been there.
SARAH FERGUSON: Ben and Isabella were married for two years.They have a two-year-old son.
ISABELLA CULLEN: The last time that he actually hit me,my son saw.And I saw his face.He was just in tears, he was so shocked by it.And that just threw me to a heap.Ben was holding him when he hit me in the bedroom.I guess I can put up with it, myself.
ISABELLA CULLEN [continued]: But that's why I've taken the action, because he's here now.And I'm going to protect him.I'm going to protect him from all this stuff.When he gets older, he'll probably see all this stuff outin society.But now, he doesn't have to see it.
SARAH FERGUSON: You wouldn't do it for yourself,but you would do it for him?
ISABELLA CULLEN: Yep.
SARAH FERGUSON: The recent assault wasn't the first.Isabella says Ben hurt her four or fivetimes before they were married.Do you remember the first time that it happened?
ISABELLA CULLEN: I suppose it was when first Imentioned my ex-boyfriend.And because he's so jealous, Ben,he kicked me when we were walkingand dropped me to the ground.Some people, they ran over, and they said,get out, because he's not going to change.And this was within two months of being with him.But then the apologies come.
ISABELLA CULLEN [continued]: The flowers come, the cards come.I'm going to change.I'm going to be a better person.And he is for a little bit.
SARAH FERGUSON: Things didn't change.The assaults continued after they were marriedand Isabella was pregnant.
ISABELLA CULLEN: I was embarrassedthat I've gotten into a relationship like this.And I wanted to make it work.I think, thinking I failed that it's not working.
SARAH FERGUSON: You mean it's your faultthat he's hitting you?
ISABELLA CULLEN: Yeah.That I've got to do something betterto try to make him happier.
ISABELLA CULLEN [continued]: There you go.[INAUDIBLE]
SARAH FERGUSON: Overnight, Isabellathought about what she'd told me.
ISABELLA CULLEN: Thank you.
SARAH FERGUSON: She wanted to try and explainwhy she'd stayed with Ben.
ISABELLA CULLEN: People hearing my story,they probably won't really understandand probably think, how crazy is she?She's forever going back, always giving him another chance.But I guess you're addicted to the hopethat it's going to get better.You hold on to the good times.And you don't want to be lonely.The loneliness is hard, sometimes.
ISABELLA CULLEN [continued]: And especially when you have a child together.
SARAH FERGUSON: Do you think that you alsodidn't deserve more?You weren't really entitled to a better life than that?
ISABELLA CULLEN: He made me feel like I wasn't.
SARAH FERGUSON: How did someone like thatpersuade you that you were--
ISABELLA CULLEN: He was a good manipulator.Yeah.He was a very good manipulator.He knew the right words.He was very charming.I've got to get it through my headthat he's just trying to manipulate me.He doesn't really care about me, but hewants to be in control of me.And he can't stand losing this control.
ISABELLA CULLEN [continued]: You hear all these stories now.It's all coming out, and I don't wantto be one of those statistics.My sister said to me the other daythat when she comes to visits me from Queensland,she doesn't want it to be to a funeral, you know?She wants to see her sister.And that's reality that could happen.
SARAH FERGUSON: For now, Isabellais moving into her mother's house until the trial begins.After she leaves, the security cameraspick up a figure moving around the house.It's Ben.
SARAH FERGUSON [continued]: In his hand is a bag of toys for his son.
SARAH FERGUSON [continued]: For some women, staying at home isn't possible.And turning every victim's home into a fortressisn't an option either.The last resort for some is to seek refugein a place like this.
MANDY GREENY: Hey, how you going?
SARAH FERGUSON: Good.I made it.
MANDY GREENY: Oh, fantastic.
SARAH FERGUSON: Can I put this down?
MANDY GREENY: Yeah, just throw it down there.
SARAH FERGUSON: I'm moving into the refuge, hometo 15 families.The location is secret, so we won't show you where it is.Mandy Greeny is the manager.When they come, how do you keep them safe here?If these are people who are fleeingfrom dangerous situations, how do you actually keep them safe.
MANDY GREENY: So there's a couple of things that we do.We get people to actually-- we do a bit of a risk assessmentinitially when we're first talking to them.We establish what the risks are.Is he likely to stalk her?Get her to turn off her telephone.
SARAH FERGUSON: Do you ever get peopletracking them here or trying to find them?
MANDY GREENY: Yeah, yeah we do.There has been cases before where we've caught thembefore they've actually gotten here,put tracking devices on cars, et cetera.
SARAH FERGUSON: And how much security is actually here?You know, my idea of a refuge is that it's secure and safe.But it doesn't look visibly like it's safe.
MANDY GREENY: No.We need to keep it-- like, it's not a jail.And we don't want it to feel like a jail,neither can it look like a jail.So we try and keep it as safe as we possiblycan, but at the same time not making it stand outand look like a detention center.Because that's not what it is.It's not meant to be-- the woman's notmeant to be in an institution.
SARAH FERGUSON: In the office, refuge staffare trying to bring in a woman who's called for urgent help.
SPEAKER 10: We can pick you up from Camplbelltownif they can get you to Campbelltown.
SPEAKER 11: And the counselor Nicolewill be giving you a call back.
RONNIE: As soon as you're ready.That's OK.Have you got her settled?She'll be like that until you can get her settled.So she'll be looking over her shoulder all the time.
DI: OK, so we're doing an intake.We've had a call through the DV line.They had a lady approach them yesterday.She's in fear of the ex-partner.
SARAH FERGUSON: The woman and her daughterare hiding out at a friend's house.Caseworkers Di and Ronnie are working out a planto bring them to the refuge.
RONNIE: If need be, we can take the peoplemover and even the [INAUDIBLE] to bring all her possessionsup.
DI: She has nothing.
DI: She hasn't even got ID.She's just left the house.She was so scared.He tried to run her over with a car.
RONNIE: Is she's safe where she is now?
DI: Um, she won't leave the house, because shefeels she's being watched.She's prepared to take any crisis accommodationto get away from him.He's been physically abusive, sexually abused her,emotionally abused her.And this is her first attempt, and shethinks it's her only attempt to get out.She's worried he's going to try and kill her.
SARAH FERGUSON: There are more than 200 refuges in Australia,and they're almost always full.This one is for mothers and children.Some of the families arrive with nothing but the clothesthey're in when they run.Wendy came here with her two children, aged nine and five.
WENDY: As soon as we came here, theyhad the food ready for us, the bed, the linens.They even had bathroom things like toothpaste, shampoo.So it was just, coming here and justslid into a normal lifestyle.
SARAH FERGUSON: Wendy can stay for as longas it takes to rebuild her life and find a new place to live.She ran from a long abusive relationshipwith the girls' father.They'd separated, but her partner was oftenat the house they shared.
WENDY: Like every day I was prepared, pretty much,for the worse.My youngest has always been scared of him.She's scared of loud noises, she's scared of screaming.
SARAH FERGUSON: One morning, he turned upbefore the girls left for school.
WENDY: We'd slept in.Usually we were up by 7:30 at the latest.And it was 8 o'clock.And he stormed in, yelling.I heard him drilling the kids.That's when I got up, went to the kitchenand started making their lunch.He lifted up his hand, like his forearm,and smacked me in the back-- on the cheek, here.
WENDY [continued]: And I started crying.And he's still yelling at me, see what you made me do?This is all your fault. You made me hit you.I got up and ran to the phone.Like, what are you doing?What are you doing?What are you doing?And I'm like, I'm calling the cops.Hello?
POLICE DISPATCHER: Police emergency.Do you need to see police?[CRYING]
POLICE DISPATCHER: And what's your name?
POLICE DISPATCHER: Wendy, is it?
WENDY'S HUSBAND: What the fuck, Wendy?
POLICE DISPATCHER: What's happening there?
WENDY: My ex-partner has come over and he's taking the kids.
WENDY'S HUSBAND: Your ex-partner is thereand he's going to take the kids?
WENDY: He hit me in the face.And as I was talking to the operator,he's still yelling at me.Put the phone down.Put the phone down.Fucking put the phone down, you stupid bitch.
POLICE DISPATCHER: OK, so does he have any weapons at all?[CRYING]
WENDY: [INAUDIBLE] me.
POLICE DISPATCHER: He's going to what?
WENDY'S HUSBAND: I'm trying to take my kids to school,you fucking idiot.
WENDY: He's like, you're not going to get away with this.You're not going to get away with this.And then, he goes, I'm going to take the kids.That's it, I'm taking the kids.
WENDY'S HUSBAND: [YELLING]
POLICE DISPATCHER: How many children are there?
WENDY: There's two.
POLICE DISPATCHER: How old are the children?
WENDY'S HUSBAND: Fucking slut.You are a fucking bitch.You're going to fucking pay for t now, man.
POLICE DISPATCHER: Getting police out to see you.[DISPATCHER SPEAKS INTO POLICE RADIO]
WENDY: I ran-- grabbed the kids, ran to the car.We all got in the car, locked the car doors.And he's trying to open the doors.And he's banging on the window, let me in.Let me in.
SARAH FERGUSON: Wendy decided to give the girls'father another chance.
WENDY: I went back to that house and he stillwas like, no, I didn't hit you.It was just a little slap.And because I'm not violent, I'm not physical like that,I was just like, OK.I will just take it for the kids, again.I'll just cop it on the-- pretty muchjust cop it on the chin for them.
SARAH FERGUSON: Did it ever cross your mindthat you could leave and start another life?
WENDY: No.No, because I've always-- because of my background,family has been important to me.And I've always wanted my kids to have their dad around,and to know who their dad is.
SARAH FERGUSON: One morning, in May this year,the situation got out of control again.
WENDY: He's stormed into the room,he's forced himself on me.As he's gotten up, gotten changed, he's yelled at meto get up and get changed.And he's dragged me to the [INAUDIBLE],told me to get cash out because there wasn't enoughmoney in my wallet for him.And I was just like, I've got to give these guy money,
WENDY [continued]: because if I don't, I don't know what's going to happen to me.I've already been raped.So I gave him the money, and he just kept yelling at me.I don't remember what he was saying, because when he startsyelling, I sort of black out.And I was just like, stop the car.Stop the car.Can you stop the car?He's, no, I'm not stopping the car.
WENDY [continued]: And he goes to me, if you want to get out of a car,you have to jump, bitch, jump.And I go, well, I will.I can't take this anymore.So I jumped out.
SARAH FERGUSON: Do you understandwhat made you reach for the door at that moment?I needed to escape, just needed to get out.
CHILD: Mama, mama!
SARAH FERGUSON: When she jumped from the car,Wendy fractured her skull and spent 10 days in hospital.She never went back to her home.For now, the refuge is the only home she and the children have.
SARAH FERGUSON [continued]: There are 28 children in the refuge.Most of them are too young to knowtheir home is protected by cameras, doorcodes, and security lights.The older children are told not to reveal the location.Good night, moon.Good night, moon.
SARAH FERGUSON [continued]: See you tomorrow.[CHILDREN LAUGHING]
SARAH FERGUSON: Did you know there was anywherelike this for you?
WENDY: I knew there was, but I don't know it was this good.
SARAH FERGUSON: What did you think a refuge was?
WENDY: Like it was dark, and dingy.And people with like real bad problems,who are going to abuse me or my children.But everyone's just been so positive and helpful.I feel like it's my fault I didn't leave earlier.If I'd known, I would have left at the first time
WENDY [continued]: I got yelled at.I would have just gone, no, I'm out.I'm know I've got a safe place to go.
SARAH FERGUSON: What about actually feeling safe?Do you feel safe here?
WENDY: Definitely, because there's the cameras out there.There's the emergency phones out there.There's two.I feel like I've got support.Like a backup if something happens.
SARAH FERGUSON: Yeah, you're not on your own.
WENDY: Yeah, that's it.
SARAH FERGUSON: Bedtime for the children.
WENDY: Do you want to sleep together,or do you want to sleep separated?
CHILD: Sleep together.
WENDY: Yeah, sleep together?Come on, help me push it together.Whoa.Change the pillowcase.Move out of the way or you're going to get squished in there.Give it a push over [INAUDIBLE].Jump in.
WENDY [continued]: All right, good night.Don't annoy each other.Close your eyes, go to sleep.Love you.
SARAH FERGUSON: Ah, they're falling asleep.Nearly?
SARAH FERGUSON: Night night.
WENDY: They're not comfortable being alone yet.And just that security that they have someone there beside them.
SARAH FERGUSON: Are they scared still?
WENDY: Yeah, just the noises around the hallways.Their first night, she said, um Mommy, what if that's Daddycoming to yell at you again?And all three of us just went, like it was just a big pause.No, no, no, it's OK.We're safe here.
SARAH FERGUSON: I think the reality is just beginningto sink in a little bit.The thought of those women with their children,now in bed, in a refuge, with lockson the doors, codes to get in, hardly anybodyknows where this place is.And all of those women here because the homes
SARAH FERGUSON [continued]: that they've come from are too dangerous, one way or another,for them to return to.And that's a situation that we tolerate in Australia.
JANELL: [INAUDIBLE] And what were her injuries?
SARAH FERGUSON: I'm back in Blacktownat the police domestic violence unit.
JENNA BUTLER: OK, so a job's just come overfrom priority domestic.So we'll make our way out there.Let's go.
SARAH FERGUSON: Jenna Butler is oneof five specially trained domestic violence officersin the unit.A young woman has been assaulted overnight.Jenna and her partner want her to see a forensic doctorto record the injuries.
JENNA BUTLER: She was a victim of a serious domestic assault.She's got a few injuries, so we'regoing to take her along to the forensic doctor that'sat Blacktown hospital.So that way we've got the expert evidenceto help towards the court case.It's very important to get it done today, because you know,the swelling will go down and the bruising will go away.So we want to get to the doctor at the earliest time,
JENNA BUTLER [continued]: so that the injuries can be noted as theywere when it actually happened.
SARAH FERGUSON: The young woman is 28.We'll call her Rachel.We can't identify her or her home.Her ex-partner is wanted by police,and he's still at large.
RACHEL: And also, after he threatened my family,I rang my mom straight away and told my mombecause I was worried.
JENNA BUTLER: Are you going to go stay upwith your mom for a bit?
JENNA BUTLER: This one's going to take a little while longerbecause we have to investigate it.But the quicker we've got your statement, the better.
SARAH FERGUSON: Rachel is being brought to Dr. Marie Anitas.She runs the only forensic domestic violenceservice in Australia.Her photographs are used as evidencein police prosecutions.They also provide a grim catalog of Australia'sdomestic violence crisis.
MARIE ANITAS: All right.Grab a seat, darling.OK.My name's Marie Anitas, I'm the staff specialiston today for forensic medicine.So what we'll do, if you're OK with it,is we'll going at story about what happened.We'll document your injuries and some diagrams.We'll take some photos, and then we'llput it together in an expert certificateformat with an opinion, which we'll hand to police,
MARIE ANITAS [continued]: if you're OK with that.
SARAH FERGUSON: Rachel has been assaulted four timesby her partner.This is the first time she's involved police.
MARIE ANITAS: So on the 23rd, so on the Tuesday,what was going on?What happened?
RACHEL: I remember just being pinned upagainst the wall strangling me.I couldn't breathe.
MARIE ANITAS: OK.
RACHEL: And then, not long after that, Iremember just collapsing and then falling to the floor.
MARIE ANITAS: I can see the injurieson your eye at the moment.So what we're going to do is we'regoing to attempt to capture that with photos.Now what I want to do is I want to kind of see that hemorrhagein the top of the eye.Is it in all directions when you look that you'vegot a blurred vision?
MARIE ANITAS: OK.Can you feel me touch you here?
MARIE ANITAS: That's tender down there?Like on the cheek.What about here?
RACHEL: Yeah. [GROANS]
MARIE ANITAS: There we go.Yes, you've got a huge lump.OK, so how do you think that one happened,this lump on the side?
RACHEL: I don't know.He hit me, or something.
MARIE ANITAS: In this last episode?
MARIE ANITAS: If we were looking at all the thingsthat he's done over the years, is this the worst of it?
MARIE ANITAS: Right.
RACHEL: He's headbutted me.I was dazed.Split my face open.And as I went to open my eyes, I couldn't evenopen my eyes because I had that much blood running down my faceand running into my eyes that I couldn't even see.
RACHEL [continued]: [CRYING]
MARIE ANITAS: Look, I know telling the story is difficult.I mean, that would be.So what are you thinking when youhear all the stuff that he's done to you over these years?
RACHEL: Broken.Ruined.I just feel like a huge idiot.
SARAH FERGUSON: Why do you feel like an idiot?
RACHEL: For giving him so many chances.For forgiving, for staying.
SARAH FERGUSON: Do you know why youdid stay after he'd hurt you?Why you let him back into your life?
RACHEL: I held onto that hope of that personI believed and thought was a beautiful, kind, caring person.
SARAH FERGUSON: Even though he'd hurt you so badly?
RACHEL: Yeah.Hearing all the stories, and yet it happened again, and again,and again.Eventually, I began to feel that I deserved nothingbetter than what I received and got from him.And his just felt as though I was worthless.
SARAH FERGUSON: And how did he make you feel like that?
RACHEL: Telling me that no one else would care for meor love me the way he did.Telling me that after all the damage that's happened to me,no one would ever look at me.
SARAH FERGUSON: And you believed that?
RACHEL: Yeah, I did.
SARAH FERGUSON: No matter how many patientsDr. Anitas sees, their answers still surprise her.
MARIE ANITAS: Oh my God, that's-- it's distressing,isn't it?
SARAH FERGUSON: Yeah.
MARIE ANITAS: And it's heartbreakingwhen you hear her say it's all her responsibility.You know, I'm embarrassed about it.I feel like I'm silly.I feel like I'm worthless.
SARAH FERGUSON: I think she said, I'm an idiot.
MARIE ANITAS: I'm an idiot.And you go, oh my God.
SARAH FERGUSON: For Jenna, getting a statement from Rachelwas a breakthrough.For Rachel, it may be enough to break the cycle.What are you able to say to peoplethat makes them able, as she was,to make that step for the first timeafter lots and lots of assaults?
JENNA BUTLER: I think it's just about empathizing with them,and explaining to them what we can offer them.That's the biggest thing is we go there and we just-- like,we're very blunt.And that's the only way to be.You've got to go there, and you've got to say,if you don't give us a statement and this keeps happening,you'll end up dead.
WENDY: Go get changed.It's-- it's 8:30.
SARAH FERGUSON: The refuge is a place for some womento take a first step away from violent partners.The day I arrived, a woman was beingbrought in having escaped from the family homewith her daughter.She's gained enough confidence to talk a littleabout the life she ran from.
SARAH FERGUSON [continued]: Everyone was quite anxious about you the day that you arrived.And I think you were quite afraid when you came.
WOMAN: I have been threatened that if I everreport being hit, my ex-husband say to me he will kill me.So I was so scared because of that reason.And because I know, if he gets to me,maybe that's the end of me.
SARAH FERGUSON: Was there a lot of violence in your life?
WOMAN: A lot.It didn't stop.It kept going.When there is an argument, that's how he'll stop it,because if he hit me, I will stop arguingand just start crying.One time, he hit me with a fist on my eye.And that time I went to work, they
WOMAN [continued]: asked me, I was saying it's a bee stingbecause it's so embarrassing even to say it,like how it's happened.I don't know.I don't-- [CRYING]
SARAH FERGUSON: Was there no one you could talk to at the time?
WOMAN: No.I was giving it a chance.I didn't get married to separate or to let my kids grow upwithout their parents.I got married to make it work.And that's why I was so strong.I was staying there and I couldn't leave.
SARAH FERGUSON: So what would yousay to someone who is in the same position that you were in?
WOMAN: I'll say, they don't have to live like this.They don't have to.It doesn't start that bad.It starts with one slap.Then kick.And then by the end of that, somebody gets a knifeand stabs you.
SARAH FERGUSON: So get out is what you're saying?
WOMAN: Yeah.Get out and leave.
SARAH FERGUSON: So what happens when a victim leaves but thenhas to face their partner in court?In Lake Macquarie, the trial of Isabella's husbandis about to begin.Isabella is in the safe room.
SARAH FERGUSON [continued]: How nervous are you?
ISABELLA CULLEN: I feel very shaky.Feel like I'm going to be sick.
SARAH FERGUSON: For legal reasons,we can't show Isabella's husband in court.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: Your honor.I call my first witness, your honor, Constable Taylor.
SARAH FERGUSON: In the safe room,Isabella can see into the court through the two-way mirror.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: And Constable,in relation to the matter, you attended, I think, about 3:20in the morning?
CONSTABLE TAYLOR: Yes.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: How would youdescribe Ms. Cullen on that evening, in relationto intoxication.
CONSTABLE TAYLOR: OK.At worst, I'd say slightly.She was steady on her feet, conversation was coherent.She wasn't slurring her words.Couldn't smell any alcohol or intoxicatingliquor on her breath when speaking to her.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: Is it your practiceto obtain statements from someone who is intoxicated?
CONSTABLE TAYLOR: No.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: Thank you.Nothing further, your honor.Your honor, I call Isabella Cullen.
COURT CLERK: Isabella?Just up here, please.
COURT CLERK: Do you solemnly declare and affirmthat the evidence you share [INAUDIBLE]will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothingbut the truth?Please say the words, I do.
ISABELLA CULLEN: I do.
COURT CLERK: Good.Take a seat, please.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: As a matter that [INAUDIBLE] 2015,you actually went out with a number of friends.Is that correct?
ISABELLA CULLEN: Yes.I've had to give prior warning, like a week's warningthat I'm going out, to tell him.And he said, well I can only go out if he drops me offand he picks me up at midnight.I felt very stressed all night, because I was getting--
PROSECUTION LAWYER: Why did you feel stressed.
ISABELLA CULLEN: Phone calls.And he doesn't like when there's intoxicated people around me.He doesn't trust the guys around me when they're intoxicated.The drive home, we argued the whole time.And I was just worried, because he was still angry at me.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: What were you worried about?
ISABELLA CULLEN: What he's going to do,because of what he's done before when I've been out.And um--
PROSECUTION LAWYER: And what's that?
ISABELLA CULLEN: Oh, he's hit me before.Oh, I was just been advised that whenI feel something is going to happen,I should distance myself from him.So I just walked around the block,trying to make some time for him to maybe calm down.And I-- I went-- I got back home.And he um-- he said, where did you go?
ISABELLA CULLEN [continued]: And I said, I just went for a walk around the block.And he said, I can finish you off.And he raised his fists.I don't remember what happened then.I woke up on the bed wit him slapping me face,holding our son.
ISABELLA CULLEN [continued]: And I just remember putting me hand to me head.And it was just covered in blood.And then I went to the door to get out of the bedroom.And he's standing in the way.He says, you're not going anywhere.And I said, but I need to get some help.And he punched me in my eye.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: When you say he punched youin the eye, which eye did he punch you?
ISABELLA CULLEN: He punched me in my right eye.And I just remember holding on to meface because everything went white.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: Isabella has attended a course runby police prosecutors to prepare her for cross-examinationby her husband's lawyer.
DEFENSE LAWYER: In terms of the evidence you've given today,I put to you that that didn't occur.
ISABELLA CULLEN: It did.
DEFENSE LAWYER: I would suggest to youthat you injured yourself when you were out of the premises,because you were intoxicated.
ISABELLA CULLEN: No, that's not true.
DEFENSE LAWYER: I put it to you that youbumped your head at some point when you weren't in the house.
ISABELLA CULLEN: That's not true.He knows it's not true.He knows that he punched me, and he gave methe ice packs for my eye.
DEFENSE LAWYER: I would suggest to youthat when he woke you up, he was attempting to revive you.
ISABELLA CULLEN: Yes.
DEFENSE LAWYER: To get your attention.I would suggest to you that if he knew why you blacked out,he wouldn't say, what's wrong?And he wouldn't be leaning over you tapping you on the cheek,trying to revive you.
ISABELLA CULLEN: You don't know my husband, then.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: If the witnesscould be shown exhibit two.What do those show?
ISABELLA CULLEN: My swollen eye.And a bit of blood on my nose, and a swollen lip.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: Photo three?
ISABELLA CULLEN: That's the bloodon the bed from the back of my head.And four's the same.And five is the blood on the floor in the kitchen.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: Just take your time.Just take your time.
ISABELLA CULLEN: And six is the blood on the curtain.And seven's the blood on the tiles.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: I think the witness could be excused.
JUDGE: Thank you, you're excused, ma'am.
COURT CLERK: Do you swear by almighty Godthat the evidence you shall give willbe the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?Please say the words, I do.
BEN CULLEN: I do.
COURT CLERK: Take a seat, sir.
BEN CULLEN: Thank you.
DEFENSE LAWYER: Now, if we could take you backto the evening of the seven, eighth of January.Were you happy that she was going out?
BEN CULLEN: Well, I wasn't overly impressed about itbecause we had a 12-month old at home.And Izzy told me earlier in the week that she wanted to go.I was like, well, OK, on the basisthat I'll pick you up at midnight and I'll drop you off.Isabella, she's a-- she's a great woman.But when she drinks, her behavioris-- it's very outlandish.
BEN CULLEN [continued]: You don't know what's coming next when she's been drinking.
DEFENSE LAWYER: During the period afteryou dropped her off, did you ring her at all?
BEN CULLEN: Yeah, I did.I was looking on Facebook.I was wanting to keep track of where she was so Iknew where to pick her up from.
DEFENSE LAWYER: You've heard allegations today--
BEN CULLEN: I have.
DEFENSE LAWYER: That at some pointyou punched her in the eye?
BEN CULLEN: I did hear that, yes.
DEFENSE LAWYER: Is that accurate?
BEN CULLEN: That's totally incorrect.
DEFENSE LAWYER: Nothing further, thank you.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: I put it to youthat in relation to the evidence that you've given today,that none of it's true, is it?
BEN CULLEN: No, that's not true.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: OK.And I put it to you she was fearful of you.
BEN CULLEN: No, she was intoxicated.[INAUDIBLE]
PROSECUTION LAWYER: I'll ask the questions.
BEN CULLEN: Sorry.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: And then she wentand walked for 15, 20 minutes to get away from you, didn't she?
BEN CULLEN: So she says.I don't know why she went for a walk.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: I put it to youthat she ended up lying on the ground at the back doorbecause you struck her.
BEN CULLEN: If that's what you want to say, fine.But it's not--
PROSECUTION LAWYER: You need to give a response to that.
BEN CULLEN: I'm telling you that's not true at all.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: Well, I'm putting an allegation to you.I put it to you that you struck her at the back door,and that's why she was lying at the back door.
BEN CULLEN: That is not true.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: And I put it to youthat you have punched her in the right eye.
BEN CULLEN: I did not punch her in the right eye.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: And you have said words to herthat, I could finish you off in the pool?
BEN CULLEN: That-- that-- allegedly, I said that.I did not say that.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: I put those words to you.
BEN CULLEN: What was the question?Did I say I was going to drown her in the pool?
PROSECUTION LAWYER: Finish her off in the pool?
BEN CULLEN: No.
PROSECUTION LAWYER: Nothing further, your honor.
JUDGE: I find that the prosecution has provenbeyond reasonable doubt that he has occasionedan assault to Ms. Cullen, and that occasioned actual bodilyharm in my view, which is completely inconceivable,his version of events.In relation to the breach of the apprehended violence order,in my view tracking her on Facebook,
JUDGE [continued]: ringing her on the number of occasions that he did,this does amount to conduct amounting to harassment.I've revoked your bail, so you'llbe taken into custody now.OK, thank you.If there's nothing further, we'll adjourn.
SARAH FERGUSON: Isabella's husbandwas found guilty of assault and sentenced to just over threeyears in prison.
SARAH FERGUSON [continued]: While I was away from the refuge, one of the young womengave birth.We'll call her Jessica.She came back from the hospital with her baby to her roomat the refuge.Eight months earlier, a terrifying incidentoccurred with her ex-partner.
SARAH FERGUSON [continued]: [PHONE RINGING]
JESSICA: Someone's got a gun!
POLICE DISPATCH: Yeah, just bear with me.So who has a gun?
JESSICA: My ex.
POLICE DISPATCH: OK, just bear with me.I'm getting police on the way, OK?[SOBBING]
POLICE DISPATCH: Is he still there now?
JESSICA: Yes.He's got the gun.
POLICE DISPATCH: OK.I've got a message off to the police, OK?[YELLING]
POLICE DISPATCH: OK, what's your name?[GUNSHOT] [SCREAMING]
JESSICA: He's just shot.He's just shot.He's just shot.Please hurry.
POLICE DISPATCH: Yes.The police are less than five minutes away, OK?[SOBBING]
SARAH FERGUSON: He's now waiting for sentencing over that event.Jessica, aged 21 and pregnant, was homeless.So he doing?
JESSICA: Good, good.
SARAH FERGUSON: Sleeping?
JESSICA: Yeah, he's a good baby.Very good baby.
SARAH FERGUSON: And you're good in here, in your little nest?
SARAH FERGUSON: Before she came here,Jessica faced losing her baby to a family services.
MANDY GREENY: She was actually couch surfing from place,to place, to place.So when I contacted her, and she was like basically in tears.And she just kept on saying, I'verang-- I keep on ringing every day.I ring every day, and nobody will take me.And I'm like-- I basically stopped asking the questionsand was like, it's sweet.We'll take you.Like, it's fine.
SARAH FERGUSON: So what will you tell himabout the first few weeks of his life when he's older?
JESSICA: We're very lucky to be here.If it wasn't for this place, I probablywouldn't have got to keep him with me.Because if I have no suitable accommodation,then docs have no choice but to take the child.
SARAH FERGUSON: And that's because you were living?
JESSICA: On someone's couch.
SARAH FERGUSON: Yeah.So starting his life in a refuge was a good thing.
JESSICA: Yeah.It may not sound like a good thing.But considering the other options, it certainly was.[BABY CRYING]
JESSICA: [INAUDIBLE].Come here, baby.It's all right, mister.
SARAH FERGUSON: What about him?Have you figured that out?What you'll do with him to make sure he's a good man?
JESSICA: I think it all depends on the people that they grow uparound and the things that they see.And I'm not going to have him grow uparound people who think it's OK to scream at women,or raise a hand.But I don't think he would be like that.
SARAH FERGUSON: Most of the children in the refugeknow what it's like to grow up around screaming and fighting.Joe, as we'll call him, came to the refugewhen his stepfather broke his mother's jaw.
JOE: Yeah, I heard everything.So all I really did was just hide in my room.It's the only thing I could do.The night that mom's jaw was broken,I knew he would hurt her one day.Just wasn't expecting it.I did hear a punch.And then I heard mom say, you broke my jaw.
SARAH FERGUSON: Did you feel like you should do somethingabout that?Or was there nothing you could do?
JOE: There was nothing I could do.I wanted to do something, but.
SARAH FERGUSON: What can you do?
JOE: Mm.I was only a 10-year-old kid then.
SARAH FERGUSON: Yep.Do you feel safe here?
SARAH FERGUSON: Do you ever still get a bit scaredsometimes?
JOE: Yeah.Sometimes I think he might find me.
SARAH FERGUSON: And what are you afraid of?
JOE: I'm mostly afraid of him coming back and breakingmy jaw, because if he's done it to mom,he doesn't care anymore.So he could do it to me.
SARAH FERGUSON: Do you understand why peoplehurt each other like that?
JOE: Not really.I don't get it.I don't get it why he doesn't obey the law,because boys can't hit girls.But he doesn't care.I really just want to say that he was a bad father.I want to go right up to his faceand say that, you were a very bad father.
WENDY: [INAUDIBLE] baby.
CHILD: I don't want to go to school.I don't want to go to school.
SARAH FERGUSON: For now, the motherstry to keep up a normal routine, sending their childrenof to school from the refuge.After dropping off the children, Wendy has a doctor's visit.
SARAH FERGUSON [continued]: She's having a brain scan.When she jumped from the car to escape her partner,she fractured her skull.The doctor wants to see if it's healing.
DOCTOR: So you can see that the fracture actuallysort of went right across the base of her skulland across through the middle ear cavityinto the temporal bone, here.There's a significant amount of force related to that,so you are probably actually injuring the brain inside.The fracture line actually goes through the seventh nerve.
DOCTOR [continued]: That nerve actually helps in sortof like your facial expression.
SARAH FERGUSON: So there's no reasonwhy that can't come back?
DOCTOR: Sometimes it's just like transient.It's like just the nerve's swollen,and so it doesn't work properly becauseof a result of the trauma.But [INAUDIBLE] important complications.
SARAH FERGUSON: So she'll just keep getting better?
DOCTOR: She will.
WENDY: When I woke up out of hospital,my whole face was swollen up, especially this side.Even my skull here, where it's fractured,was a big lump out the back, here.And my hair felt like it was stuck into my skull.
WENDY [continued]: This side was just paralyzed, like that.And I couldn't even close this eye all the way.It was just half.It was just like it was numb, the whole-- just numb.Even the inside of my mouth, all the way in the gumswas all swollen in.I felt like, not me, like it wasn't me
WENDY [continued]: that I was looking at.I still don't feel like me.I even stopped putting makeup on.What's the point?I feel like I'm just a different person, completely.
WENDY [continued]: Even every day I notice little things,like this line has come back in my face.And the black eye here has gone.I could have been worse, like the GP said.I am lucky to be alive.I thank God for that, and this is juststuff that doesn't really matter.
SARAH FERGUSON: Wendy is recovering slowly.What started with attempts by her partnerto control her behavior and her lifeled to the gradual undermining of her self-worth.The heartbreaking dilemma for her
SARAH FERGUSON [continued]: was the same for all of the women I met.How to break the bonds of an abusive relationshipbefore the violence became unbearable.Next, on Hitting Home, how do youknow how much danger you're in?
SPEAKER 12: I didn't realize what this guy has capable of.
POLICEMAN: You've been recorded in 22 AVOs.
SARAH FERGUSON: You're a big bloke.If you were wild, I reckon I'd be really scared.
SPEAKER 2: Yeah.
SPEAKER 13: When do you draw a line in the sandand say no more of this.
SARAH FERGUSON: When you look around the room,what do you see?
SPEAKER 14: Hope.
SPEAKER 15: He will try to come back and tell you he's changed.
SPEAKER 16: It's very hard.
SPEAKER 15: People like him unfortunately don't change
SARAH FERGUSON: What were the things that you didthat made her afraid of you.
BEN CULLEN: I don't think she is afraid of me.
SPEAKER 6: I hate him so fucking much.
Hitting Home, Part 1
View Segments Segment :
Domestic violence has historically been a hidden problem, only recently coming into the open. Sarah Ferguson examines the domestic violence crisis across Australia and how the violence starts. This documentary examines individual stories of abuse, domestic violence courts, and programs designed to help domestic violence victims.
Domestic violence has historically been a hidden problem, only recently coming into the open. Sarah Ferguson examines the domestic violence crisis across Australia and how the violence starts. This documentary examines individual stories of abuse, domestic violence courts, and programs designed to help domestic violence victims.