Sam reflects on the challenges she faced in accessing the right help and support after IPSV.
Sgt Kerry McKay from Qld Police discusses police responses when women seek help for IPSV and gives insight into the process of proceeding through the criminal justice system.
This podcast contains information and stories relating to sexual violence and domestic violence against women and maybe triggering to survivors. I was happy to leave, but cultural stuff from back home prevented me. I can't go ahead and pregnant and husbandless. When I was still in the relationship. I tried to talk to my family first, but the conversation didn't go anywhere. I don't think there was the understanding to deal with what I was trying to tell them. The police didn't listen to me. I went back to my ex and he laughed at me. He said, no one's ever going to believe you. You're all show. It's all fake. Most women just accept the situation, particularly when you're married because that's just what you're expected to do. First I spoke to an Australian friend who taught it was horrific and then I spoke to my family and they had a very different response. They implied that the behaviour was normal and that I was married and had kids, so I just have to put up with it. It was quite confusing. This podcast is part of a series which were created by women with lived experiences of intimate partner sexual violence and workers in the field of domestic violence and sexual violence, intimate partner sexual violence, also referred to as IPSV can be difficult to define and for every woman who has experienced it, it can mean something different. For the purpose of these podcasts, we have come up with a definition that we hope is inclusive to all women and all experiences. Intimate partner sexual violence, IPSV is any form of sexual assault that takes place within an intimate relationship, whether the parties are married or not. It includes rape the use of force, threats or coercion to obtain sexual acts, shaming and not respecting a person's sexual or physical privacy. All of these can be used to gain power and control over a partner within an intimate relationship. The information provided in this podcast contains no advice and gives general information only listeners should not act on the basis of any material in this podcast without obtaining specific expert professional advice about their own particular situation. The Nundah Community Support Group Inc expressly disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any persons with respect to any action taken in reliance to the contents of this publication. In this podcast titled Why is it so hard to get help? We look at barriers for seeking help for intimate partner sexual violence. First we hear from Sam, who shares her experience of seeking help from the police and going through the criminal justice system.Speaker 2:
I was in a marriage for a number of years, where incidents took place and it wasn't till my marriage was over and then it became part of a domestic violence order that I tried to find help. I found the police weren't helpful for me because they didn't offer me support or resources or suggest anything I could do or find someone to talk to. So I then searched the yellow pages myself, in the hopes I could find someone, a counsellor or someone who, I could talk to about this kind of thing and try and help me through it but that took a long time to try and find some, cause I didn't know where to look first. So, I think scouring the Yellow Pages and then trying to sort of find something through them. But then maybe I found from speaking to one organisation, they were then able to put me on to someone else. So I finally found someone who had a good understanding of domestic violence to help me. I initially went to the police to seek help for the physical and verbal abuse and gave my statement and my statement I had put in to do with the sexual violence. But I found from that they still didn't offer me or suggest anything I could do or make me feel like that was an integral part of everything else that had been going on with the physical and verbal stuff. I didn't know what the resources were available at the time. And I had no family with me or friends or anything. It was just by myself and the kids. So I had sort of try and, you know, I talk a yellow page search and see what I could find. So initially when I went to the police to tell them about the domestic violence that had been happening and what had gone on, I guess I felt like I would have got support with the whole lot, not just to do an order up for the physical and verbal abuse and because it was never brought up by them or was never mentioned by an officer I spoke to then I guess I didn't, I don't know, I was a little bit, I don't know, I disillusioned I guess or a bit deflated that that wasn't taken into account, the sexual violence, but yet that have been, you know, a very big part of my marriage. So when they didn't ask me about it or discuss it or talk about it, then I just felt like, I don't know if it must have felt like I wasn't, I'm not worthy of them to even discuss it. Like, it wasn't an important part of what had happened in my life. But it was, it was a huge part. When my statement was given to police, they did send me to a Domestic Violence Liaison Officer and that was to go through the statement. It was like 15 pages of it. And sexual violence was part of this. It went to court. I didn't go to court because I was still in fear of my ex husband, so I wouldn't go myself, but the Domestic Violence Liaison Officer went on behalf of me and they let me know what had, what was the outcome of the court case and from that she said that he had pleaded guilty to all of it, except for the sexual violence side. He didn't plead guilty to that at all. And from that, that made me feel that, I don't know, I felt like it wasn't the most believed by the court system then that it had taken place, but i knew it did, because, you know, I'd had a long period of time of this happening. So yeah, I didn't go to court, but it went, it just, I didn't take that into consideration. So, and they didn't question him over it after it was done. So the ladies who are listening to this, please don't be scared or afraid to go to the police with your story to do with the sexual violence of your relationship. You know, it's not the same for everybody. I, for myself, I think it was the police I dealt with the time, didn't take into consideration and didn't think of how this affected my life at the time. So, you know, please go the police. If anything like this happening, don't ever feel scared or afraid and think that you'll never be listened to because you will be. I think the most challenging part of the court process, even though I didn't physically go myself, was just the time leading up to when it was going to court. I became very stressed and concerned and I was more worried what was he going to do after the court case. But I was assured by the Domestic Violence Liaison Officer that my safety would be taken into consideration. I was grateful I wasn't there that day. I didn't want to be there. I was actually very scared to go that day, but that was myself. Some of us are stronger than others, you know, and others can, who I think are much stronger, can withstand going to court and going through the process. I was very grateful when It was over and I was very grateful they gave me that order and that just made me feel a bit better that I had some kind of protection for us put in place I anything I said or what not was never ever taken consideration through my marriage. And I think that made it a little bit hard for me to go and seek someone as well. I still had that fear element in me to even talk to someone. But I found when I finally got there and got to talk to someone, I felt like a little bit better that someone's actually listening to me and actually listening to my story and making me feel that what had happened wasn't my fault. So you know, I was very stressed, even going into the very first appointment to even talk to someone about that stuff. It's not something that I ever wanted to talk about was the part that I wanted to keep hidden away from myself because I felt very ashamed and very degraded with some of the things that had happened and didn't feel, I thought if I tell someone else that are they going to treat me the same way that the police had and not listened to me and tried to sort of give me the support I needed at the time. I know when I first talked about this was to my mom and at first I don't think she believed me or she didn't think he was capable of doing what he had done. And it took me a long time to actually tell my mum lives because it was something i didn't want to tell anybody. So when she, when we sort of sat down and talked about it, she You know, she's very supportive and she was very upset because she felt like she why did I, not go to her, what am I tell her and you know, that I explained was it was one of those things that I didn't want to tell or talk to anybody about. When I've talked to friends but you know, I knew very close friends who know about it. One in particular had dealt with social violence in her life. So we had that connection, I guess we felt, you know, she knew what I was talking about because she had experienced it herself. So with her, I got a lot of support, so that was good talking to her, I've talked to another family member in recent times who had gone through sexual violence themselves within a different aspect and different, not within a domestic violence relationship and for them, They felt like they had or they feel like, they have a connection with me because we've shared very similar experiences within our lifetime, but for other people as people that other people haven't told, because it's still that fear of judgement. You know, and not believing that he was ever of doing things like that because initially people didn't think he could ever do what he's done. I've never told my kids cause it's something I don't want my kids to ever know. It's, you know, I don't think they need to know what their father had done in that aspect. So I've never told them. I'm very fortunate to have spoken to, I love the counsellor who, I guess for different times of my life has been, I've been, I felt very comfortable and able to talk to her a bit about different experiences. So I've been very lucky. When I had the discussion with my friends, um, about sexual violence that had happened myself from my ex husband and then she had taught me of her experience. Okay. So for me at the time, even though I had gone through it, it's saddened me initially to hear what she had gone through herself. So when we first, when we both sat down and talked about and she told me what had happened with her and we talked about what happened with me. You know, I think we both sat there in tears together kind of thing, but it was not so much sad tear It was just, it was tears of someone else understanding each other. We both had been through the same situation. So I feel very lucky and very fortunate that she had been through the same thing as I had in just in the, in the aspect of that we both understood where each other was, what happened to each other. You know, and now a long time down the track, her and I are very close friends, and I think this was one of the things that helped to bond our friendship. I would think my biggest barrier was I think fear, fear that, you know, if I found someone, would they believe me? Would they support me? Would they help me? Would they just understand what had happened in my lifetime? You know, what had happened and not judge me. You know, on things that had happened with him and that was the biggest thing. I think it's, which was such a long time to then go find help somewhere. It was always that fear of being judged and fear of someone just not understanding, you know, what had happened and how it helped made you feel. I think for me, again, fear was a big thing of trying to seek help for this during my marriage, you know, because of all the different threats that he would put out. You know, if you go do this, I'm going to do this. If you go tell someone I will do this to you. So it was fear. It was always fear of him, you know, he was, he was a much bigger build than myself. I had no one. He, you know, he moved us from state to state with no family, no friends. So it was the isolation as well. I had no one, I could physically go to through different times to tell anyone, you know? And then I was just scared that if I told someone I was petrified of what he was going to do had I said something. So I lived in fear during that time and that was the only reason why I wouldn't go to seeing them because I was scared of what he would do if I did do, are they ever going to sort of talk to him and he's gonna say, oh well, you know, she just, she just made this stuff up. I never did any of this stuff, you know, but then I had the physical scars and bruises and whatnot from what he had done during the sexual violence as well. But you still get, but please don't, don't let fear stop you seeking help. If I could go back now, if I could go back, I would definitely change the way I did things and I would, I would be much stronger. I think myself and I would stand up to him and I'll just walk out the door and I would go find someone to talk to even if it was just, if you've got kids, even as just talking to the school Principal or the school counsellor or the chaplain. I wished I had just, if I could change it now, I would do, I would go back and change the way I did things, but it don't let fear stop you doing something. I think I would have, I think in hindsight, I look back now, I would have maybe gone to the police a bit sooner. I would have told someone else sooner. I wouldn't have let it go on for such a long time. When I told police the whole story, including the physical and verbal abuse, you know, I was fortunate that they put me on to the Domestic Violence Liaison Officer and through them they gave me the option of going into court or not going to court for that case. So that made me feel so much better to know that I didn't actually have to attend court on that day. I could just stay at home and they would go in my place and they would deal with it accordingly and then let me know what the result was after the court case had been and then, you know, make an appointment to go see them and have a chat with them and they would sort of go through the whole case of what had happened that day. So when I went to the place, I think you can, you know, the police don't make you, do an order in place or go through the court process. It's entirely up to you. So don't let fear stop you doing something if he wants to go through with it and you think it's the right thing for you at the time and you've got some kind of support, you know, either through the place or through the Domestic Violence Liaison Officer, you know, go ahead and do it. Don't let it be a thing that sort of stops you, but don't let it be a thing that makes you think that you have to go through with the court process. You don't have to. This is your life and your choice. You need to do what's right for you. At the time. For me at the time, that's what I chose to do. I just wanted to dealt with and I wanted someone to deal with him and You know, let them know that what he had done was not, was not right. I agreed to do this podcast because I would like to even be able to help one person, you know, if I can help one lady out there, Listen to my story as such, and know that, you know, it can be scary thing, but don't let it be a scary thing, you know? And I think doing this is good. I think it's going to help a lot of ladies out there know they're not alone. And that's the biggest thing is you feel like you're by yourself, that you have no one you can turn to. And I think with this, it's, you know, full of ladies out there who want to listen to this. You know, you're always going to be with someone. You never going to be alone. Someone's always going to be there to help you.Speaker 1:
We hope you found something to take away from Sam's Story. Now we hear from Sergeant Kerry Mckay who talks about what to expect from the police and their role in the criminal justice system.Speaker 5:
My name's Kerrie Mckay and I am a police officer in the Queensland Police Service. I'm a Sergeant of police and I've been a police officer for the last 30 years and I've spent the last 16 years within the domestic and family violence field. My role has evolved since I first started doing domestic and family violence where initially it was more, computer error work, making sure that we had covered everything within the domestic violence realm. But it's, now we've actually got a unit called the North Brisbane District Domestic and Family Violence Unit where we actually have a group of people who actually, we overview all the domestics within the North Brisbane area. Then we actually go out and speak to the high risk people involved, the aggrieved and respondents. So in relation to addressing intimate partner sexual violence over my years in this position, there's been very limited amounts reported. Unfortunately it'd be my opinion that perhaps people don't come forward as a result of this because it's a very difficult conversation to have. As I explained to operational police. Can you imagine somebody coming into your home, a police officer. So with all our accoutrements, we wear coming into your personal space and then you asking them what's happened in their relationship and them having to share their most intimate details of their personal life, it would be extremely daunting for anyone, let alone about talking about maybe even a car accident, let alone something so personal. The brave women though I've spoken to who have actually shared their experience about intimate partner sexual violence, it's been a very difficult journey for them. Since I've been working in the domestic and family violence field for the last 16 years, it certainly has evolved. I went from previously doing internal auditing and over viewing domestic and family violence matters to now.:
Last year in November, 2018 we started a north Brisbane District Domestic and Family Violence and Vulnerable Persons Unit on the North side of Brisbane. And it's based at Stafford Police Station. We have 10 dedicated staff there who actually over view all the domestics for the North Brisbane area every single day. And then we actually go and personally visit our high risk victims and also respondents. Unfortunately intimate partner sexual violence is a growing industry. I suppose we could see that we needed to put more of a response in there. So the General Duties Officer is actually our core officers who actually go to the domestic and family violence matters and they do what they need to do either an application, it could be a variation, a breach of a DV or whatever the case may be. And then with the secondary component, the follow up component.Speaker 5:
So we actually go and we actually view it as an overall experience. So we're looking at how many times the police attended there in the past. What happened when we attended there in the past. You know, we've been there several times for numerous breaches, but we're actually not getting it before the court. What can we do differently? What can we do better? How can we think smarter to support this victim on going through this very difficult journey. And sometimes as well it might be something simple like looking at changing, varying the domestic violence order to what the aggrieved needs. So maybe she's got a no contact order which has like the clause unless you know, without written consent, we can actually go in, say that every time she must give written consent so then doesn't give that blanket coverage for a victim. Just sort of like drilling down further and looking at what the actual problems are and engaging with the agencies to help us to find a resolution. We don't want to tick a box. We actually want to dig into that box and get to the root of where the issues are. South Brisbane district actually started a Vulnerable Persons Unit about two years ago and I'm on the north side, we must've been a little bit slower. We started about 18 months after them. So, the first two areas within Queensland, I suppose north side of Brisbane, south side of Brisbane, there's, a huge, but there are sort of smaller ones popping up around the state, but we've probably got the most amount of staff as well as South Brisbane district in relation to this new and evolving field. So when I first started training, when I first joined the police service 30 years ago, there actually was unfortunately no Domestic and Family Violence Legislation. So I do remember going to numerous domestics and we could do nothing basically and I suppose with experience it's taught me that you've got to speak to people one on one. You've got to actually win over their trust. That's the most important thing. This is probably the worst thing that's ever happened to them. You've got to treat them like a person. We, we say to our first year Constables, think of that person as your mother, Auntie, uncle, sister. How would you want to see them treated? How would you want to, you know, have, you know, how would you want to see them treated? We always say to the place when we do the first year constable training, you know, it's very, this won't be the first time police have actually been called to this address. So your mannerisms, the way you act, the way you respond, the way you engage with that victim and that offender, they will always remember that. You won't remember them because you unfortunately are going to go to many of these similar incidences. But if you don't give those people your full attention, then you've lost that victim ever calling us again. And that would be such a disappointment that we've lost somebodies trust and faith in us. So we've got to get it right every time, the first time. And that's a hard thing to do. But that's what we would really like to encourage. So within our area in domestic and family violence specifically to intimate partner violence, there really isn't very much within the sector because it's an evolving area because people unfortunately still don't feel comfortable enough to come forward and report it. So, you know, the Queensland Police Service have been excellent that actually, anything that comes about within the sector or domestic and family violence, our unit is given an opportunity to attend courses and Conferences and we are all given equal opportunities because obviously these conferences are expensive. So we've got to look at our budget as well, but they definitely do want to encourage us and further, help our knowledge base in this, in this very specific field. And not only that, for many, many years and being within the Queensland Police myself, I have 16 years of domestic and family violence, so I've done some wrong things in my life, but I've learnt and that's where I can share my knowledge with the first year constables. And also we speak to our Criminal Investigation Branch as well when something's a little bit tricky that we might not know exactly how to handle it or even our Child Protection Investigation Unit as well in relation to sexual offences as well. So there's lots of different places to draw from its simply, you know, sharing our knowledge and trying to do what's best for the victim. So when we're investigating of a difficult matter, especially of the sexual nature, we really do try to bring all the services together and speak to the victim and get that information. So we don't have said the victim doesn't have to repeat this story ongoing. I've heard from numerous victims in the past that perhaps one of the, one of the most upsetting matters for them was having to repeat their story to the General Duties Officer, then to a specialised person then to the hospital staff, then to somebody else. And it sort of like becomes very mechanical and this is probably one of the worst things ever happened to this person. We want to make it an experience that they, it is a very difficult experience. We want to make it as pain free as possible and as smoothly as possible for that victim so they don't have to constantly relive this story. When a woman comes into a police station, reporting I've serious sexual matter, we do have an option of recording the victim's testimony with that victim's consent. And then we can use this evidence at a later time for court purposes. So the victim doesn't have to retell their story over and over again. Then when it goes to District Court, cause that's where very serious matters go to then the victims tape will be played in the court and then the victim would be allowed during most circumstances to be actually in a separate room where she would be questioned in a separate room and she won't actually have to face the offender. And then when questions are asked, there is usually a screen put over as well. So she's actually looking into the into the room as well, the courtroom. But she actually can't see the offender, so she doesn't have that extra pressure of someone glaring at her and making it feel very uncomfortable. So they actually have done a lot of thought in relation to this process on how to make it easier for women and anyone reporting something like this. But I suppose we're sort of a long way to go, but things are improving. So that's why it's really important to get this ongoing feedback, honestly, in any profession there's the good and the indifferent. But you know, things are definitely improving in this space. I just, because some, we've actually heard from numerous women over the years that they've gone to Police Station and they felt that they weren't being listened to and we're very sorry that that experience happened. we are always constantly improving our service. So I would say if you're going to your local police station and you wanted to report a matter, and it is all of a very intimate nature or you don't, because when you go to a local police station, it's an open forum and people could be there reporting, traffic accidents, you know, bail, all sorts of things. It's a very noisy area. So going there and waiting your turn and then having to tell somebody that you've just had, reporting intimate sexual violence or a domestic violence matter, you don't want to obviously share that with the rest of the foyer. So we'd just, so if you would say to the officer as a, as an example, look I'm here to report a matter of a personal nature. Can I please come into the, into a room and discuss this with you? So then you give the officer the heads up that that is something of a personal nature. And then they will lead you into our interview room and you can have a one on one conversation with them in the private sanctum of that, you know, a room and sometimes you know, women in particular may feel very uncomfortable speaking with men about intimate partner sexual violence or that sort of thing. They actually can ask for a female police officer to speak to. And if we can make that happen or we can arrange a time, then we were more than willing to, you know, that that woman would like to speak to another female, then that's absolutely fine. We will make that happen for that person if they would feel more comfortable in that situation. Some of the other barriers are sometimes we've seen within the Brisbane area, the CALD women in particular, which is women who come from diverse backgrounds. It'd be extremely challenging for any person to report sexual violence, let alone if when you come from a CALD community because the CALD communities are very insular. So when you, if you were to come out against your partner, then unfortunately sometimes, you know, other groups of people also get involved as well. It becomes a community issue, doesn't become an issue between the husband and wife anymore becomes a community issue with sometimes the community turning their backs on this victim. And this is a genuine true victim and it would, you know, it's hard enough like climbing a mountain to start with coming forward and and saying something, but losing all your friends and your family upon saying something would be extremely challenging. So that's a major barrier for the CALD community, which we do try to address in relation to getting them into, DV Connect as an example. We can put them into housing and then we can get some Case Workers and they can also as well a request interpreters to speak with those people. And then we try to perhaps engage them in their community. Maybe we, maybe, you know, there's a, there is the opportunity perhaps that we can relocate these people if they wanted to be relocated to another area, to reconnect with other CALD people in another area, not Brisbane as an example. So am I looking at domestic and family violence? Domestic violence application is actually a civil matter. So it means it's the balance of probabilities that it happened. So we don't have the proof beyond reasonable doubt, like a criminal matter. So we are saying that it probably did happen and we can actually go back as well evidence wise. You know, we can go back years and years into a relationship. You just don't wake up one day and become a victim of domestic violence or responded of domestic violence. There's lots of pre indicators prior to this happening, but women and even men involved, as aggrieved in domestic violence don't actually see those indicators because it becomes their every day it's their lived experiences as well. So sometimes it could be inter generational. Sometimes it's just simply, gradually, I suppose it's like cultivating that person, even grooming them. So, you know, sometimes you hear women look back and say, I don't know how I got here. A lot of victims feel that they're alone, that they are the only ones going through it. And when they actually Google it and see what domestic violence is, sometimes it's like that light, that light bulb moment and going back into when it becomes, so domestic violence, I said it's a civil matter, so it goes to um, domestic violence court and that's actually is a closed court. So only the aggrieved and responded are allowed in. And you can have a support person there as a victim and the Magistrate would be there with the Clerk of the Court and we probably would have as well a Police Prosecutor there. Other than that, nobody else is allowed in there because we understand that people are talking about very personal matters and we don't, you know, and that that's, information shouldn't be aired to the full public. So looking at a criminal matter then. An example would be if we went to a domestic violence matter and we took out a police application and the victim has divulged to us, intimate sexual violence, then we would actually look at that as well as a criminal matter. So we would do the domestic violence application, which is balance of probabilities and the criminal matter which is actually beyond reasonable doubt. So what we would need from the victim and we would ask them if they wanted to make a criminal complaint and then we would actually then ask them if we could take a statement from them in relation to what's happened. Victims tell me over and over again. The most important thing when they go to the police or tell anybody is that they just want to be believed. They don't want to be judged. The biggest barriers are being judged by your family, your friends, your work colleagues. You feel like the whole world knows your personal business. it's so difficult coming forward you know, reporting that, you know, example if it's intimate, intimate partner sexual assault. That's the person that you love most in the world, the person you've trusted most in the world and here you are having to tell everybody you feel in the world your intimate details of your relationship. That would be extremely difficult and challenging. And I suppose the other major issue upon reporting it, a barrier would be the time frame. So if you were to report as an example, a serious assault today, we would then gather the evidence, etc. Interview the offender, have to put them before the court, within the next day or within the next few days. But that actually, because it's such a serious matter It had has to go before a judge and jury, you may be looking at possibly up to a year for it to go to court. And that is a really long time to have, you know, especially if there's children involved. You have to see that your intimate partner on a regular basis to change over your children or you know, family, friends. And that or you've got property settlements or sometimes even you go back with that partner. So it's extremely challenging to get through that. So what I'd like to leave with you, my last thoughts is that even if you don't report this to the place as a criminal matter or the domestic violence matter, tell somebody, tell someone you know, you can't have this heavy burden on yourself. It would be horrendous living all day, every day in fear. You know your home should be your safest place. I can't imagine everyday going home and wondering if I didn't, if I didn't do the dishes, if I hadn't cleaned the house, if I hadn't done something that sets off a trigger and makes my partner go crazy on me as an example. That would be a terrible way to live. So tell someone, tell a family friend or colleague, a trusted family friend, tell a counsellor. And if you have the courage and it does take courage to tell the police we would do everything in our power to support you and keep you safe. There is so many domestic and family violence services out there that will work with you and work with us to keep you safe. So what we're seeing more and more of is, women disclosing to us that their partner has a short fuse and when they haven't readily agreed to have intimate relations with them and their partner then perhaps sexually assaults them. And we want you to come forward if you can and tell the police. I know that's a really hard and challenging thing to do, but we want to support you in your journey and it's going to be a hard journey where gonna be honest with you, the most important thing I can tell you is that if I speak to you, I'm going to be honest. I'm going to also believe you. I want you to know that I'm, I'm going to be there to support you.Speaker 1:
The women who have chosen to share their experiences have done so in the hope of helping other women and better equipping workers and professionals to provide more effective responses. We think the women for lending their voice and giving us their time. If you're listening to this podcast and would like additional support, please contact your local Domestic Violence or Sexual Assault service or for legal advice, a Community Legal Service. A transcript of this podcast can be found on our website. Please be aware that this podcast was produced in Queensland, Australia, and legal information provided is based on Queensland legislation and law. This podcasts was made possible due to funding from Legal Aid, Queensland Community Legal Education Collaboration Fund. If you found this podcast useful and relevant, we encourage you to listen to the other four in this series.