"See what you made me do"

By A book review by Alison Whish

Posted in News

Jess Hill has shone a spotlight on one of the most difficult and dangerous aspects of modern Australian life: domestic violence. Early indications are that more than one woman a week will be killed by her partner or her ex-partner during 2019. As Hill says, if 55 citizens of Australia were killed by terrorism in a year, the Federal Government would be going to great lengths to deal with the situation. Yet, because those murders are happening in our homes, we seem confused and unable to act.

This readable book is an excellent survey of more recent research into what many of us know as domestic violence, but which the author prefers to call ‘domestic abuse’, as it better describes the range of behaviours that leads victims to live an ‘underground’ life of constant vigilance and fear. She identifies how easy it is for modern technology to be attached to someone’s phone or car, so that their location is known to their abuser.

Over a range of chapters the author provides current research that helps us understand the motivation of abusers, the place shame plays in the dynamic, the situation of children and how women use violence. There are careful case studies from people experiencing abusive behaviour which help to show how so many in our communities are living a life of great fearfulness. Chapter 10 “Dadiri” sensitively unpacks the particular situation of indigenous members of our communities when it comes to violence.

Hill carefully shows how the Family Court can order a child to no longer have contact with the parent who has been protecting them and instead order them to live with the abusing parent. Her research would suggest that calls for a review of the functioning of that court is overdue.

 In the final chapter, there is a review of a couple of case studies of communities who have come up with some effective answers to dealing with violence in families. Smoking rates in Australia have halved since the 1980’s. That has come about because clear national targets and strategies were consistently applied. We need a similarly clear approach with domestic abuse.  

The effectiveness of women’s police stations in Brazil is highlighted, and the story of the town of Bourke in western NSW is told. Described in 2013 as the most dangerous town in the country, a concerted effort led by the local Superintendent of Police, the community and other service providers has delivered significant change. Working together they have been building culture change, reinvesting in the community by targeting early intervention with potential offenders. This has seen a reduction in offending of all sorts: 34% less driving offences, 39% less drug-related prosecutions, 35% decrease in non-domestic violence related assaults and 39% decrease in domestic assaults. Bourke as a town has been transformed. Other communities could do similarly.

This is an important book. It is accessible to read, and there is plenty to encourage the church to participate with other partners in local communities to deal with a life and death situation in the lives of so many families.’ Domestic abuse denies families the abundant life that we see described in the gospel of John. Don’t imagine that there aren’t families within the church caught up in abusive behaviours. This is an essential read for all ministry colleagues and others engaged in pastoral care.

“See what you made me do” by Jess Hill - Black Inc, 2019. I obtained a copy from my local library.


Over the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, the Uniting Church in Australia is posting a message daily from women across the UCA. Watch, read or listen to their messages here:

Women across the Uniting Church are sharing their views about what it means to stand strong against gender-based violence as a Christian community.





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