Domestic violence is an area that has long been swept under the carpet, but it affects a surprisingly large number of people.
During the period 2006 –2012 there was an average of 23 deaths a year in Queensland linked to domestic and family violence. This figure equalled 44% of the state’s homicides for that period.1 And that’s just homicides. Support organisations like DVConnect report over 55,000 incoming calls relating to domestic violence, family violence and sexual assault.2
Here are three stories of domestic violence that shed light on this bleak problem.
Bianca Girven met Rhys Austin when they were in high school. They were high school sweethearts. On March 30, 2010, Bianca and Rhys went to the Full Moon Festival in West End, Brisbane, and later drove to the Mt Gravatt Lookout. Bianca was hit in the face and strangled by her partner in the park for allegedly more than 10 minutes in his van. Rhys later panicked and drove her to his parents’ house. Paramedics found Bianca in Austin’s white van but, despite their best efforts, she died in hospital a day later. Bianca was just 22 years old. She had a baby boy, Ziggy, who was just 21 months old at the time of her murder.
Rhys was suffering and being treated for paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the incident, however, he was able to mask these symptoms. This charming ‘boy next door’ had a propensity for violence.6 You can read the court judgments surrounding his mental capacity here:
Attorney-General for the State of Queensland v. Austin  QCA 97 (2 May 2014)
Austin, Re  QMHC 21 (15 May 2013)
Bianca’s story was recently in the limelight again because of controversy surrounding the memorial her mother has created in the park where she died. Read about it here.
Susan was married to her abusive husband for more than 37 years before finally leaving him in 2016. Although her marriage was toxic, Susan stayed in the marriage for the sake of her two children, believing it was in their best interests. Also, she financially didn’t have the ability to leave. She just couldn’t afford it.
At 55 years of age, Susan finally did flee her marriage, leaving with just a suitcase of clothes. Susan had no money of her own. All their money was tied up in a joint account and Susan had only ever worked in their family business.
Susan has no doubt in her mind that if she didn’t leave her abusive ex-husband when she did, she wouldn’t be here today.
“When I left I didn’t know what I was going to do or where I was going to go,” she said.
“I left with only a suitcase of clothes and no money or anything. I was homeless for nine weeks before I found community housing.
“When I left I didn’t even think about it — I just had to get out, it was so bad. I didn’t know what I was going to do financially, I just left because it was either that or I wouldn’t be here today.”
Susan’s story highlights one of the major issues facing women of domestic violence. When they do leave, they’re facing poverty and homelessness, and as such, sometimes opt to remain in the abusive relationship.
In November last year, Jelena Dokic, a former World No. 4 tennis player, revealed the years of physical and emotional abuse she suffered from her father, Damir, in a new autobiography called ‘Unbreakable’.
She details being hit with a leather belt, kicked in the shins with pointed shoes, and spat in the face. Jelena says the abuse started when she began playing tennis. Following one tennis event, Dokic says that her father beat her so badly she lost consciousness. Jelena also copped verbal abuse with taunts like “slut” and “whore”. Dokic says this emotional pain was the hardest to bare especially when she was a young 11 or so year old.
What’s startling about this story, is that it was almost obvious. Damir’s violent behaviour was well-documented and it’s hard to imagine that people close to their circle didn’t know it was going on. As a spectator, it’s not surprising that Jelena’s father was abusing her, however, it’s quite shocking to hear the details. It’s also incredible to imagine a strong, successful and wealthy girl not being able to escape this violence.
So much domestic violence is hidden. Domestic violence also has a stigma, that only weak people put up with it. It’s not as simple as that.
What these stories have in common, is that the victims stayed for quite some time when they were being abused. It’s not easy to leave these situations. There are complicated threads of emotion and situational difficulties.
One of these stories ended in tragedy. Bianca stayed too long. However, two women left and survived. It can be done.
What we know as lawyers, is that there is something you can do to protect yourself and your family members. You’re not alone. In fact, 1 in 3 Australian women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15. One in five Australian women has experienced sexual violence. One in four Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. 9You are absolutely not alone.
If you recognise yourself in any of these situations please seek help. To know how we can help you in relation to court processes please phone us on 07 3281 2677. Find out more information for help in Ipswich with the Domestic Violence Action Centre or DV Connect Crisis Support Queensland.