NARRATION: In the years I’ve been writing about domestic abuse, I’ve lost count of the horror stories victim-survivors have told me about police. I’ve also sat with many who say a cop saved their life.
KARINA: Well there was one particular incident and I knew that if I didn’t run to the police at that moment that he would have killed me.
NARRATION: This is Karina Hogan, who we met in the first episode.
To be clear, Karina is an abolitionist – she is working towards a future without police or prisons. But in the system we have now, on this night in October last year, she felt she had no choice but to go to police for help.
00:44 As Karina tells it, she and her then partner were at a birthday party. Things were tense: his cousin had died just a couple of months earlier.
00:58 KARINA:…so it was quite an emotionally driven time. Mitch had disclosed some child abuse that occurred for him a bit earlier… that and I wasn’t really drinking, I had maybe three drinks that night, whereas he had drunk an unbelievable amount of alcohol.
01:08 NARRATION: Karina’s partner started hurling abuse at people at the party, including a woman holding a 6-week-old baby. Karina was mortified.
01:17 KARINA: And I was saying, come on, mate. Like, that’s enough. And then his cousins were getting really worked up with him.
NARRATION: When things started to escalate, the couple with the baby left the party. Soon after, there was a phone call. In a completely separate incident, this couple were being hounded by a driver in a fit of road rage
01:37 KARINA: And I said, Look, I’m sober. Tell them to pull into the local petrol station, and we’ll go pick them up.
So I jumped in the car and also someone else jumped in the car with me, and we went in, we assisted them, but by the time we’d got there, they’d been run off the road and were in a ditch and their car had been written off. It was really bad and there was and I end up going and literally picking the baby up and sitting on the side of the road. And nursing this baby that had glass in its head and waited for the ambulance and the police and whatnot.
02:05 NARRATION: Once the police arrived, Karina felt she could leave. She went back to the party to check on her partner.
KARINA: by the time we got back, Mitch was starting on a whole bunch of other people. And they were like, you need to go, we’re going to call the police and dah dah dah.
I said, come on, let’s go. Let’s go. And I finally got him in the car. Anyway, we got in the car. And they said to him, if you touch her, you know, you know, you’re in trouble dah dah dah. That didn’t mean anything.
02:34 NARRATION: As they drove home, Karina’s partner started laying into her with verbal abuse, interrogating her about where she’d just been, calling her a slut. She was trying to calm him down, when he grabbed the wheel.
02:45 KARINA: …and I freaked out and pulled over.
And I said, I’m not driving, if you you know, you’re going to continue. And he was just like spitting in my face and screaming at me and yelling at me. And then he was like, calm again. And I was like, I’m gonna drive. But if you do this, again, I’m not doing this. I’m not driving with you. It’s not safe, you’re gonna kill me. And then we kept driving. And then he did it again. And I just pulled over and I jumped out of the car and grabbed the keys and started running in the opposite direction.
And that’s when he chased me down. And he just grabbed me by the throat and held my throat until I passed out on the side of the road.
03:22 I knew that just down the road was where the police were where the accident happened. So when I woke up with him over the top of my, over the top of me slapping me in the face.[*] Picked me up by the hair and and then he kept like, going no don’t do this, don’t do this, don’t do this, in his hands. And then he’d grab me by the throat again. And then he’d go no, no, no, don’t do this! It was almost like he was having, like, an episode.
NARRATION: Karina was so desperate, she ran out onto the road and tried to get a driver to pull over, but nobody did. Somehow, she managed to get her partner back into the car. She had a plan. She knew where the accident had happened – and she knew the cops would still be there.
04:05 KARINA: So I drove and when I saw them, I just pulled over, ran across the road, and started yelling at the guy that was that had run the other guy off the road in an attempt – I don’t know what I was doing, but I wanted them to arrest me, to try and get me away from him. So, so that Mitch didn’t think I was running to the cops.
So I ran over to this guy, and I was like you are a prick. Like you made these kids go to hospital. And then he was like, Fuck you. You’re black slut and rah rah rah rah rah. And I left my car there and the cops came over and they’re like, what are you doing? And I was like, fucking arrest me! Like, just arrest me. And they pulled me over.
And then the cops pulled me off to the side and I just said to the lady, “Please, I need you to get me away from him. I need you to arrest me. I can’t get back in the car with him. Please just arrest me. Just say I’ve been drunk driving. Please.
Please don’t tell him that I’m telling you this please.” And then that’s when she just – she was friggin brilliant – and she just ended up saying ‘you’re under arrest and you need to get into the cop car.’ So then she just went into my car, got my bag out, put me into the back of her car. And he kept asking questions. She was like, ‘mate, I’m not dealing with you right now she’s been drink driving, she’s been arrested.’ … And then, and then we left and went to the police station. And I gave her a statement and told her what had happened because I was honestly petrified, like, I feel like that could have very well been it that night.
BACKGROUND MUSIC PLAYS
05:33 NARRATION: The next time Karina met the police, the response was the complete opposite. It was June 2020, and by that time, she and her partner had been separated for 18 months. His drug habit had spiralled out of control, he hadn’t seen his kids for over a month, and Karina was still paying his rent. She had pleaded with him earlier that week to stay sober for a few days so the kids could see him on the weekend.
KARINA: And so I got there in the morning of and I knew it wasn’t right. There was something in my gut that said, this isn’t – I shouldn’t have done, I shouldn’t have gone there. But I went against my gut because my children were dying to see him and I’ll be frank, I had a mortgage to pay. And I really needed the money that he had taken from me. So I got to his house, we walked inside, we went out the back. And I could tell that he was about five days old.
06:23 NARRATION: ‘Five days old’ means he’d been on a bender for five days. Karina could see that he was still high. She told him she would need to get to the bank before midday, so she could get the kids to a birthday party that afternoon. Her ex went ballistic, told her he was sick of her telling him what to do but Karina refused to back down.
06:45 KARINA: And so he picked up this clump of dirt that was almost like a rock and he threw it at me and hit me on the back of the shoulder and it broke apart …I just lost it. I completely just started screaming. He locked the kids and himself in the house. I couldn’t get out of the courtyard because of the way that it was sort of shaped. And so I picked up a palling that was on the on the in the garden bed. And I was screaming at him saying, How fucking dare you, like the kids were inside. I said, You’re just –
I was just I was I can’t even remember the words I was saying. But I did smash the window. I did pull the door. And I kept pulling. And I just remember in my head, when I was pulling the screen door, I was I was like, like, there was no way I was going back. I had friggin had enough. And I was pulling it and pulling it… Eventually, I got in. And once I got in the police had arrived at the front of the house, and he ran out the front with the kids. And I went and sat on the couch. And I just had my hands in my in my lap.
07:50 NARRATION: Karina was having a panic attack. When the police came in to talk to her, she just kept saying, ‘I don’t feel safe, I’m having a panic attack, I need you to give me some space’.
08:02 KARINA: Those were the three things that I was saying. I also said to them on a number of occasions, he’s done this before I’ve had enough I can’t cope. And there was and I said are there any female officers, I don’t feel comfortable talking to a male officer. And then he came back with well, you know, but I’m a police officer and I said to him mate this is no offense to you. I swear to God, this is no offense to you, but you being a police officer does not make this any better for me. In fact, if anything, it makes it worse.
That’s when he came over to me and he said to me, “Well then Karina, if you feel that way and you don’t feel safe with me, then I’m going to go around the corner and have a chat to Mitch and when I get back, don’t expect me to then protect you, because apparently that’s not what we do.”
08:50 NARRATION: The cops went outside. When they came back, they told Karina she was under arrest.
KARINA: And I said, you can’t like you can’t do this. You don’t understand what – where are my kids gonna go?
09:00 NARRATION: There was an intervention order in place to protect Karina and the kids from her ex partner.
KARINA: And, and he just arrested me anyway. I actually said this to him, I said, this is exactly why women die. Because you come to these situations, you have no idea. And then I don’t want to call you when he’s doing things to me. I’m not gonna call like, and then he literally said to me, ‘you’ve watched way too much TV love’, and just took me to the police car.
09:28 NARRATION: When Karina got to the watchhouse, she couldn’t breathe. A police officer came in and took her shoes off.
KARINA: And they put me in the detention unit for about an hour. And I just laid on the concrete floor. And I just thought like, where’s my kids? And I kept saying to the police when they’re driving to the police station. You can’t leave him with my kids. He is at least five days old. He is drug affected, there is a DVO you need you have a responsibility. And then the lady ended up picking up her camera and going ‘tell the camera love.’
And you know, Jess look, I will take a degree of responsibility or onus on the fact that I was upset and very upset. Very, very upset. But I think it’s incredibly important to understand that it was a normal response to a lot of abuse and a lot of and him throwing that rock at me was almost like it awakened all that anger.
THEME MUSIC ENDS
10:30 NARRATION: The next day, police even took out an intervention order against her on her ex-partner’s behalf. As if he was the one who needed protection from her.
KARINA: I felt so incredibly alone. I was so embarrassed. I was humiliated.
My reaction was very normal, considering the adverse shit that he had put me through – but what the police were almost doing were validating his behaviors and saying, ‘Well, actually, he can treat you like this. And you cannot defend yourself. You need to take it. You need to accept it and you need to shut up.’
11:08 NARRATION: Listening to Karina tell these two stories, it struck me just how unconscionable that second police response was. Here was a woman who had struck an impossible balance between love and strategic resistance for years. She had even reported the father of her children to the police – a massive step for anyone, especially a First Nations woman. After all this time, after having her generosity and care trashed again and again, after almost dying at the hands of this man, she had committed an act of violent resistance – to protect her dignity, her sense of self – and as she calmly asked for a different kind of help, the cop in front of her chose to punish her.
These stories make us livid. They should make the cops who care about victim survivors livid. These are the kinds of stories that are making the police service the most controversial institution of the modern era.
My name is Jess Hill and you are listening to the Trap.
NARRATION: What Karina faced in these desperate moments was what’s known as the ‘front desk lottery’. So when victim survivors get a response from police, they have no idea who or what they’ll get – will it be a cop who tries to protect them, or will it be one who dismisses them – or even labels them the perpetrator.
12:41 Now some people listening to this will reject the notion there are any good cops. But there are cops who dedicate themselves to protecting victims of family violence – of all cultural backgrounds. They’re the ones that understand that trauma can make victims aggressive, unpleasant, they get why they don’t just leave, they go above and beyond to try and create safety for victim survivors in whichever way they can.
But, there are still far too many police who regard victim survivors as liars and time wasters. This is not just based on anecdotal evidence: in an actual survey of Victorian police, these attitudes were volunteered by serving police members. Said one senior officer:
13:30 MALE VOICE OVER: I mean look, these people are adults and they can take care of themselves. If you think he’s going to hit you, then just leave. Don’t stick around and call us and expect us to come and kick him out of your house and do something proactive about it … That’s the most frustrating part about it … I refuse to regard these people as a victim when they really do have say in what happens to themselves.
13:48 NARRATION: Coronial inquests into domestic homicides time and again reveal these fateful timelines in which cops didn’t listen, didn’t believe the victim, didn’t record the details, did not assess the risk.
One family, after yet another inquest revealed this same tragic pattern, made a statement that has always stayed with me. The adult children of Joy Rowley, who was murdered by a man who had become fixated on her, said in a statement:
“All our friends think you call the police when you’re in danger and they help you. We know that’s not how it works. It’s like Russian roulette, sometimes you get someone who will help. Sometimes, like mum, you get someone who doesn’t take you seriously.’
Joy’s children were clear: no amount of fiddling at the edges is going to fix this: As they said “It’s the culture and the lack of accountability of police that needs to change.’
FRANK CARIDI: You know, you can tell there’s certain signs where you can see that there’s stuff that’s not right.
14:58 NARRATION: This is retired sergeant Frank Caridi. He left Victoria Police in 2019. To him, protecting victim survivors was the most important part of his job.
He had a sixth sense for it.
15:11 FRANK CARIDI: You can see when, you know, like there’s probably like that damage around the home. You know, sometimes you see patches in the walls where something’s been thrown, or something’s been damaged, and hasn’t been repaired. Body language, a lot of times, sometimes you get a perpetrator who’s just got his story down pat, and he’ll be the friendliest guy in the world and will say all the right things.
15:31 NARRATION: He knew all these signs innately, because he had grown up with them.
FRANK CARIDI:.. I joined the police force, because I was brought up in an environment that was just tormented with domestic violence.
15:47 NARRATION: One afternoon from his childhood is still crystal clear in his mind.
FRANK CARIDI: I walked out with my mum after she ran out of the house, and we ended up walking down the street, sat on a neighbor’s fence where I could see her mind just ticking over, going through her options going, ‘What am I gonna do? You know, I can’t go back to Italy.
I’ve got no friends here, they’re going to help me.’ Because, I mean, we’re talking about what 60s 70s; no-one would give you refuge from domestic violence. So, you know, and after going through all those options, it was just one of those things where she just after a while, got up and went home, you know, hoping that the dust had settled and realizing that this was it, you know, this was her life, and there was nothing she could do about it.
16:27 NARRATION: As a kid, Frank did what he could to protect his mother.
FRANK CARIDI: You know, I would provoke the situation to end up being the focus of the aggression and the hostility, because it was sort of like, well, I don’t want my mom to be the recipient of this, but I can take it, you know, and so I’d sort of throw myself under the bus.
NARRATION: When the police would get called, Frank would clam up.
16:53 FRANK CARIDI: There’s that sort of element of I don’t want to sit here and talk to you about how bad my family is. If you wanna think I’m the bad person here, that’s fine. I can wear that.
I mean, strangely enough, I got to the point where I was a ward of the state, at one stage, where I was actually removed from mum and dad. And it was a sort of thing of, being in a really horrible environment as a child, not being able to understand what’s going on, responded to it in a very aggressive, violent way, breaking things, to the police coming along and going well, this kid’s obviously uncontrollable, without looking at any of the other elements why – we need to remove him.
NARRATION: Frank swore that when he grew up, he would do whatever he could to protect women like his mum. So he became a cop.
17:40 FRANK CARIDI:…that’s why I would go to work, there is nothing more rewarding than having someone in the same position as say what my mom was,
you know, you can see that and you can sympathize, and you can just go, I’m gonna fix this. I know what you’re going through – I’m going to fix it.
17:56 NARRATION: In 2019, Sergeant Frank Caridi retired following an inquest into the Bourke Street Mall attack, after he publicly called out Victoria Police for failing to stop the attacker James Gargasoulas when they had the chance. On duty that day, he had pleaded with the Critical Incident Response team to intercept Gargasoulas after he stabbed his brother. They had refused to assist or engage, because there was no proof that he was still armed. Nine hours later, Gargasoulas plowed his car into pedestrians on one of the busiest streets in Melbourne’s CBD, seriously injuring 27 and killing six people, including a three-month-old boy and a ten-year-old girl.
In a letter to Victoria Police published by the Age, Frank Caridi said Victoria Police had ‘failed catastrophically’ in its mission to protect the public.
When they sent Frank a ‘certificate of appreciation’ for his actions on the day, acknowledging him for ‘embodying the highest standards and values of Victoria Police’, he sent it back.
19:10 FRANK CARIDI: I regret not being able to still be there and do this stuff for people, I have a passion for family violence. But I guess after Bourke Street, I kind of just went. Yeah, enough’s enough, you know, if I, if I can’t make a difference where, you know, I could prevent something like that happening, then there’s no point in me being here.
19:30 NARRATION: It’s not that Frank just has an axe to grind. When he contacted me privately to share his thoughts on how police respond to domestic abuse, I asked him if he’d be willing to be interviewed. Honestly, I was amazed when he actually agreed because it’s still rare to hear recently retired cops speak publicly – and candidly – about what’s going wrong with policing.
19:55 FRANK CARIDI: I think the most common complaint you’ll hear from anyone about the police is, I complained about being involved in domestic violence thing, and they did nothing about it.
20:06 NARRATION: That’s one of Frank’s main complaints, too.
As a supervisor, Sergeant Frank Caridi monitored how his units would respond to family violence callouts. Too often, he says, the first responders would arrive at a house having already decided to write it off.
20:23 FRANK CARIDI: So a lot of times you would walk in by that stage, your members have already, you know, worked out a story, they’re going to write it off. And as, as someone who’s been through that, and can see the signs, you’re going to go, oh no no no no no, that’s not going to happen at all: he needs an order, and she needs some counselling.
20:38 NARRATION: Frank says many of these frontline responders are young and inexperienced, they don’t understand domestic abuse, and they don’t think it’s their job to get involved in a couple or a family’s private life.
20:53 FRANK CARIDI: Because you kind of go well I joined the police to catch bad guys and this is a couple, and it’s not my role to come along and tell them how to live their life. This is going to be a waste of time. You know, in two weeks, they’re going to get back together again.
And don’t forget, the culture is… Hey I’m a policeman, I want to catch bad guys, you know, I want to do death rolls over of the bonnet of the car and run down the street and disarm a bomb in the middle of the main highway and save 100,000 people. I didn’t join to be a counselor, I didn’t join to sit here and get yelled at by the victim who thinks it’s a waste of time and I’m trying to do the right thing by her.
21:30 NARRATION: This wasn’t just something that happened occasionally. Frank says he frequently had to direct officers to follow correct procedures, and was constantly fighting this culture, in which downplaying an incident and ignoring warning signs was really all about trying to avoid work that was seen as futile.
Now, my argument was always, but it’s not a waste of time, you know, even if it’s temporary, where we do something and it only last two or three days, it’s still probably, hopefully enough of a wake-up call where these two people – well, one – will have a bit of space to kind of think about, is this really where I want to be.
And from a you know, an official point of view, the stuff’s recorded. At this stage we’ll monitor it to see how it goes and we might follow it up.
NARRATION Just like those Victoria police in the survey I mentioned earlier, the cops Frank worked with commonly framed victims as troublemakers who were unworthy of police help.
22:33 FRANK CARIDI: Things like you know, she’s just as bad as he is. She doesn’t even want us here. They’ll look at your social, economical sort of status. You know, oh, they’re just some druggies. You know, she’s just a scrote, which means she’s got a criminal record, she’s just a druggie. I’m not gonna waste my time. I’m not gonna, you know, focus my efforts on helping her out, you know, like, she just doesn’t deserve it. And unfortunately, that culture of judgmental sort of behaviour exists quite a lot.
22:57 NARRATION: Now Frank concedes that the police who turn up at family violence callouts are on general duties, and they tend to be ‘snowed under with all the work nobody else wants to do’. They’re not just responding to family violence – they’re on call for everything – road traffic, breath testing – the list is kind of endless.
FRANK CARIDI: So there’s a lot of pressure. And the natural thing is, is that when you’re finding that you’re not coping, you find these areas where you kind of just go, I’m just going to write this off, because I’ve got all this other stuff I’ve gotta do. And, and that’s the reality. And dealing with family violence does take a bit of time.
23:35 NARRATION: It’s also frustrating work for some police. If you just look at it through their eyes for a minute: every day, they get yelled at and abused by perpetrators, they will often return to the same houses week after week, and they regularly see victim survivors withdraw testimony, or show up at court the next day like nothing has happened. They have a job to do, and it’s easy for some police to start to believe that victim survivors are preventing them from doing their jobs.
24:03 FRANK CARIDI: I’ve been in court where it was a result of what they call aggravated burglary, where the guy’s literally ripped the security screen off the door and walked into the girls home and beat her up, and by the time it went to court, they’re sitting next to each other holding hands, pointing at me and going, it’s all him, he’s done this, we’re at court because of him. We don’t want this to happen. And I’m put in an embarrassing sort of situation where I’ve got to explain to a court why I’ve taken up their time for a couple that just want to be together.
…And what I explained to the judge at that stage at that particular time is, if she wants to be with him, Your Honor, that’s up to her. I’m not here to tell her how to live her life. But this behaviour is socially unacceptable. As a society, we won’t allow this to happen. Now, I’m not going to control her. But at the same time, I’m not going to sit by and let something that’s unlawful, just fly because she doesn’t want to do anything about it. I’m not here to control her, I’m here to deal with the behavior that is socially unacceptable.
25:11 NARRATION: As we’ve heard over the past few episodes, it’s no surprise that victim survivors will act in these inconvenient ways. And for Frank, it wasn’t actually the victims who made his job difficult—even when they cursed him for showing up, or blamed him in court for starting trouble they never asked for.
The problem, as Frank saw it, was not this perfectly understandable behaviour from victim survivors. It was the fact that the culture of policing is fundamentally incompatible with what’s required to protect them.
25:45 FRANK CARIDI: You know, dealing with family violence is a progressive, slow burn type of thing that could last for years and years and years. Now, in the police force, the culture is a fixed quick fix solution. You know, you’re not wearing your seatbelt ticket, you’ve gone through the red light, here’s a ticket, problem solved, you pay the ticket, you know, and we move on. You broke into home, come in, we’re going to interview you, we’re gonna arrest you, you’re going to go to court – problem solved, gone.
Family violence isn’t like that: you know, it’s a progressive thing that will have ebbs and flows, it needs constant sort of reevaluation, reassessment. It’s not an extremity, where you just go, Well, this is how we’re going to fix it – done. Let’s move on. It doesn’t work like that.
They’re different type of processes, but we’re sort of throwing them into the same category, and it’s just not working. You know, it really isn’t.
TRANSITION MUSIC PLAYS
CHLOE: In regards to tackling the problem of domestic violence there is a lot of focus on perpetrators. Although I agree with this focus, where is the focus on the broken police system that further traumatises victims through police action and inaction?
26:55 NARRATION: Chloe McCardel was nervous as she testified to the NSW Parliamentary inquiry into criminalising coercive control. She was there as a firm advocate to reform the laws, but her anger about the way police had treated her was barely concealed.
Chloe: Just imagine you had a perpetrator turn on you. You call the police for assistance because you’ve been assaulted and you feel unsafe and you want to leave your house but you can’t and the police arrive and immediately they evict you from your home. Now imagine over the next four months the entire state police force are aiding and abetting your perpetrator. During the court hearings, the police counsel minimise and excuse the violence you have experienced and accuse you of being a dangerous person and ask the judge to take away your rights again. This wasn’t just something to imagine. It was a nightmare, not even a nightmare because it was real. Isn’t this just the most brilliant act by a perpetrator. They become the victim and the police do the work of controlling and further traumatising and taking away the rights of the victim. It is brilliant and it is utter madness and it must stop.
28:20 Chloe is a marathon swimmer. She has swum the English Channel 37 times – just shy of the world record-holder, Allison Streeter, who is up to 43. Chloe is determined to swim at least another three times, to become the world’s leading ultra-marathon swimmer.
I met Chloe at her home in Sydney. She lives in a high rise unit, with two small and very enthusiastic dogs, who were happily playing out on the verandah as we sat together on the couch.
28:52 CHLOE: Well actually the first time I swam the English Channel, it was it felt like I’d come home. So it was like my whole life had been building towards this moment, not knowing that this was really where I was supposed to be.
JESS: When you’re in the channel, what is it like because there’s like quite a bit of activity isn’t there like other ships and all that sort of thing.
29:13 CHLOE: Yeah, the English Channel is one of the busiest shipping ways in the world. It has two major highways running straight through the middle of it. So there are ships that are up to 800 meters long with sometimes 2000 containers on the back of them they’re carrying and they’re going in about 18 knots an hour. So it’s quite a dangerous activity to be swimming through their highways. And we’re just tiny little swimmers with a little fishing boat next to us guiding us.
So I have this, even though the channel is my spiritual home, I have this kind of love hate relationship with it, where it’s like, it’s tried to kill me on multiple occasions. Yeah I have a very interesting relationship with this, this stretch of water and I think it’s like a metaphor for life.
NARRATION: Chloe is the image of the all-Australian girl – a swimming hero. But increasingly, by her own choice, she is allowing another part of herself to become known – the fact that she is a victim survivor of coercive control. Her mission is not just to broaden the public’s idea of what a victim survivor looks like, but to change the systems that perpetuated her abuse.
30:21 CHLOE: Ironically, it was coming out of that violent relationship, which was harder than living in that relationship. So coming to terms with what I’d experienced, the new world that I had to navigate through fighting the police, the grueling process of going through the Australian court system, and other legal issues that were associated with it. It really wore me down. And I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and reactive anxiety to that situation.
NARRATION: What Chloe is describing is the systems abuse she suffered after leaving a violent and oppressive man… who was to begin with, of course, very supportive, very caring, very understanding, very loving.
Like no-one Chloe had ever met.
31:11 CHLOE: My ex partner knew my needs well, he really got to understand what sort of things that I was looking for, where I needed support, what love looked like to me, and he really figured out how to win me over. And when he, he did that, I, I just saw him as my whole world. And I saw him as my go-to person. And so that bond is very strong, and it would have been very hard for anyone else to suggest otherwise, because I had a lot of evidence that he was a wonderful person.
NARRATION: But even as she was falling in love with this man, there were times when she definitely felt alarmed by his behaviour.
CHLOE: Yeah, so really, early on, there was one point where I was locked out
of my home, denied access to my car, one of my dogs was taken away from me, I
had no money on me, which my perpetrator knew about. And it was New Year’s Eve
and I was like, what am I going to do? I only have the clothes I have on me,
one dog, and whatever I was holding in my hand at that point. So that should be
a red flag, that that’s not a good relationship.
32:32 JESS: So often, there’s just so much confusion that your head is just, you just going around around in circles trying to figure out what’s going on.
And I feel like that’s a really underrated part of going through coercive
control. Was that kind of confusion and just constantly facing all
these contradictions, was that a big part of your experience?
CHLOE: Yeah, it’s great that you mentioned confusion, contradictions, because
that kind sums up, I guess where I’m at. There’s, like things going on I can’t
even make sense of. And I wasn’t necessarily consciously in fear but
subconsciously I was because there were times where I would push my bed into
the door so that the door couldn’t be open, so he couldn’t get in my space.
33:20 So most of the time, I can’t consciously say, I was fearful of him. But there were times I was worried but I couldn’t necessarily clarify to myself or articulate exactly what I was worried about but I was worried enough to barricade myself inside a bedroom.
JESS: And I guess that’s the thing, there’s a difference maybe between admitting to yourself that you feel afraid, because that would be a sign that something is wrong, right.
And a lot of the time, you’re trying to rationalize like, it’s okay it’s okay,
we’re going to just get through this, you know, it’s just having a bad day,
week, month, you know, whatever. And I think when you start, when you feel
scared, it’s like admitting to yourself that something is wrong.
CHLOE: Definitely because if I admitted that I was really scared of him, it would mean that I would have to break up an important the most important relationship in my life, which I was not prepared to do, I’d have to accept that he was a violent person, which
I could not bring myself to comprehend.
34:11 I didn’t even know what coercive control was, I just thought that some people
act poorly, I didn’t realize that those things together can become a part of
domestic violence. So if I think in my mind that I was so committed to
relationship, I just put up with anything.
NARRATION: What Chloe put up with would be familiar to so many victim survivors. He would degrade her for not doing enough around the house, not cooking dinner the way he liked it.
He tried to turn her against her sister. He would lock her out of their house. He destroyed her possessions, monitored her social media and bank accounts. He even withheld medication from her once when she’d just come out of an intensive care unit.
CHLOE: I was like, why do you do these things to me? And he said, because you hurt me, and I’m gonna hurt you. And I was like but why can’t we just talk things through, like all relationships have issues.
35:07 NARRATION: He told her constantly that she was crazy – and she started to believe him. And she felt for him: he’d experienced a lot of trauma, he seemed unable to deal with it, and so he self-medicated with alcohol.
CHLOE: I gave this person a lot of time, and I gently, gently tried to help them through the things that may be triggering someone to need to abuse alcohol to medicate to get through every day.
And the way that this person regained power, and therefore, a sense of self and confidence and position was to do things to make my life like living hell.
NARRATION: Chloe didn’t want to leave the relationship, but she would call the police when she felt scared, because she knew it would calm him down.
CHLOE: I felt confident enough to call the police because I had this naive belief that the police are there to support victims and they can be relied upon, like, like, that was just my, like, 100% that’s my belief.
36:08 So I would call them and he would know they’re coming and then he would just manage to kind of get himself together to front them and just act like everything was fine when they arrived. So but he had to go through a process of changing his demeanor, changing a bit of his attitude. And because he knew they were coming, like they would always come. So he, like he was pissed off at me that they were coming. But he actually changed. So in some way he calmed himself down.
And those strategies had been successful in the past. But the last time I used it, I called them because I wanted to leave the house,
36:47 NARRATION: Chloe’s partner had been fuming for days over something Chloe had done on New Year’s Eve.
CHLOE: Basically, I drank alcohol. That was his issue, right?
CHLOE: He’s like, how dare you drink? Like? Not anything? Silly and stupid
JESS: On new years eve? Shocking even more shocking
CHLOE: The irony is he’s an alcoholic. So he’s doing this seven days a week.
NARRATION: He played his usual handbook – he locked her out of the house, and turned up the TV so loud it was impossible to be inside. When she asked him to turn it down, he attacked her.
37:18 CHLOE: ..He flipped over the couch where I was. And then he scratched up my my neck and my body. And that’s when he pulled my pants down called me a whore. And so I didn’t think was going to kill me. But I was I was shaken up and I want to leave the property. That’s I want to get my car and leave.
NARRATION: But Chloe’s partner had parked her in, which meant she physically couldn’t leave. So she called the police.
CHLOE: So I called them, I met them at the door, and he was in another room far away. I do. I do not think he heard what I said to them. I think that he thought I made I told them what had happened. So I think he’s thinking, ‘Oh, my god, she’s told them what’s happened about this assault that’s happened. I need a counter story, because this is going to go bad.’ And so because the first time he’s ever made up a story like this.
38:10 NARRATION: When the police went and spoke to Chloe’s ex, he told them she had attacked him.
CHLOE: Then they came over to me and they said. Did you want to say anything? So they did give me an opportunity to say something. I didn’t, I was concerned what would happen if I made an allegation. I didn’t want to, at that point, break the relationship up.
NARRATION: Police evicted Chloe from her home for a week. On the spot.
CHLOE: Still couldn’t access my car, because he said he couldn’t find his key to his car. So I was put in the back of a police car. Kindly they let me take my dogs, because that was the most thing I was worried about. So I grabbed my dogs. I grabbed my computer, my money, I was taken to the police station.
38:53 JESS: When you look back now and that moment the police are saying, ‘Do you want to say anything’, why do you think it was that you didn’t want to say anything in that moment?
CHLOE: I knew he’s a very private person. He would not like anyone finding out about any information that was not either neutral or positive about him. And I knew it would make him extremely angry. It wasn’t worth it.
in my situation I was overwhelmed. And there was no way that physiologically my brain could handle that situation. So it’s hard for people to rationally ask whether its you know, legal counsel, went through to civil issues like, you know, why didn’t you do X, Y, Z? It’s like, well, I was under an extreme, in extreme stress. So I’m just gonna go into whatever autopilot my brain and body goes into to survive this moment.
39:47 NARRATION: It might sound like Chloe was acting irrationally, but the survival calculation she was making was actually a shrewd one. She was keenly aware of how fragile – and potentially dangerous – her partner was.
CHLOE: I do think he has huge issues with shame, not sharing with people, things that compel him to drink alcohol on daily basis just to get through his day. So, extremely private person, who will not let me talk to anyone outside the relationship, about the relationship. The fact I’ve called police to the house, knowing that the neighbours may see this police, like I’m already being very much living on the edge just calling police before we even getting to the point to make an allegation like, that’s not, that was not a good or clever thing to do at that point in time.
JESS: It’s like you’ve broken the agreement, and broken the code, which is like –
CHLOE: Yeah, it’s definitely a code. That’s a great way of looking at it. The code was you don’t talk about anyone, I’ve already broken it by calling the police. I’ve already upset him by calling the police. Why would I want to test that any further? Like I don’t, my point was to call the police was to de-escalate him, not escalate things to go further. That was like, if you look at the police reports, it was always call the police, I had initiated calling the police. You know, they’re just they come to have a little chat and then they would go and that was how I operated. That was the de-escalating. I’d never wanted things escalate.
The lady who evicted me from my home, she was a female police officer. She was extremely patronizing, which is really horrible. She said to me when I was trying to leave, but I couldn’t because I couldn’t access the car she’s like, why don’t you just leave him?
I’ve got two kids, I left my partner like, you know, it was just it was like, whoa, like you do not understand what I’m dealing with here, I can’t just make decisions that seem really easy on the spot like you seem to have. But I just kind of looked at her strangely, I couldn’t even think that through.
41:43 JESS: What happened when you actually went to the police station?
CHLOE: My family met me there, which was great, because I needed I needed to be able to move it in have access to my car still. So they arrived, my sister saw a scratch on my neck. And that’s when she’s like, have you been assaulted? And I’m like, Yeah, yes. And then she’s like, you need to make a statement because I could not, at that point as a victim in that situation.
I could not think rationally about what’s actually my long, medium to long term best interests here? I needed someone else to help me through that situation.
42:17 NARRATION: What Chloe goes over in her mind is, if her sister saw the scratch on her the minute she laid eyes on her, why did the police just take a closer look at her, try harder to assess what had happened, before they evicted her?
CHLOE: Like, if she just walked up to me and saw it, why did they not even think, Okay, this person may not be able to comprehend what’s going on for a moment, let’s take some initiative. Let’s just have a look. Is she okay for us to look over, you know, her exposed skin to see you know, what’s like, take another chance to kind of assess the situation now that we’re away from that home environment, which is obviously very stressful.
NARRATION: So Chloe decided to take the initiative herself. Against all her instincts, she gave them a full statement. Her story should have turned around at that point. But it was just the beginning of an ordeal that would eventually see her leave the state fearing she would never be safe. Not because of her ex-partner. Because of the police.
43:22 PAULA SMITH: So my name is Paula Smith. And I used to be a New South Wales Police Officer. And I joined in ’94. And I stayed in the cops until 2010. And I left in a whirlwind. And it was a complete disaster and basically signed off with PTSD.
JESS: Wow, so, what happened? Why did you leave? And this probably opening a big story, but why did you leave?
PAULA SMITH: I’ve been suffering anxiety for probably about 12 years, I definitely got it in those first three years on the job. And it just, I didn’t deal with it. So I thought I was, I thought I was being mindful, and I was very healthy, looking after myself. But I just couldn’t cope with the insidious male domination, and, which was basically eroding away who I was.
So I became the crusty old senior constable that I didn’t want to be. And that’s, that’s when I when I saw that when I saw that happening. I went, ‘okay, I can’t do this.’ But I was still turning up to work. Because one, I had mortgage, I had y’know kids I had to support, and I’m thinking, “Okay, maybe I can just get some support.” So I went and got the therapy. But in the end, yeah, I just turned up to a job where I was literally inside a hospital, and I thought “I probably should be here myself.” So I went “actually I need that help that she’s getting”, and walked out and went, “can’t do this anymore.”
JESS: Wow. And you know, when you say you became the crusty, senior constable that you never wanted to be, what, what sort of things was that senior constable doing that you in when you first started might have said I would never be like that.
44:56 PAULA SMITH: One thing I learned early in my career was police avoid work as much as possible. So they will try to, it was called discretion back then. But it was very much about minimizing things, sort of brushing aside or leaving out details so that it didn’t turn into what I was known for, which was a shitstorm. So I tend to attract things because I would ask too many questions, or I would find out more stuff
You just can’t compete when you’re being told “don’t worry about that, that’s not important”.
45:25 JESS: What sort of things were you being told to not worry about?
PAULA SMITH: They had a lot of quotas. So things like domestic violence was a big one. And quite often those statistics, especially in the early 2000s, when they’re relying on an assessment by, you know, the assistant Commissioner, they would fudge those stats, like they would literally, they’d go I turned into a statistic but only take from, you know, eight o’clock on the Monday morning through till whatever it is on the last day. And then they would literally be directing people “don’t put that event on” until the next day so that it wasn’t counted in the stats. And that’s when, when I saw that I went “what the hell is going on?”, but that gives you a name for a troublemaker. So you can’t even really speak up about that, you can say stuff, but then you’re literally isolated and locked out. So that’s, that’s why I end up going, “I’m in the wrong arena, I’m not making a difference.”
JESS: How was, how was domestic violence being dealt with at that later part of your role as a police officer towards 2010?
46:27 PAULA SMITH: Yeah, I would say there were, they were trying, but it was still very much a focus on the offense, finding an offense, if it wasn’t an offense, then it wasn’t really a police matter. And there was a real distinction. So whereas before we would turn up for, you know, breach of peace, and we will try and help them out.
So I was the type of investigator that if I had a domestic, I would actually introduce them to the person on the other phone, you know, to the, the helpline and tell them the story. So they didn’t have to repeat their story again to them and try and really facilitate that contact. So there, there was a connection. I know other people just got handed over a card and said you need to ring the victim support unit. So there was just different methods of of doing it.
But because I had been involved in it, and I’d had a lot of like dealings with victims and offenders. There was something missing. So I could and I just sort of started to do my, not my own thing, but it was very much I just went okay, well, that’s, she doesn’t want him charged right now, because she’s not out of the house, or how do we look at that? But I was, yeah, basically, we were told, charge them. There was a lot of direction around doing no investigation, just do what the incident is, which was also the focus – only deal with the incident they’ve got, put a bit of back history in.
TRANSITION MUSIC PLAYS
47:47 NARRATION: I think we need to make it really clear that victim survivors, faced with this lack of interest from police, are routinely facing the very real threat of being killed by the person they are reporting.
Kathy had been with her partner for years. She was in the trap of coercive control: the abuse had been abhorrent, he’d made false allegations about her, she had tried to find a refuge, but because there had been no physical violence, she wasn’t deemed a high enough risk. She literally had nowhere to go – except to return to her husband.
But she was afraid.
She knew there was a firearm in the house, and that it was unregistered. So she went to the police.
48:36 KATHY: And I said, Look, I’m scared. I’m going back to my husband. We’ve had some issues, but I don’t think everything’s okay. There’s a firearm in the house, it’s unregistered. Can you please raid the house and get that firearm out of there? And they said does, does he have mental health issues? I said, I don’t think so. I don’t know. Because he made me believe I was the one that was crazy.
NARRATION: The police officer on the front desk told Kathy it wasn’t a police issue, and that she should speak to some mental health people.
49:08 KATHY: I went down to another mental health and I was begging please can you just help me? At that point in time, I wanted to be committed because I just wanted some escape. And nobody would do anything about this unregistered firearm in that house.
49:25 NARRATION: Kathy’s instincts, like the instincts of so many victim survivors, were absolutely right. At 3:30 one afternoon in April, she was unloading a truck on their property when her partner’s brother poked a rifle through the truck window, and shot her. The first shot missed, and the second got her in the hip. It was starting to storm, and for a minute, Kathy thought she’d been struck by lightning. She called out to her husband, who was standing nearby.
49:58 KATHY: I didn’t even didn’t register in my mind that I’d been hit with a shot with a bullet that had gone through my hip and through my guts. So I put my arm out and thought ‘Oh yeah, it’s lightning!’ And my husband went as far away from me as what he could. Eventually I fell to the ground. It seemed to take forever. The third shot was fired it miss my head by point two of a millimeter. He kept firing.
NARRATION: Kathy’s brother-in-law would shoot 150 bullets in what would turn into an hours-long siege with police.
50:38 KATHY: I lay there on the ground, it was getting nightfall. I was in a place that I didn’t know and I was lying in the dirt bleeding. And I could hear sirens there was choppers above and there was SWAT squads out there. And nobody would come and fucking help me. I just lay there like a bloody dog. And all he had was a rifle. And those guys out there, their fucking machine guns, they had – They (inauduble), they just left me there. Eventually, like I crawled out the gate and this was on acreage. So it’s a long way to the front gate. So I crawled out, I literally slithered like a snake to the front gate. And eventually, I was airlifted to the hospital.
51:24 NARRATION: Police charged Kathy’s brother-in-law with attempted murder and human torture, and other charges. She believed the mortive was greed. The will from the father had not been settled. Police questioned her husband – a man who had made Kathy’s life hell for years. But they couldn’t connect him to it.
KATHY: And what I was told by the detectives is either he’s extremely smart or is absolutely stupid. Because they couldn’t work him out. He was so good at what he did, not only did he could he manipulate me and control me. But he couldn’t, they couldn’t even charge him. Because he was so good. Because whether it was the training in the army or whether it was his upbringing, and then that somebody made him like that.
52:16 NARRATION: All of this – the shooting, the investigation, the trial – could have been avoided if the officer sitting at that front desk had just taken Kathy seriously.
KATHY: What frustrates me is those police down there when I went into that office, that just went and did raided that house. I would not have the issues that I have. I have 30% feeling in my leg. I have some internal stuff going on. I have obviously post traumatic stress. And for the last nine years, I’ve been trying to get my life back to what it was and I can’t. Because somebody wouldn’t listen.
TRANSITION MUSIC PLAYS
53:09 NARRATION: It was 2018 when Chloe was evicted from her house on a seven day safety notice – three years after Victoria had held a Royal Commission into Family Violence.
CHLOE: And they were like, there’s a lot of pressure on police to be seen to be acting, we need to intervene.
And it’s a common thing, because they, they perceive that parties need to be separated. So this separates two people. And in fact, in their mind, in the police’s mind, it doesn’t necessarily matter who the order is placed upon, because the main thing is that the parties are separated.
And they’ve done their job of separating two parties where there may be violence. So they were like I don’t think it was a big deal they got to that house that night and they’re like, we’re gonna give this to someone. Someone’s made these allegations someone hasn’t. Well, we’ll just make sure that the person who hasn’t made the allegation, we’ll put it on them. So to them it like didn’t really matter who they put it on, as long as they were seen to be doing something
JESS: Did it matter to you?
CHLOE: Well, yes, it does matter to me because I , it just it’s increased my sense of fear dramatically. I went from a situation where I felt I was semi in control to things we’re way out of control my post traumatic stress is going through the roof.
54:25 NARRATION: The stress of leaving was enormous. In the relationship, Chloe tried to manage her partner – she could predict his moods, discern his patterns, know when he was drunk and becoming dangerous. Now, with no contact, she was in the dark.
CHLOE: And that actually made me more afraid of him, because I could now no longer predict what he was going to do.
54:51 But then also, I became fearful of the police because they’d taken all these rights away from me, they automatically believed his allegation and then they started supporting him through the civil process, to then get an intervention order against me that was longer than seven days.
55:04 NARRATION: Despite evidence of injuries and Chloe giving a statement about the assault, Victoria police continued to pursued the intervention order on behalf of her ex.
CHLOE: Now it’s like, well, it doesn’t matter, necessarily where he is because not just about him anymore.
55:48 It’s like, I can’t feel safe wherever the police are, because they can, without
justification, do things to me, which I never thought was possible.
I was always on edge. Like even though I was asleep, I was on edge because there there was no safety net left. There was no security, I could feel left. And so my
posttraumatic stress was just going through the roof because it wasn’t just how
dangerous one person was it was, well, I’m not safe anywhere now because I have
no idea what the police are gonna do to me because like, I can’t predict their
55:55 NARRATION: By the time Chloe testified at the NSW inquiry, she was almost shaking with anger.
Chloe: If intimate terrorism occurs when one partner in a relationship, typically a man uses coercive control and power over the other partner, then what do you call the state actively supporting intimate terrorism? I would call that state sponsored terrorism. It was very successful. I was terrified. My perpetrator used the resources and might of Victoria Police and in particular the police legal counsel who grilled me under cross examination questioning my testimony from the incident in 2014 saying that being grabbed by the neck and being pulled to the ground couldn’t have been that bad because on that particular occasion, I hadn’t called the police. Police legal counsel minimised and excused my perpetrator’s violence in an Australian court of law and used an example of the perpetrator’s violence against me to support their case to further restrict my rights.
56:57 NARRATION: Chloe applied for an intervention order against her ex – this is what’s known as a cross-application, where both parties have applied for intervention orders against each other.
When it came to the first morning of the full court hearing, in which the police were to represent Chloe’s ex, their records showed a history of incidents in which he had been named the perpetrator, and they withdrew their support for him.
57:22 CHLOE: And it’s about to go to full court where it’s just him and his lawyer against me and my lawyer, so there’s no police, they just walk out, they’re not involved anymore. And there’s
JESS: They don’t support you?
CHLOE: Oh, no, no, no, definitely not. They just disappear.
TRANSITION MUSIC PLAYS
57:52 JESS: there was a survey done of Victorian police, and their attitudes towards policing more generally, and they just sort of offered their own opinions on on family violence. And one, I think it was senior constable or senior Sergeant said that there are police who love family violence and then there are others who hate it. That’s a real hot love-hate thing, and that really stuck with me, I was like, what what is it like when, when you have police who hate it? How does that affect the police who love it? You know, that that internal culture around that, is that what you sort of saw that there were police that, like yourself, who would really go above and beyond and think about that individual person, not just what the protocols are, like, you know, talk on their behalf if they needed that, to the victim helpline, etc. And then there are people who are like, I didn’t join the force for this.
PAULA SMITH: Just another bloody domestic.
NARRATION: This is former cop Paula Smith again.
58:35 PAULA SMITH: Yeah. And it’s hard to work with those people. It’s hard to work on the other car when you have got them, you know, they’re sitting in that car and you’re this car and you’re the only one turning up to all the domestics. But there was definitely a divide and I think that was hard for, for the individual cop because they thought that I was too close to it, too personal. But you sort of go but that’s why we join, we want to help.
I think it reflected on their stats as well, which is another, which goes back to that, like, it’s very much about why, what their agenda is. And, you know, to get a lock up for a domestic violence offender is not the same as a robbery offense, it’s like an invisible point system that gets you notoriety or gets you noticed or gets you where you want to be in what promotion, like.
There were some that wanted to be straight up in charge. And that’s, they wanted to get there. And that was a way for them to be there. So if it was, if domestics took like some take eight hours to sort out. They didn’t want to spend their whole shift doing that.
59:32 NARRATION: Before I’d spoken to Paula, I’d heard the exact same thing from Frank Caridi. He was clear on the fact that despite the PR about police taking domestic and family violence seriously, it still wasn’t rating much of a mention when police were getting measured for their performance, and considered for promotion.
FRANK: You know, when you do your performance review? They don’t even look at how many domestic violence or domestic abuse cases you’ve gone to on what you’ve done to resolve it. They’ll look at how many infringement notices you’ve issued, they’ll look at how much briefs for criminals you’ve processed, but family violence or family abuse doesn’t even come into the equation. They don’t even look at that.
JESS: So they don’t rate you at all..it’s not seen as something that’s going to assist you in your career path as a police?
1:00:40 FRANK: That is exactly it. That’s exactly it! And they kind of go well, why am I wasting my time doing all the paperwork for this, when they’re going to get back together in two weeks, whereas it’s interfering with my career path! I could be out going and executing that warrant on that druggy, or giving out tickets for people not wearing a seatbelt. And instead I’m hindered by doing this, because these people can’t get their act together.
JESS: It’s really weird. Like, but it’s not considered to be something worth measuring. Because, as you would have noticed, like it can be the most dangerous call out you have. And you don’t even know until you get out there. I mean, it’s as far as policing is concerned, it requires all of those skills about being prepared for the worst case scenario, how you respond, subtlety, etc, you know, incredible skill set is required really to handle these, incidents adequately, you would think that that’s exactly what the police would want to measure. And you would think that in Victoria, particularly, where you’ve had commissioners from, you know, Christine Nixon and through Ken Lay, now with Graham Ashton, there’s a lot of very positive things being said, by senior management about, you know, policing, domestic abuse and how important it is.
FRANK: Yes, that’s right. And there is a separation between what organisations like that want you to perceive as compared to what actually happens.
1:01:45 NARRATION: I asked Paula how it felt to have this work virtually ignored by her superiors – and even possibly detrimental to her career in the force.
PAULA SMITH: I mean I would get the greatest satisfaction from victims though when they ring up and go, thanks for your help, you know, you really helped me out. And that was both, I’d get that from offenders as well. Because you know, when you’re helping them to understand what’s going on, and what the opportunities are for them to get help or create change in their family dynamics and have access with their kids, then they would go, they’d ring up and go, you know, I just want to say thanks, because if it had been a bloke, I probably would have punched you in the head, but that was my reward system.
1:02:27 NARRATION: Domestic abuse is core business for police. In Victoria alone, police responded to a record 88,214 family violence incidents in 2020 alone, which consumed 40–60 percent of frontline police time. In some areas across Australia, the percentage is even higher. This is not just some niche task that some police resent doing—this is the number-one law and order problem in this country.
Senior leaders at Victoria Police have for years now spoken about family violence being a top priority.
In 2018, Victoria Police announced a new five-year strategy to pursue family violence ‘as urgently as terrorism’: family violence investigation units would be staffed with detective and intelligence practitioners, and 208 additional specialist family violence police would be deployed across the state. There is now also trauma-informed training at the new Centre of Learning for Family Violence that focuses on explaining to police that coercive and controlling behaviours can be equally, if not more, traumatising for a victim than physical forms of violence.
And Family Violence Command Assistant Commissioner Lauren Callaway recently told the Herald Sun that Victoria Police have launched a new initiative, analysing previous cases of victim misidentification to learn how that error was made, to reconnect with the misidentified victims and ensure they are now protected. After Chloe told her story on the SBS Insight program, Callaway contacted her to apologise.
And yet, these problems persist. It is not the specialist officers, by and large, who are failing victims of domestic abuse. It is those frontline officers and the old guys in middle-management who, no matter how much training they get, continue to ‘hate’ dealing with family violence.
I want you to consider a parallel. So imagine if a large percentage of firefighters resented putting out bushfires. They like riding in the truck and attending house fires, but they just hate bushfires. When they show up at a grassfire, they don’t reach for their hoses, but instead turn to each other and say, ‘Look, it’s not like the forest is on fire, it’s just a little grassfire. Let’s just leave it. It’ll probably burn out on its own. Besides, maybe the bloke who set this grass on fire had good reason to do it.’ If just one story like that hit the media, the nation would reel. There’d be calls for an immediate inquiry. The firefighters themselves would probably be fired, if not criminally charged.
1:05:31 So why doesn’t this happen? Because firefighters want to fight fires. That’s why they’re firefighters.
Police callouts are increasing. More victim survivors are reaching out, trusting that they will be helped. Some will find cops who will help them, some will be treated with disdain, or worse.
For some victims, how police respond will be a matter of life or death.
Domestic violence is now core business for police. It is a huge part of what policing is so there’s an urgent question that’s facing police right now, both as individuals and as an organisation. It’s not just can you do this job – it’s do you even want to do this job?
As an abolitionist, Karina Hogan has a clear position on this, but increasingly, perspectives like hers – which were once considered to be fringe – are becoming more mainstream.
1:06:34 KARINA: I’m really, really sorry that police officers are put in that position. I don’t think that it’s fair on them either. To have that onus put on them where they have to do something – like it’s like asking me to do a gymnastics routine. I don’t friggin’ know how to do a gymnastics routine. You know, I’m a journalist, and I’m a bloody board member. You know, it’s asking a certain group of society to do something that they’re not equipped to do. When it’s when it’s it’s a system that’s built on using force and violence to, to stop things or to make things happen. It’s almost like a perpetuation of violence to a degree I think.
1:07:17 NARRATION: Next time, on the Trap, we go deeper into the cultural issues within law enforcement, and see what happens when the people paid to protect victims of violence are perpetrators themselves.
You’ve been listening to The Trap, proudly brought to you by the Victorian Women’s Trust and it’s harm prevention entity the Dugdale Trust for Women and Girls. We would like to thank all of our supporters and donors. Special thanks to Equity Trustees & the Phyllis Connor Trust, the Bokhara Foundation and a private donor.
Our Creative Producer and editor is Georgina Savage. Co producers are Ally Oliver Perham , Maria Chetcuti , Mary Crooks and Lucy Ballantyne. Special thanks to Leah McPherson and the team at the Victorian Women’s Trust. The Trap was mixed by Romy Sher and Pariya Taherzadeh. I’m your head writer, producer and host, Jess Hill.
This podcast was produced in Sydney and Melbourne and we respectfully acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of this land, the Gadigal of the Eora nation and the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation.
We would like to acknowledge the victim survivors and others who have generously shared their stories and expertise.
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