There’s No Place Like Home Episode Six: Eleanor*

By Future Women


By Future Women

INTRO: This series comes with a content note for anyone who has been through abuse or knows someone who has. Statistically, that is a lot of us. Some of what you’ll hear in this podcast is distressing. Although we know it’s important to hear directly from victim-survivors about what they’ve been through, this content may be confronting and won’t be suitable for everyone.

Please check the show notes for phone numbers you can contact to receive confidential support.

There’s No Place Like Home is a Future Women podcast  in collaboration with our proud partner, Commonwealth Bank; supporting long-term financial independence for victim-survivors through CommBank Next Chapter.

We acknowledge that we produced this series on what always has been, and always will be, Aboriginal land.

ELEANOR*: I’ve got everything to lose here. He has got everything to gain. 

TARANG CHAWLA: My name is Tarang Chawla, and I’m a writer, lawyer and anti-violence advocate. I’m also the host of There’s No Place Like Home, a podcast about family violence that puts the voices of survivors at the centre of the story.

Today we’re exploring how perpetrators of violence use the Australian court system to intimidate and abuse their former partners.

DR ELLEN REEVES: They use it as a weapon of power and control over a victim-survivor. And then when we use the term legal systems abuse, we’re specifically referring to the deliberate manipulation of the law, which is including but not limited to family law, child protection, civil protection orders. 

It’s quite a unique tactic used by perpetrators, because it’s really easily overlooked as the perpetrator exercising their genuine legal rights. 

TARANG CHAWLA: That’s Dr Ellen Reeves. She works with The Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre. Her work investigates how the legal system can be used as an extension of family abuse.

DR ELLEN REEVES: I think it’s safe to say that the large majority of women who raised allegations of family violence in family law have experienced systems abuse.

TARANG CHAWLA: We’re about to introduce you to Eleanor, whose name and voice have been changed to protect her identity. We’ve also bleeped some details that could reveal her location. For the last three years, Eleanor has been locked in legal battles with her former – and abusive – partner, Jay. That’s not his real name. Eleanor’s legal costs now exceed a quarter of a million dollars.

ELEANOR: I’m living paycheck to paycheck. And I used to have a condo, I had significant shares, I had savings. My financial resources have been absolutely depleted. 

TARANG CHAWLA: What Eleanor has gone through isn’t unusual. In fact, too often, the financial and emotional toll of a protracted court battle is simply the price of justice for women who have left violent relationships. The law becomes another tactic that an abuser has at their disposal.

And the intersection of the legal system and financial abuse can be acute. CommBank Next Chapter advisor Moo Baulch has more than two decades of experience in the domestic abuse sector. As she explains…

MOO BAULCH: You know, there are a range of ways that the legal system has started to respond to this, and a lot of work has been done within the court system. But there’s still a really long way to go.

We know that perpetrators often deliberately hide assets from their partner, or ex partner or from the court. We know and I’ve had multiple conversations over the years where women talk about knowing that they are going to face a really lengthy court battle and probably bankruptcy, or certainly extreme debt, to be able to fight through a custody battle, for example. And often because the partner, because dad has access to more financial resources, he’s often much more likely to be able to continue that court case to a point where she just has to give up. And that’s a really, really common thing that happens, often. 

TARANG CHAWLA: This is what Eleanor’s life was like before she was immersed in legal skirmishes and before her relationship with Jay became violent.

ELEANOR: I was at a really high point in my life, I had, you know, my job was going really well. I had a great circle of friends, I traveled a lot. Whereas he was at a low point, he had just been fired from his employment. He seemed a bit lost, a bit depressed, and just down. And I just felt sorry for him. And I thought, I’ll give him the support that he needs because we’re friends. So we hung out a lot. And very soon we were dating. 

TARANG CHAWLA: After splitting up with her previous long-term partner, Eleanor and Jay started spending more time together. Eleanor says she was grateful for the company, even though some of the things he said seemed kind of strange.

ELEANOR: His relationships would break down, and he would blame the women. And he would say things like, they’re personality disordered, they’re psycho, and he needs my help to help him find a good woman. So I recall at the time feeling quite sorry for him

He had a couple of sexual harassment cases against him and he said to me, that the bitches tried to take me out and they weren’t successful. He would regularly denigrate his former partners, particularly the mother of his child. And I wondered at the time, why would he feel the need to do that, they split so so long ago, it just was not necessary.

TARANG CHAWLA: Soon after their friendship fell into a romantic relationship, Jay convinced Eleanor to move back to Australia. He told Eleanor that he had no money, and so she paid for the couple’s relocation costs.

In Australia, Jay and Eleanor began living together. It won’t surprise you to learn that she paid the rent on their city apartment, and later, the deposit for their new home in regional New South Wales. Eleanor may have been carrying both of them financially, but she was in love. 

ELEANOR: He made me wear a fake engagement ring. So men wouldn’t approach me. I worked in an organisation that was predominantly men. Because he couldn’t afford to buy a proper one. So it was sort of a fake diamond looked real, but it was a fake diamond. 

He would call me over lunch breaks to see if I was on my own or whether I was meeting with work colleagues for lunch and he would call me around 4:30pm, most days just to check if I was going to a work function or having drinks or whether I would be home. In a weird way at the start, I was quite flattered by that attention.

TARANG CHAWLA: What Eleanor is describing here are particularly subtle coercive control tactics called pseudo-caring behaviours. Other pseudo-caring behaviours include influencing who they communicate and interact with, monitoring their behaviour or constantly undermining their opinions under the guise of care or concern.

Viewed individually such behaviours might not be considered abusive or even cause for concern. But when taken together they create a pattern of coercive control which is an indicator of future violence.

It is difficult to convey the true, horrific scope of the violence perpetrated against Eleanor, without revealing too many identifying details. One of many disturbing incidents, which happened several years ago, goes some way to depicting the violence that was perpetrated against Eleanor every single week. This time, it was during an overseas holiday while Eleanor was pregnant.

ELEANOR: We had an argument. I said to him, look, I’d prefer to stay in hotels versus with your friends who I don’t know for my own comfort. And he perceived that as disrespectful. So I tried to call Qantas and I’m on the phone to them to book a flight home, but he hangs up and it pushes me against the hotel room. 

TARANG CHAWLA: Jay put his hands on the front of Eleanor’s neck.

ELEANOR: Shortly thereafter, we receive a call from the reception desk saying guests have called us worried about what they’ve heard. And he answers the phone and says, look, it’s just a couple’s argument. There’s nothing to worry about. That night, he prevented me from sleeping, he kept me up, he jumped up and down on the bed. He played loud music, he wanted me to miscarry. And he forced me to listen to hours and hours of denigrating comments about how I was a bad person, how he will decide when this relationship ends and what that looks like. And then he would say things like, oh, well, you know, Eleanor two and a half hours to go to sunrise. How are you coping? Are you coping? And then he would just laugh. 

TARANG CHAWLA: The abuse escalated again after Jay and Eleanor had a baby together.

ELEANOR:  I tried to leave 12 times. At the start when I tried to leave, he would say, oh, I’m so sorry, I need to get help for my issues. And he would convince me that he would change. But later on, when I said I wanted to leave, he would demean me, he would threaten me and, and I strangely perceived the threat of leaving as worse than staying, because I was worried about what he might do to me, given some of the threats that he had made. 

TARANG CHAWLA: Eleanor recorded some of Jay’s attacks.  In one particularly distressing recording, Jay strangles Eleanor and tells her he’s “going to end her”, as she begs him to let her comfort their crying baby. We’ve chosen not to include that recording here because while it’s important to convey the seriousness of the abuse and violence that women like Eleanor face, the audio is highly distressing.

Listening to it myself, I was left shaken and angry. Although I know Eleanor safe now, the raw brutality of her interactions with Jay are deeply unsettling. And this was just one of many assaults. 

ELEANOR: An innocuous comment I made. He said to me get on the floor and beg like a dog for my forgiveness. That’s disrespectful. And he locked me out of the house and forced me to spend the night outside. So I could learn manners to treat him with the respect he said he deserved. And he said you’re not going to survive the night. And it was that threat, that I called the police for the first time. I thought he was going to kill me. And it was the first time he had threatened me in that way. And that was an escalation I hadn’t heard before. And so I called the police. He saw me on the phone, came outside and hung up the phone. 

TARANG CHAWLA: When the police arrived, Jay threatened Eleanor. He instructed her to wear a long-sleeved shirt and tell them everything was fine – or else. Jay and Eleanor weren’t interviewed separately. She had to describe what had happened and why she called the police in front of her abuser. Eleanor was too scared to tell them the truth.

ELEANOR: He repeatedly said you won’t go to the police because they won’t believe you. He also said I’ve got expert testimony. He said others have tried to falsify shit against me before and none of it worked out for them. And he’s like, you’d be crazy to take me on in court because you’ll lose.

TARANG CHAWLA: Now let’s bring in one of Australia’s top experts in domestic abuse laws, Professor Heather Douglas. You’ve heard from Professor Douglas before in previous episodes. Professor Douglas is the author of the National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book – an important textbook outlining consistent understanding of domestic and family violence to lawyers and judges. 

Professor Douglas says Australian courts are ill-equipped to support victim-survivors like Eleanor through the criminal justice system to achieve a just outcome.

PROFESSOR HEATHER DOUGLAS: There are a whole lot of reasons why women drop out of the system. From the police charge stage, there’s a certain number of cases. But about 50 percent of those fall away, and a good proportion of those ones that fall away and not because of any other reason, than the woman decides not to proceed with the case.

So good support for women in that context, why is she dropping out? What’s the financial burden that she has to replace? What’s the psychological support that she needs, we need to do more to help women who want to stay with prosecution who want to see their partner prosecuted with these offences to support them through that process. We don’t do enough, I don’t think at that stage.

TARANG CHAWLA: Like so many others before her, Eleanor remained silent in order to keep herself safe. But simply staying alive proved increasingly difficult, and all the while, Jay was getting better at hiding what he was doing to her.

ELEANOR: He would learn how to put his fingers over my voice box so I couldn’t scream. So it was very, he was very savvy over time and how to injure me such that I was injured and incapacitated, but there was no outward sign of that.

TARANG CHAWLA: According to the ANROWS risk assessment guide, strangulation is one of the most lethal forms of intimate partner violence. Research has found that a woman whose partner has tried to strangle her, is seven times more likely than other abused women, to end up dead.

For a long time, non-lethal strangulation was not a standalone criminal offence in Australian jurisdictions. That meant that offenders who choked their partners were charged with common assault, which carries a relatively small sentence. However, thanks to the hard work of survivors, advocates and experts, progress is being made. It is, or is in the process of becoming, a standalone offence in New South Wales, Tasmania, the ACT and Queensland.

Jay regularly attacked Eleanor. And once their daughter was born? He had a second target.

ELEANOR: The emotional abuse was towards our daughter as well. He would say, you know, you’re fat, you’re lazy, you’re ugly, you get that from your mother, she was a bit slow to crawl. So he would say, you know, that’s from your mom’s side. If she cried, he would yell, if she didn’t settle, he would yell, he would blame my breast pump for being too noisy, and he couldn’t hear the rugby.
And I remember his parents, his sister was coming to our property to meet our daughter for the first time. And I said to him, Look, I’m so exhausted, I would just love a couple of hours’ time out. Maybe I can, you know, go see my mom in the city. And you can have some alone time with your sister and our daughter. And again, that was disrespectful. So remember, he kicked me in the healing room of my C section. And it has never healed properly actually.

TARANG CHAWLA: Now, years after leaving, Eleanor is terrified that her young daughter could face the same horrific, irrational fury. That she, like her mum, could be accused of being disrespectful by doing something as simple as asking for some down time – and that the consequences could be emotionally and physically catastrophic. Her concern for the daughter she’d wanted so badly, was ultimately one of the triggers for her final escape. It happened after Jay choked her again – and issued yet another degrading command.

ELEANOR: I remember it so vividly. Because at that point, somehow the penny dropped for me that oh, he actually does, like hate me. And he kicked me in the back. And then he asked me to beg like a dog for his forgiveness in front of our daughter. And for me that was the final straw, that demeaning in front of her. And so that was the final straw. I left with our daughter very early, he was not awake the next morning.

TARANG CHAWLA: A simplistic understanding of gender-based violence suggests that abuse ends when a victim-survivor walks out the front door. That’s often not the case. For Eleanor, the end of her relationship with Jay marked the beginning of an expensive and traumatising legal battle. And it was through the protracted legal battle that Eleanor realised she probably wasn’t Jay’s only victim… Remember the so-called “crazy ex-girlfriend” who Jay told Eleanor about over cocktails when they were first dating? Well, after Eleanor left, she looked her up.

BETH*: She reached out to me via LinkedIn. She, I think, wanted to see if it had happened to me. I think there was a part of her that wanted to understand what a relationship with Jay had looked like for me, but also what it’s potentially going to look like for her daughter. 

TARANG CHAWLA: Eleanor and Beth swiftly realised just how much they had in common. For one, they look eerily alike. They could be sisters, just a decade apart. But the similarities extend beyond their appearance. Eleanor and Beth are both highly intelligent, they’re corporate women in senior positions who are more successful than Jay. Eleanor and Beth’s daughters are also half-sisters. Jay is the father of both women’s children. Beth related some of her experiences to Eleanor and many of Jay’s behaviours from that relationship were familiar.

BETH: He really wanted control over where I went and what I did. And he really liked or tried to isolate me, I’m very blessed to have a close family, although they’re a long way away. And I’ve got a really great group of friends who, when we first met, we’re also a long way away. But when I moved cities, they became a lot closer again, physically, I mean, and he would do everything in his power to isolate me from those friends. 

And then he would slowly try and erode your faith and trust in those people. We would give little examples of well, why did they behave like that? Or why did they do that? Or, and he would often say, Oh, they don’t you know, they don’t know. Like me, that’s why they’re saying that about me and just chipping away at your relationships and your belief systems and your trust in the people that are so close to you. 

TARANG CHAWLA: Beth and Eleanor were pursued by Jay shortly after breaking up with a long-term partner and they’d both been coerced and emotionally abused. Beth believes that had she stayed with Jay for longer, physical violence would have been inevitable.

BETH: I think about what would happen to me if I’d stayed. I think about that a lot… 

TARANG CHAWLA: That Jay was a serial abuser frightened both women. Not only because he had proved himself capable of physical abuse but because they were afraid he would try to get custody of their daughters. Now, under the Family Law Act, Australian courts can make orders about two broad aspects of parenting: one is parental responsibility and the other is care time. Where the evidence shows a child needs to be protected from harm from exposure to family violence or child abuse, the court needs to put this ahead of the child’s right to a meaningful relationship with both parents. 

But Dr Reeves says too often, it doesn’t. 

DR ELLEN REEVES: We have the presumption of equal shared responsibility when it comes to decisions about children. And that was really born out of campaigning by men’s rights activists, you know, sort of in the, I’d say, 80s, 90s, probably early 2000s, as well. And the way that that really operates, it assumes that it is more important for a child to have a relationship with both parents than it is for a child to not be exposed to violence.

TARANG CHAWLA: This brings me to another important issue: parental alienation syndrome. In the 1980s, a man called Richard Gardner came up with the term – claiming, incorrectly, that the vast majority of child sex abuse claims are made up and that vengeful mother make false allegations of abuse against fathers, to alienate them from their children. His assertions have been repeatedly and consistently debunked. But Dr Reeves says the echoes of these gendered myths are still playing out in Australian courts, decades later.

DR ELLEN REEVES: The family law system operates in a way that almost bolsters these efforts. There are these very gendered narratives that underpin the family law decisions. One of them is that just because men have committed family violence, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be good fathers, and also the myth that women will raise false allegations in family law in order to get an upper hand in those proceedings. This is not the reality. 

TARANG CHAWLA: The international data supports this. In 2019, a paper was published examining allegations from men that their partners were manipulating the family law system to alienate them from their children. Researchers combed through ten years of American cases of abuse and so-called parental alienation – what they found was disturbing – mothers who claim a father has physically or sexually abused their child are actually more likely to lose custody to the man.

28 percent of mothers who alleged that a father was abusive lost custody of her children to him. When a father accused a mother of parental alienation in court, that rate went up to 50 percent. The courts also rejected 81 percent of mother’s allegations of sexual abuse against their child, 79 percent of allegations of physical abuse, and 57 percent of partner abuse were rejected.

DR ELLEN REEVES: We know that women rarely make false allegations. But I think it’s really important to think about not just perpetrators committing systems abuse, but the ways in which the system allows that to happen.

TARANG CHAWLA: Jay continued to live in the home that Eleanor had purchased for them. Eleanor was still paying the mortgage there, as well as for the place she was living in. With a young daughter to provide for, Eleanor was worried about what would happen to her credit rating if she stopped paying down the mortgage on the home she owned, but that Jay was occupying. To protect both Beth and Eleanor’s safety, we can’t give you a detailed explanation of what happened next. What we can tell you is that in 2017, Jay attacked Eleanor again, with a witness present, and charges were laid – over that, and other assaults.

ELEANOR: I said to the Senior Constable, look, this is like a small piece of the overall pie. I said, I’ve got lots of evidence. When I sent her through the evidence, she called me and she said, Oh, my gosh, I didn’t realise this was as severe as this. And the statement was 41 pages long in the end. And I gave her the recordings. And she said, look, there’s evidence to charge up to 42 offences here. A senior prosecutor agrees. 

TARANG CHAWLA: The Senior Constable told Eleanor that with most of the offences having taken place in another jurisdiction, she needed to refer the case to police in that area. But when the police in that second jurisdiction did decide to charge Jay, it was with a total of only six offences. Both Eleanor and the Senior Constable who had originally been so supportive were hugely disappointed with that outcome.

Shortly afterwards, when Eleanor arrived at a local court in regional New South Wales for the first time, she found that Jay had hired one of the country’s top – and most expensive – barristers.

ELEANOR: I thought he had no money. And I was super surprised at that. And so we get to the day of the hearing, and I’m cross-examined for a couple of hours by this barrister. And I found that quite traumatic.

TARANG CHAWLA: Dr Kate Fitz-Gibbon has advised both Australian and international governments on domestic abuse law reform. She maintains that there are limits to the success of family violence allegations because of the nature of our adversarial court system.  

DR KATE FITZ-GIBBON: By the very nature of an adversarial system is one person’s word against another victim will often if they decide to or if they’re requested to be a witness, have their version of events challenged, and that might for them feel worse and attack on their credibility in might feel that the harm that’s been committed against them is being questioned, is being minimised or they’re being made to feel to blame for that. 

TARANG CHAWLA: After suffering years of abuse while caring for her beloved daughter – and after being further isolated from her networks while on maternity leave – Eleanor was burnt out. So when a prosecutor – who told Eleanor he’d only been given her case the day before – recommended that she withdraw the charges in exchange for an 18 month apprehended violence order. She did. 

ELEANOR: He was no match for the barrister. And my desire was to just feel protected. At the end of the day, I started a job after not having worked for a while, I didn’t want to screw that up. I was not sleeping, I was stressed. And so I, you know, took an easy way out and I agreed to that deal. 

TARANG CHAWLA: That Eleanor was fatigued, not just by what had happened to her but her interactions with the justice system is understandable. Her experience is mirrored by the data as well. The New South Wales Law and Justice Foundation have found that people engaging with family law matters are 16 times more likely to experience problems than others interacting in the legal system. 80 percent of domestic violence victim-survivors said those problems were having a “severe” impact on their everyday life.

Wait times for the hearing of criminal matters in NSW courts have blown out to 378 days from committal to sentencing, in 2020. That’s a year of someone’s life being dominated by the stress and distress of being involved in an emotionally charged legal matter. 

Queensland Crown Prosecutor Julie Aylward says victim fatigue is painfully normal. 

JULIE AYLWARD: Genuinely a lot of victims don’t realise, once they’ve spoken to the police, what happens afterwards. I think for a lot of them, it’s a really big step to make their complaint to the police. And they think, yep, now I’ve done it. They’ve seen, I’ve had to say they’ve seen my injuries. I’ve actually done it, and they don’t realise they’re going to be reliving at all so far down the track.

TARANG CHAWLA: It’s not just the emotional toll of pursuing a criminal case either. The cost of hiring legal representation in concurrent matters can be financially devastating. This is especially so in the Family Court, where Eleanor and Jay were still negotiating their assets at the time of recording this podcast.

Dr Ellen Reeves says the costs of getting caught up in the family law system can be considerable. 

DR ELLEN REEVES: The Australian Law Reform Commission, which was in 2019, they found that the average cost was about $300,000. For and that’s anyone going through the family law system, but it can get as high as a million dollars for some people. And I think it’s safe to say that, you know, the people at the cost of the higher end, they’re probably being experienced by people who are experiencing systems abuse. But yet, systems abuse aside, the family law system is obviously extremely expensive. It goes on for years.

Deliberately prolonging court proceedings, making false allegations to the court, defaming the character of the victim-survivor, not showing up to court proceedings, which again, sort of falls into that delaying and constantly appealing decisions. 

TARANG CHAWLA: Eleanor says Jay has deliberately drawn out their Family Court case at every possible turn. And he has done so using money that Eleanor never knew about. Money that was never used to pay the mortgage on the house Jay lived in for so many years. The situation is even more fraught today. The house was sold in 2018. But Jay has repeatedly refused Eleanor’s requests to access the money from that sale – money that could be used to care for their daughters or to pay her ever-mounting legal costs.

ELEANOR: I’ve got everything to lose here. He’s got everything to gain. Because it’s, you know, the profit that’s sitting in that trust account from the sale of that home, is because I could afford to buy in the first place. He never would have had any dibs on that. Had I not purchased it. 

TARANG CHAWLA: Jay has rebuffed the option of court-ordered mediation. He is continuing to fight for 50 per cent of his and Eleanor’s shared assets in court. Covid-19 has only served to complicate matters further. Eleanor and countless other families have had their matters repeatedly delayed, giving Jay and his lawyers ongoing access to her life. 

ELEANOR: He’s still able to see all my bank statements through the financial subpoena. And so he can see where I get my coffee each morning, he can see where I shop, he can see exactly what I’m buying when I’m buying it, which restaurants I go to it’s another level of invasion, there’s no privacy.

TARANG CHAWLA: Eleanor feels that by doing the right thing – and following the law – she’s opened herself up to another form of abuse – one that’s also been exacerbated by Covid-19. Here’s Dr Reeves again.

DR ELLEN REEVES: Perpetrators using the pandemic, and the fact that the family law system, for instance, has been quite affected by the pandemic in its ability to monitor and enforce family law orders. So perpetrators might be violating those orders more and trying to gain greater control over children and custody arrangements and also using children as a pretext to seeing the victim-survivor. So those behaviours are all forms of systems abuse, where perpetrators are violating those orders. 

And capitalising on the fact that there are huge delays in family law hearings as a result of the pandemic. And just generally, the longevity of the court process. Pre pandemic, it can be really traumatic for victims survivors, and that’s been exacerbated by the pandemic. And I think that sort of underpins some of those themes of systems abuse as well, just how long that process goes on for.

TARANG CHAWLA: It’s not just Covid changing the family law landscape either. There has been another seismic shift. In September 2021, the specialist Family Court was merged with the Federal Circuit Court. It is now the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia – the FCFC for short.

SENATOR AMANDA STOKER: The FCFC will provide a consistent pathway for Australian families, and have common streamlined processes and procedures to operate consistently. It will be simpler, more efficient, more effective and a more effective court for Australian families to resolve their matters, meaning we can increase the number of matters to be finalised each year

TARANG CHAWLA: That was federal government Senator Amanda Stoker speaking in the Australia Parliament last year. And while the change is now law, there was significant opposition voiced to the merger of courts when the bill was debated in parliament.

DR ELLEN REEVES: The main concern about this merger is it means that we will likely now have judges who don’t specialise in family law practice presiding over family law matters. So they may not have that nuanced knowledge of family violence and of child safety. And this is significant because there has already been for years really big concerns that the current Family Law Judges lack that specialisation and core knowledge. But now we’re sort of going, maybe going one step further. And that’s one of the reasons that systems abuse occurs, because key legal actors, including judges, don’t have that nuanced understanding, and don’t recognise when a perpetrator is manipulating that system and manipulating them as well. And I think abolishing the family court, ultimately, it’s going to, it’s going to result in a lot more women and children falling through the cracks than before. And a lot, were already falling through the cracks.

TARANG CHAWLA: Professor Douglas says that government awareness of the challenges in our court system is growing. Such cognisance is essential for reform, and so that’s heartening news. However, governments are moving in different directions at the state and territory level.

PROFESSOR HEATHER DOUGLAS: I mean, increasingly, we’re getting special family violence courts in Australia. So we have several in Victoria and there’s some in Queensland, for example, some in other jurisdictions as well. So we are increasingly becoming aware of the value of the family violence courts, often these can deal things more quickly, ultimately, because they have longer hearings that sort through the matters more carefully and come to a resolution that is more appropriate. 

So, you know, there is a value in taking time to determine these things, which is obviously something that the magistrates courts often don’t have the time to really go through this carefully. And so that’s one of the things that the family violence courts have provided is time or time for magistrates to actually hear the issues properly and, and make more careful determinations effectively.

TARANG CHAWLA: The early research into specialist domestic and family violence courts is positive. They have been found to improve efficiency and enhance both victim and perpetrator satisfaction with court processes. As we’ve just outlined, however, the Australian approach is mixed. 

At the time of recording – more than three years after their Family Court matter began, Eleanor is still waiting for a final hearing. She is still waiting for the court to rule on a division of assets. She is still waiting to learn whether Jay will get the 50 per cent share he’s asking for – and whether he’ll get his wish for unsupervised access to their daughter.

ELEANOR: I’m petrified, I have become aware of the emotional abuse is inflicted on his other daughter who’s now 16 I see the manipulation already happening with our daughter.  So reduce the potential for him to not only become aggressive with our daughter, should he lose his temper with her, Should she use the wrong tone of the voice read him or look at him the wrong way, he’s likely to lose his cool and be violent, he’s likely to have violent relationships with future partners, given his history, I don’t want her to be exposed to that, but just the emotional abuse now.

TARANG CHAWLA: Normally, we like to give the incredible victim-survivors who’ve shared their stories – and lent their names to the title of our episodes – the last word. But on this occasion, we’re going to leave you with the determined, encouraging words of Beth, Jay’s partner prior to Eleanor.

Beth is now happily married and has full custody of her daughter. The life she is living today shows the positive future that remains a possibility for Eleanor on the other side of her drawn-out legal battles. Here is the message that Beth had for her friend, Eleanor.

BETH: For Eleanor, I just really want her to know… She will come out the other side of this because she came into this the better, stronger person and she will come out of this the better, stronger person.

TARANG CHAWLA: In the next episode of There’s No Place Like Home, we’ll meet Jex, a trans man who was abused by his partner – a woman. Coming up next – the stories we hear about, and the ones we don’t.

JEX: We’ve come so far with domestic violence, but then adding that you’re a trans person. There is always a danger in outing yourself. There’s always a danger of not being taken seriously.

TARANG CHAWLA: See you next time.

OUTRO: There’s No Place Like Home is a Future Women podcast supported by our proud partner, Commonwealth Bank; supporting long-term financial independence for victim-survivors through CommBank Next Chapter.

For help or advice, please check the shownotes for phone numbers for confidential support.

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For more information about There’s No Place Like Home, or to join the movement, please head to futurewomen.com.

This episode was produced by Jamila Rizvi, Sally Spicer, Tarang Chawla, Fleur Bitcon, Ella Jackson, Ruby Leahy-Gatfield, India Bailey and Kate Leaver. Editing by Bad Producer Productions. Artwork by Patti Andrews.