If you had asked me over three years ago about my views on domestic violence, I would have told you that it was wrong – it shouldn’t happen. There is no excuse to abuse a woman. I also would’ve told you that I never expected my children to experience it. At the time, I didn’t know about the term coercive control or what it meant. I didn’t know that my daughter was experiencing it, and that it would result in her death.
On the 9th of March, 2018, my world changed. I changed. My daughter, Katie Haley, was murdered by her partner in her own home because she decided she was leaving him. How did I miss the signs? I knew things were strained between them, but my daughter being murdered? How did I not see this coming?
Looking back, there were plenty of red flags and signs of coercive control in Katie’s relationship. Some were small, subtle things that didn’t seem right. You brushed them aside as just a little immature, like when he would constantly call or message her. Other things included Katie asking us to look after her kids because she didn’t want to leave them with him. There were the times we couldn’t get hold of her only to find out her phone was disabled because he had tried too many times to get into it to check up on her. He would just “happen” to bump into her when she was shopping with family at shopping centres not near home when he was supposed to be at work. He created fake social media accounts and used them to contact her work colleagues, because he was convinced she was cheating on him even though she wasn’t.
I had several discussions with her partner over the phone and in person, mainly about his irrational behaviour, his surveillance of her including his fake social media accounts and the obsession he had that she was seeing someone else. I tried to reassure him that she still loved him, but it was his behaviour that was pushing her away. Nothing I said was getting through. He admitted to me that he couldn’t let things go, but he told me he’d never touch my daughter. He lied to my face and I didn’t pick it. I took him at his word that he would never touch Katie and six days later he beat her to death.
Domestic abuse and coercive control can happen to any family. It doesn’t matter where you live, work or come from. One of the hardest things for me has been trying to understand how you can be with someone who doesn’t respect you, someone who controls and monitors your every move, someone who always puts you down. I have never experienced this personally and my children have never seen this behaviour in my marriage. And for a long time, I was trying to understand how Katie’s relationship ended in her being murdered. Whilst I once would have thought why don’t they just leave? I now know it is not that simple. It is a complex issue and it comes down to coercive control and the systematic eroding of a woman’s self-esteem. Most victims still love their partners, and the perpetrators know that and use it to make them stay. I now know all too well what coercive control is and what wide-reaching effect it and domestic violence has.
More men need to come forward and actively condemn this behaviour. It’s not just up to women to try and fix this issue. Male involvement is key in reducing domestic abuse. Your daughter, sister or mother could be a victim and you may not realise until it’s too late. Times need to change. We need to teach the younger generations about respectful relationships. We need to discuss it openly in our families and we all need to support victims and call out perpetrators. From what I can see, women seem to be bringing a lot of awareness to these issues but aren’t receiving the support from enough of the male population. And we all need to be on the same page to make a change.
Tune into See What You Made Me Do from Wednesday 5 May, 8:30pm on SBS and SBS On Demand to see more of Boyd’s story.
Support is available from the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service at 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).