A victim-survivor was told by a Queensland police officer to focus on being a “good mother” after reporting a “significant assault” by her ex-partner, a commission of inquiry has heard.
The inquiry into Queensland police service’s (QPS) responses to domestic and family violence on Tuesday heard multiple accounts from disillusioned victims who said their complaints had not been taken seriously.
Joanna Mason, a victim-survivor and advocate for Resound, said when she reported her assault to police, an officer initially advised her to leave her home and take her child with her.
But after police spoke with the perpetrator, who denied the allegations, an officer told Mason her complaints were not “valid” and they couldn’t take further action, she said.
“It actually validated his behaviour and made him feel that he was able to keep behaving in that way without any recourse,” Mason said.
“It often felt … like it wasn’t being taken very seriously and … like I was the one being made to justify my actions … rather than looking at the source of the issue, the person perpetrating the violence.”
The inquiry heard from another victim who waited two-and-a-half years to have a strangulation matter resolved in court and said police had failed to take out a domestic violence order on the night of her assault.
The woman, who was quoted in a written submission by the Red Rose Foundation, said the magistrate at the application hearing was “extremely perturbed” by the lack of action by police after seeing photographic evidence of her injuries and medical reports.
The chief executive at the Red Rose Foundation, Betty Taylor, said when the woman later reported a breach of the domestic violence order, she was told it wasn’t a “significant breach” but an “administrative” one.
“I was disillusioned and frustrated as a result of the experience and it only heightened my concerns that no one was taking my case seriously, and that I was just as vulnerable at that point as I had been on the night of the strangulation,” the victim said in the submission.
In a separate instance, Taylor said a pregnant victim suffered a miscarriage when she was flown to Brisbane after being strangled in remote Queensland.
Taylor, who sits on the state’s Domestic and Family Violence Death Review and Advisory Board, called for a strangulation unit within the QPS, saying police responses to domestic violence have been “inconsistent”.
She said all of the deaths she has reviewed have been “predictable and preventable” and that perpetrators often exhibit a clear pattern of high-risk behaviour, including strangulation and signs of coercive control.
“The things women tell us more than once is, ‘I thought that was the moment I was going to die. I really thought that,’ and their partners have said to them, ‘Oh, you made it through,’ or, ‘Do you want to die?’,” Taylor said.
Mason said she spoke to 40 victims for her submission to the state’s women’s safety and justice taskforce, which recommended the commission of inquiry into QPS.
Her submission said victims’ experiences with police were “overwhelmingly negative” and included examples of police failing to take action and officers putting victims at risk by exposing their details to perpetrators.
Victims complained about officers “acting like they didn’t believe them or don’t want to hear what they have to say” while being manipulated by the perpetrator, Mason’s submission said.
The QPS are not commenting on specific issues raised in the inquiry but say they have been supporting officers giving testimonies during the public hearings.
A spokesperson said the QPS “looks forward to continuing to work with the commission of inquiry and receiving its recommendations” and that they are “committed to strengthening and improving” responses to domestic violence.
Public hearings continue in Brisbane this week, with the inquiry due to report back in October.
In Australia, the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. In the UK, call the national domestic abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247, or visit Women’s Aid. In the US, the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines may be found via www.befrienders.org.