When each of these children died, we swore we'd change: The Australian child victims of male domestic violence


OPINION -- Aaliyah Baxter, Laianah Baxter, Trey Baxter, Darcey Freeman, Jennifer Edwards, Jack Edwards, Jai Farquharson, Tyler Farquharson, Bailey Farquharson, Taye Cockman, Rylan Cockman, Ayre Cockman, Kaydn Cockman, Luke Batty, Koda Little, Hunter Little, River Hinder, Nyobi Hinder, Elisa and Martin Lutz.

These are the names of just some of the children murdered by male family members. The oldest was 15, the youngest just two.

It's hard to imagine what their final moments were like.

Some of these children lived lives affected by violence before their deaths. Their mothers had fled, desperate to save their children and themselves, trying everything they could to protect them but still compelled to share custody of them with their murderers.

Aaliyah Baxter, Laianah Baxter and Trey Baxter. (Facebook)

Some of these faces are fresh in our minds, some have begun to fade. But look again, soak them in. They deserve our anguish and our tears.

Because at the time each of them died, we swore we'd change. We wept for their tragic deaths and heard fierce vows that more would be done to protect children from acts of violence at the hands of men — often their own fathers.

We listened to our leaders promise action. We demanded change, we demanded men change; that this epidemic, this terrorism end. And here we are - in another week, in another town where it's happened again.

Darcey Freeman was murdered by her father who threw her from the Westgate Bridge in Melbourne. (AAP)

Around the country, women victims of family and domestic violence have had their partially-healed wounds torn open. They simply can't cope.

Eleven years ago, when the father of four-year-old Darcey Freeman stopped his car in the middle of the Westgate Bridge and threw his vibrant, beautiful daughter over the edge, we all stopped, horrified, when we heard the news.

Luke Batty was stabbed to death by his father at cricket training in Melbourne.
Luke Batty was stabbed to death by his father at cricket training in Melbourne. (Instagram via Fairfax)

Six years ago, when Luke Batty was murdered by his father at cricket practice on a sports oval in the outer Melbourne suburb of Tyabb, stabbed multiple times while his distraught mother Rosie Batty stood just metres away, we were devastated.

Four years ago, a man drove to a pier, shot his two tiny children Koda and Hunter Little and then himself, and we were left wringing our hands in helplessness at another tragic loss.

Koda and Hunter months were murdered by their father who shot them before driving off a pier.
Koda and Hunter were murdered by their father who shot them before driving off a pier. (SA Police/AAP)

Two years ago, a man stormed a home in which his two teenage children Jack and Jennifer Edwards were cowering in fear and shot them both before shooting himself, their devastated mother Olga taking her own life just a year later.

Just days ago Hannah Clarke was driving her precious children Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey to school when their father jumped in the car, doused them with petrol and watched them burn to death before stabbing himself.

Hannah initially survived the attack, pulled from the vehicle as she screamed for her children.

Jennifer and Jack Edwards were shot to death by their father at a home in Pennant Hills.
Jennifer and Jack Edwards were shot to death by their father at a home in Pennant Hills. (Supplied)

Again, we are left wondering: why, why, why?

Women in Australia who are fleeing situations of family and domestic violence are being failed in the most profound way, with the loss of their children's lives and sometimes their own lives.

Not all children who were murdered by their fathers or male relatives had witnessed family and domestic violence ahead of their deaths. But still, their lives were taken. For some it was an act of revenge at a relationship's end. Others were 'excused' at the time, as being due to depression or mental illness.

This senseless, violent murder of a child, an act that would leave most of us breathless even to contemplate, let alone at the hands of a parent. Let us be clear: there is never an excuse.

Taye, Rylan, Ayre and Kadyn Cockman were killed by their grandfather in a mass shooting in Margaret River, WA. (Facebook)

So, this is where we are today. Today, we live in a country where a woman dies at the hands of her current or former domestic partner every week. We live in a country where one child is murdered every fortnight at the hands of a family member.

The time for action is here, and it needs to be swift. We simply cannot allow this to go on. But you can be forgiven for feeling a sense of hopelessness. You can be forgiven for thinking nothing will change.

Queensland Detective Inspector Mark Thompson said, following the murders, the department was keeping an "open mind".

"Is this an issue of a woman suffering significant domestic violence, and her and her children perishing at the hands of the husband?" he openly wondered during a press conference.

River and Nyobi Hinder died in a Mt Isa caravan blast caused by their father.
River and Nyobi Hinder died in a Mt Isa caravan blast caused by their father. (Queensland Police News media)

"Or is it an instance of a husband being driven too far by issues that he's suffered by certain circumstances into committing acts of this form?"

He has since been stood down from the investigation.

Then there's Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who shared the following message on Facebook: "Devastating news out of Camp Hill in Brisbane. My heart goes out to the families and community going through this tragic time and the emergency responders confronting what would be a horrific and shattering scene."

He then listed the number of mental health support line Lifeline on 13 11 14. What about 1800RESPECT, for victims of family and domestic violence? What about Triple Zero, for those trying to flee?

Scott Morrison Facebook post following child deaths
(Facebook)

That's not to mention the remnants and hints of victim blaming and the glorifiying of the media at the hands of some media coverage, most of it quickly pulled up and modified.

The simple fact is, whatever we are or are not doing is not good enough.

Some may argue that mothers murder their children too. In fact when it comes to children being murdered by their parents, 52 percent are killed by their father as compared to 48 percent by mothers. That's according to data from the Australian Institute of Criminology reporting on the periods from 2000-01 and 2011-12.

These statistics don't take into account the violence perpetrated by men against their domestic partners and children that don't result in death.

When it comes to the prolonged and prevalent violence perpetuated against women and children in their homes, we have reached epidemic proportions, with a 2015 AIC report into domestic homicide identifying that between 2002-03 and 2011-12, males committed 77 per cent of intimate partner homicides in Australia.

The problem of male violence against women and children in Australia is entrenched, and it's hard to imagine a time when we can arrest this stain on our existence.

Rosie Batty today asked how this could keep happening.

"This horrific violence is beyond our imagination, comprehension and understanding.  How could this happen? And yet it does. And it keeps on happening," she said in a statement.

"We are all devastated and deeply affected by these calculated and senseless murders and stunned by their hideous cruelty. I am overwhelmed and, like so many, full of despair. This unspeakable act of violence should give pause for all our elected leaders to think deeply about their leadership on this epidemic. 

Ms Batty continues to fight for the rights of women and children.
Ms Batty continues to fight for the rights of women and children. (Supplied)

"A loving parent never considers murder as ever being an option or a solution.  No one is "driven" to murder no matter the circumstances or situation that they find themselves in. Murder is a decision that is deliberate and driven by the need to exact revenge and achieve the ultimate act of power and control. 

"Although mental health, drugs and alcohol can be contributing factors, violence is always a choice and one that we should not continue to make excuses for."

Former Federal Labor MP and family and domestic violence advocate Emma Husar says that while we wait for our leaders to do something about this horrific cause of death, we must remember that "victims of family and domestic violence are not weak, they are strong".

Jai, Tyler and Bailey died at Winchelsea when their father drove a car off the Princes Highway and into a dam.
Jai, Tyler and Bailey Farquharson died when their father drove a car off the Princes Highway and into a dam. (AAP)

"They are survivors and they are incredibly brave, because even if they haven't been able to leave their perpetrator yet, they get up and function with the knowledge the person who should love and protect them has harmed them, and may do again," she says.

Or perhaps they have fled, but still aren't safe. In fact, it's after these mothers leave that their lives and the lives of their children are in the most danger.

Women are being murdered. Children are being murdered. And the sad fact remains that women are being blamed. Law enforcement isn't doing enough. Politicians continue to deny us real action to protect these victims, and men continue to murder women and children.

It's GOT TO STOP.

If you or someone you know is in need of help due to family and domestic violence contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or in an emergency dial Triple Zero (000).

(Source)


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