Original post from The Age
‘…………..By Miki Perkins Reporter for The Age
A woman in a wheelchair whose husband raped and assaulted her over many years felt trapped in the relationship because he was also her carer.
In wrenching testimony before the the Royal Commission into Family Violence, ‘Melissa Brown’ said she felt abandoned by doctors she told about the violence but who did not report it.
“Yeah, I’ve done that. So what? All husbands do this. I can’t guarantee I won’t do it again.”
Even when her husband was finally served with an intervention order, there was no attempt to provide a replacement carer for Ms Brown and she was unable to shower for eight weeks.
After a decade of abuse, when she had been raped in bed four times in one week, Ms Brown tried to die by suicide because she felt like there was no way out.
Her husband left her on the floor and went to bed, she told the hearing. It was her child who called an ambulance.
Hospital staff asked her if she wanted help but she was terrified of being left without a carer. In the end, she was sent home with her husband, who came to pick her up.
Ms Brown confided in her psychiatrist and other health workers over the years, but when asked her if she wanted to take it further, her confidence was low and felt she would not survive without him.
“How am I going to have a shower without anybody to help me? How am I going to get the kids to school if I’m having a pain day?”, she asked the commission.
Ms Brown said she felt let down by doctor-patient confidentiality and it should be mandatory to report family violence for all patients.
After she tried to die by suicide, the hospital emergency department reported the matter to child protection, who visited the family home and interviewed them in the same room.
“He was very matter of fact and upfront. He said ‘yeah, I’ve done that. So what? All husbands do this. I can’t guarantee I won’t do it again’.”
Police eventually served her husband with an intervention order and he was removed from the home. Even though she was unsure at the time, Ms Brown told the hearing she now believes it was the right thing to do.
“In hindsight it was what I needed…I would have killed myself, or he would have killed me.”
Her abuser regularly breached the order, sending message through social media and grew increasingly abusive. Eventually Ms Brown gathered up the courage to make a statement to police about the years of abuse, and he was charged.
But the abuse continued through the legal system: at the family court Ms Brown was “dumbfounded” to find she had no representation because she could not afford a lawyer and did not qualify for one through Legal Aid.
She had to liaise directly with her husband’s lawyer, who passed on messages from her husband. “Your husband wants you to know that he really, really loves you very much,” his lawyer told Ms Brown.
Her husband was also allowed to appear via video link in the courtroom – despite Ms Brown raising the issue – until a judge realised it breached the intervention order and apologised.
“But the damage was done,” Ms Brown told the hearing.
Her experience in the County Court was much better – she was able to give evidence remotely and the camera was covered so she did not have to see him.
The Royal Commission on Wednesday is focused on mental health and its relationship to family violence.
Ms Brown said her husband often told her that her mental health problems were the reason for his behaviour.
“I just thought I was hopeless. Yes, I do have a mental health problem, I am responsible for everything that’s going on.”
Since her relationship ended her mental health has improved dramatically, and she no longer try to self harm, Ms Brown told the hearing.
Chief Commissioner Marcia Neave thanked Ms Brown for her strength and tenacity in appearing before the commission. …………’