Some names we know, some we do not, but the tally rises with every day, month and year.
Crystal Ratcliffe. Molly Goodbun. Nasrin Abek. Anne Rogers. Tasmin Bahar. Rhonda Baker. Zeniab Taleb. Yvette Rigney-Wilson. Karen Belej. Tina Kontozis. Rosemary Gibson. Michelle Reynolds. Sandra Peniamina. Olivia Tung. Manjinder Ghuman. Jackie Deng. Jody Websdale. Sharon Michelutti.
These are all victims of domestic violence.
Does it seem like a lot to you?
Well these names are just from 2016, and this isn’t even all of them. There are more, too many more. Mothers, sisters, aunties, daughters, friends. Yes, there are men too, but overwhelmingly, and this is a heartbreaking majority, they are women.
They span every age group, all walks of life, all situations, backgrounds, jobs, and lives. And were all killed in violent situations by people they were or had been in relationships with.
Now, one more joins their rank. Her name was Teresa Bradford, and we will not forget.
She was stabbed to death by her estranged husband in a murder-suicide at her Gold Coast home. The husband, 52-year-old David Bradford, was somehow out on bail after being jailed for another act of violence against her in November. During the November 28 attack, Bradford allegedly punched Teresa in the face until she was unconscious, dragged her across the room by her hair, taped her mouth shut, and threatened to kill himself.
Despite this, he was released by a specialist domestic violence court on January 12th. Even police opposed his bail release, arguing that he had a “fragile mental state” and was likely to commit further offences.
Looks like they were right.
Teresa and her partner of 17 years had only moved to the Gold Coast from Sydney around 18 months ago. They were looking for a fresh start. When Mr Bradford attacked Teresa in November, she knew it was time to get help. She reached out to several Gold Coast domestic violence support services, and was offered a place in a temporary refuge. But she had four children, and was apprehensive about the move.
When Mr Bradford was jailed in relation to the November 28 attack, Teresa felt she could breathe a bit easier. For now, she was safe, and she had time to find her own home in another suburb, somewhere he wouldn’t be able to find her. All she was doing was trying to put her kids first.
Then, Mr Bradford was released on bail.
Teresa hadn’t been able to organise a new place, but she was nearly there. Boxes lined the walls of her house, and the process had started. When she discovered he was out, she wasn’t just scared. She was terrified. Support services offered her another place in a refuge, but she was sick of running and worried about the state of her kids already struggling because of the abuse. What she wanted was stability for her kids, and the chance to move on, not run away.
Tragically she never got the chance. Mr Bradford broke his bail conditions and gained entry to Teresa’s home early on Tuesday morning. He stabbed Teresa to death, and then killed himself. Three of their young children found the bodies in the morning, and ran to neighbours to raise the alarm.
No More Means No More
Teresa Bradford’s death was, without mincing words, an absolute failure of a system that is supposed to be keeping people safe. There’s no doubts, no politically correct media statements, no apologies. There’s only failure, and the ripple effect of the grief that accompanies it.
Due to the courts deciding to let a mentally-ill man with a history of violent acts against his partner out on bail, a woman is dead. Her four children now need to figure out this new reality, the one without their mother. They will need to come to terms with the fact that it was their father who took her life, assisted by a broken system.
The tragedy sometimes feels like it’s too much to bear. We are overwhelmed by these names, by these faces. They are all of us, and we are all of them. In Australia, domestic violence is a massive issue, one that claims the lives of too many men, women and children every year. We’ve had enough. Even one is too many.
There are many ways that we could make changes to the system, but it seems to us that the first comes from looking individually, and with scrutiny, at all acts of domestic violence. The issue is that many of these violent behaviours are only seen behind closed doors, and courts don’t always take the action they should. But the fact remains, David Bradford had committed acts of violence against his partner, he was of a fragile mental state, and he should not have been granted bail.
Let’s not make those same mistakes again.
For now, all we can really do is work to remember these women as more than victims. They are members of our communities. They are somebody’s daughter, mother, sister, cousin, aunty and friend. They are not just the way the died, but the way they lived. And as we work to remember them, let’s also work to me more are ourselves. More supportive of those struggling in difficult relationships, more open to helping those around us, even strangers, to make a life for themselves that is safe. That is how Australia should be.
If you, or someone that you know, is experiencing sexual or domestic violence abuse, there is help. Call 1800 RESPECT any time of the day, or check the website 1800respect.org.au.
Names from the Counting Dead Women Australia 2016 List.