Dealing with family violence – part one

Dealing with family violence – part one

This two-part video offers help and advice to make sure you and your children are safe if you’re experiencing family violence.

Jess’s partner Ben is abusing her, humiliating her and intimidating her with his words and actions. Jess realises that her four-year-old daughter Reagan has seen and heard Ben’s abuse, and is affected by it too.

Jess knows that she has to take steps to make sure that she and Reagan are safe.

This video is part of the When separating series of videos that includes Dealing with family violence – part two.

Watch this video


Text: When separating. Dealing with family violence – part one. Victoria Legal Aid Lawyers And Services.

Text (next screen): Some of the scenes in this film may be confronting, however, it is also a story of hope and change. The story is not based on any particular family, and reflects the experience of thousands of Australian women, men and children affected by family and domestic violence.

[A woman sits on the couch watching TV. A man enters through the front door and walks out of shot. The woman gets a worried look on her face and clutches a pillow.]

[TV sounds]

Ben: Hey.

Jess: Oh, hi Ben.

Ben: Jess, where’s my dinner?

Jess: You said this morning you might be home late. I wasn’t sure what time you were coming home. There’s some leftovers in the fridge.

[Ben walks back into the room and leans against a doorway.]

Ben: So it’s my fault I had to work late? Now you’re punishing me by making me eat these leftovers?

Jess: No, Ben. I didn’t think it would be a problem.

Ben: So, you can’t cook a meal, you can’t clean the kitchen—how lazy are you? Reagan could do a better job than you. You hear that, Jess? A four–year–old would make a better housekeeper than you.

Jess stands up timidly from the couch and tries to walk into the kitchen but Ben puts his hand against the wall, blocking her way.

Jess: Look, I thought I’d do the dishes together after you’d eaten.

Ben: You’re still trying to make me eat this garbage.

Jess moves back to the couch and sits down. Ben moves to stand in front of her.

Jess: I’m sorry.

Ben: If I hear I’m sorry one more time, I swear I’m gonna freakin’ explode. Every day I go to work and slave my arse off. I don’t wanna come home to a lazy, whiny bitch of a wife!

Jess: I’m not whining, Ben.

Ben: Don’t try and justify yourself to me, you spoilt bitch!

[Vision shows a child wearing pyjamas and clutching a soft toy as she walks down a darkened hall.]

Ben: You’re a worthless piece of shit.

Jess: Stop it, Ben. Don’t call me names like that. I hardly get time to relax after I put Reagan to bed.

[The camera cuts back to Ben and Jess.]

Ben: You poor little thing. Must be incredibly tough hanging out with Reagan at the shops after work and whatever the hell else you do in the afternoon. Huh? ‘Cause you sure as hell don’t do much here!

[A dramatic noise fades in and suddenly stops. Ben slams a chair with his hands.]

Jess: What’s your problem, Ben?

[Ben picks up the chair and throws it against the wall.]

[Vision shows the young girl standing expressionless as she watches her parents in the turbulent scene.]

[Ben looks up at his daughter standing at the foot of the stairs.]

[Jess picks up a broken picture frame and looks at a family photo through the shattered glass.]

[Ben walks out the front door, slamming it behind him.]

[Jess looks up and realises her daughter is at the foot of the stairs. A look of dismay flashes across her face.]

[The scene changes to Michelle lying on a leather couch. The telephone rings. She looks with concern at the caller ID as she brings the phone to her ear.]

Michelle: Are you OK? What’s happened? Jess, are you OK?

Jess: I can’t live like this anymore.

Michelle: Is Ben still in the house?

Jess: He’s nicked off somewhere.

Michelle: OK, just grab some clothes for you and Reagan and I’ll be there in 10 minutes. Jess?

Jess: I really thought Reagan had no idea. The look on her face, Michelle...

[Gentle piano music plays]

[Vision shows a shot of Michelle’s house. Jess’ daughter is asleep in a bed as Jess walks out of the room and closes the door behind her.]

[Vision shows Michelle bringing two mugs of tea to an outside setting where Jess sits with an upset look on her face.]

Michelle: You guys are welcome to stay as long as you need.

Jess: Thanks.

Michelle: I’m just relieved you’re out of there.

Jess’ phone vibrates and she hurriedly picks it up to look at the caller ID.

Michelle: Ben?

Jess: Yeah. I don’t want that for Reagan.

Michelle: What do you want to do?

Jess: I don’t know. We just can’t go on like this.

Michelle: Go and get some legal advice. I can look after Reagan. Why don’t you call Legal Aid.

Jess nods in agreement.

[Gentle piano music plays]

[The scene changes to Ben waking up alone in bed. He rises, walking into the kitchen to open the fridge door. Closing the door he notices a piece of paper stuck to the fridge. He grabs the piece of paper and magnets clatter to the floor.]

[The camera pans around to reveal a family portrait drawn by Reagan. The father figure in the picture is menacing and drawn starkly in red, towering above two smaller feminine figures with unhappy faces.]

[The scene cuts to Jess and a woman walking down a hallway and into an office.]

Lawyer: I can see from the notes that you have a little girl called Reagan who’s four. And that you’re concerned about something that happened at home a few nights ago?

Jess: Yeah, Ben got really angry. He was yelling and he threw a chair. It didn’t hit me but I was really scared. Reagan was there but I’m not sure how much she saw.

Lawyer: Where are you and Reagan staying at the moment? Are you safe?

Jess: We’re staying at my friend’s place—Michelle. We’ve stayed there a few times before. She’s been great.

Lawyer: That’s great. Anytime you feel afraid, you should do what you need to make sure that you and Reagan are safe. Sometimes leaving for a while is the best option. Getting back to the other night, is this the first time something like this has happened?

Jess: Ben’s not one of those guys, he’s never hit me or anything like that. It’s just that when he gets under a lot of pressure and I don’t get everything quite right, he loses his temper.

Lawyer: Family and domestic violence is not just hitting, pushing and shoving. It’s about one person exercising power and control over another. It includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional and verbal abuse, putting you down, calling you names, intimidating you, threatening you, checking up on you all the time, making it difficult for you to see your family and friends. Yes? It also includes things like controlling money and finances. Some forms of family and domestic violence are crimes.

Jess: It’s not like that with us. Most of the time things are great. It’s just that every now and again things build up and he loses it. But afterwards he’s always sorry and then things are really good for a while.

Lawyer: If you’re constantly tiptoeing around Ben it’s going to take its toll on you and it will affect Reagan too.

Jess: He’s never done anything towards Reagan.

Lawyer: Ben might not have directed his anger at Reagan but there’s a lot of research to show the serious impact of family and domestic violence on children. It can lead to depression, anxiety, problems at school, eating disorders and even physical symptoms like stomach–aches.

[Vision shows Michelle sitting on in front of a couch and reading a book to Reagan.]

Michelle: And, over here? Oh, there he is. [Makes train noise]

[Reagan imitates train noise]

Michelle: Good! What does he do?

[Reagan coughs]

Michelle: Cough. [coughs]

[The camera cuts back to the office in which Jess and the lawyer sit.]

Lawyer: Jess, I’m going to need to get some more detailed information from you before we can talk about your options. I want to explore the practical things that we can do to make sure that you’re safe now and in the future, discuss your living arrangements and your financial situation, and talk about whether applying for a court order for your protection is a realistic option. Then we can move on to an overview of family law and how it might apply in your situation. And, of course, we do need to discuss the issues that affect Reagan, such as what time she might spend with her dad and what that might look like.

[The scene changes to Michelle’s house where she is making a cup of tea. The telephone rings and Michelle answers it.]

Michelle: Hello?

Ben: Michelle, hi it’s Ben. How are you?

Michelle: I’m alright, Ben.

[Jess walks into shot from a hallway.]

Ben: Is Jess there? Can I speak with her please?

Michelle: Do you want to speak to him?

[Jess nods and walks over to pick up the phone.]

Jess: Hi, Ben.

[Ben is sitting in a chair at a desk.]

Ben: Jess. I want to talk to you about this. When are you coming home?

Jess: I’m gonna stay here for a while.

Ben: What? You bloody are not. I want you home by the time I get back from work.

Jess: I’m hanging up.

Ben: Don’t you dare.

[Ben stands up angrily from his desk.]

Jess: Ben, the lawyer said I don’t have to speak to you. I can get an order for you to stop calling me all the time.

Ben: Who the hell do you think are, Jess?! You spoilt little piece of shit…

Jess hangs up the phone and gives Michelle a disappointed look. Michelle looks worriedly from the phone to Jess.

Jess: I’ve had enough.

[The scene dissolves to white with a transitional whooshing effect.]

Text: The information in these films is a general guide to the law. You should not rely on these films as legal advice. It is recommended you talk to a lawyer about our particular situation. © 2012 Legal Aid WA. This film has been adapted from resources produced by the Legal Aid WA When separating project. Victoria Legal Aid thanks Legal Aid WA for permission to reproduce this content. This information is copyright. All persons or organisations wanting to reproduce this material should get permission from Legal Aid WA.

Text (next screen): Where to get help

If you or your children feel unsafe or are at risk of violence you should call the police quickly at 000

Victoria Legal Aid Legal Help

Tel: 9269 0120 or 1800 677 402 (country callers)

For your nearest community legal centre:

Tel: 9652 1500

Family Relationship Advice Line

Tel: 1800 050 321