The Gold Coast Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE - WITH ANN WA­SON MOORE

THE first time Brendan hit his wife was the tough­est.

After that, it be­came eas­ier each day.

From his first shock­ing punch, it took Brendan five years of in­flict­ing tor­ture, nu­mer­ous DVO breaches and two stints in jail be­fore he de­cided it was time to kill both his wife and him­self.

He didn’t suc­ceed in ei­ther, but was ar­rested in the mid­dle of his rage and sen­tenced to more than 12 years in prison for the at­tempted mur­der of his wife in their Coast home.

He served 10 years, dur­ing which he was stabbed twice, wit­nessed rapes and was ex­posed to more vi­o­lence and blood than he thought pos­si­ble. And he is grate­ful for ev­ery sin­gle day.

Be­cause Brendan says if he had been re­leased early, he would have gone back to his wife and fin­ished the job.

In­stead, dur­ing that decade he came to ac­cept not just his guilt but the fac­tors that led him to that first punch.

He was en­rolled in the Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Pre­ven­tion Cen­tre’s Men’s Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Ed­u­ca­tion and In­ter­ven­tion Pro­gram, one of the longestrun­ning DV re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grams in Aus­tralia which is de­liv­ered in part­ner­ship with Pro­ba­tion and Pa­role, and has come out the other side. Kind of. “I live with the shame

and I will die with the shame … maybe I will die from the shame,” he says.

“I had never hit a woman be­fore I hit my wife. But once I had, that was it. The switch was flicked.

“I wasn’t even in a rage when I abused her. It was just cold-blooded re­venge. I couldn’t walk away.

“I had lost the plot … I’d been los­ing it for years. I got it into my head that it would be bet­ter for our kids if they didn’t have ei­ther of us. I’m not one of these peo­ple who kill their chil­dren too...”

“I just de­cided it was a good idea to kill her and my­self. As it turned out, I couldn’t kill her, but I had a go at my­self.

“Be­fore that, I was given DVOs, they meant noth­ing. I was sent to jail for 14 weeks, for 10 weeks, I came right back and started again.

“Even when this hap­pened, if I’d plead guilty at the start and been given three or four years, I would have gone back and killed her. I needed to be locked away, she needed pro­tec­tion – and I needed pro­tec­tion from my­self.”

Brendan, now in his 60s and fa­ther to two chil­dren with his then-wife, is beg­ging for the jus­tice sys­tem to be over­hauled for do­mes­tic vi­o­lence of­fend­ers.

He ar­gues if we can leg­is­late “one-punch laws” with manda­tory sen­tenc­ing, we can do the same for of­fend­ers like him­self, whose vic­tims are at epi­demic lev­els across the coun­try.

“Once you hit a woman, that’s it. You’ve crossed the line and you just don’t come back,” he says.

“DVOs aren’t worth the paper they are printed on. Don’t hand that out, hand out a one-year sen­tence. You do it again, you’re in for five years.

“Men who com­mit do­mes­tic vi­o­lence ... some­thing is bro­ken in­side. It takes time to mend. And the safest place to re­cover – for every­body – is in jail.

“We need to take the sen­tenc­ing de­ci­sion away from the judges and mag­is­trates. The more money you have, the eas­ier it is to avoid jail – but do­mes­tic vi­o­lence is just as likely to hap­pen in a rich fam­ily as a poor one. That’s why any DV of­fence should be au­to­matic and manda­tory prison time.” Brendan says while he had never hit a woman be­fore his wife, he re­alises now that he was en­gag­ing in an abu­sive pat­tern, one of in­tim­i­da­tion, co­er­cion and con­trol.

It was be­hav­iour learned from his own fa­ther.

De­scrib­ing him­self as a “big, tall bloke who barged his way through life”, Brendan says he didn’t recog­nise the fear he sparked in oth­ers.

“My dad never hit my mum, but he ruled that house with an iron fist. Mum was sub­servient and meek, she had to be,” he says.

Brendan says that after five years in prison, stew­ing over how the sys­tem had failed him, burn­ing with a need for re­venge, he woke up one morn­ing and de­cided it was time to move on.

He says he felt the need to be hu­man again after so many years be­hav­ing like a mon­ster.

“It took time for that anger to evap­o­rate. Noth­ing would have ‘fixed’ me ex­cept time.

“I was so lucky that my chil­dren stuck by me, I needed to be­come a bet­ter man for them. But I didn’t just wake up re­ha­bil­i­tated. It took work.

“Luck­ily for me, there was a vi­o­lence course in jail.

“Mind you, at first I didn’t want to do it. You know, ‘look at me, I’m fine, so bloody clever that I’m in jail’.

“But if I didn’t, I wouldn’t get pa­role – so I did it.

“It was amaz­ing. About three or four months in I started to recog­nise what trig­gered my anger. I learned how peo­ple could push my but­tons and how I could walk away. It was an eye-opener for me. A cou­ple of the fa­cil­i­ta­tors, they got un­der my skin good. I was sur­prised be­cause I didn’t think any­one could get to me – not if I didn’t care about them. I learned I am a com­plete con­trol freak.

“Later, in the Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Pre­ven­tion Cen­tre pro­gram, I learned all the ways that abuse hap­pens, be­yond the vi­o­lence. That course taught me all things I should have al­ready known. And I wanted to learn.

“I could see some of the blokes on the course didn’t get it. A week later, they’d be back for abus­ing their part­ner.”

Brendan says when he was re­leased he saw his ex-wife a few times – and the anger and need for re­venge was gone.

He says he hopes that when he dies, his ashes can be spread on her grave.

“I don’t know if she’d like that or not, she might tell me off in the af­ter­life. But she was my true love. And I wish more than any­thing that I could have been dif­fer­ent.”

Brendan says he has been in a re­la­tion­ship for four years. She knows all the de­tails of his past. He says while he doesn’t want his iden­tity known for his chil­dren’s sake, he wants to share his story to help oth­ers.

“The laws need chang­ing and men need chang­ing,” he says. “I have a good life now – even though I don’t de­serve it.

“But how much bet­ter would it have been, how much bet­ter would we all have been, if I had never taken that first punch? Or, at the least, been locked away for a long time, the first time.”

I just de­cided it was a good idea to kill her and my­self

‘Brendan’ says manda­tory jail time for those who com­mit do­mes­tic vi­o­lence is the only an­swer.

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