DV THUGS SHOULD BE LOCKED UP
ANN WASON MOORE’S INTERVIEW
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.