What My First Domestic Violence Client Taught Me
In this video, Page Provan Fertility & Family Lawyers Director and Accredited Family Law Specialist, Stephen Page reflects on what his first domestic violence client taught him.
G’day, I’m Stephen Page from Page Provan Family and Fertility Lawyers, and thank you for watching me today. I’m talking today about key things I learned from one client who had been subjected to domestic violence, and this was about 20 years ago.
It was a particularly ugly divorce. The way that I saw it, my client was a bag of misery, or should have been a bag of misery. Everything that was happening to her was pretty awful, and yet what she taught me was my way of looking at things was wrong, and it all happened in one phone call. One day, because I was concerned for her, I phoned her and I asked her how she was, and to set the scene, she was 60 or thereabouts.
She had been removed by police from a farmhouse that she shared with her husband, and this was a second relationship for both of them, and she’d been removed by police because it was to help save her life. He had threatened her, including with a shotgun or a rifle of some kind, and she would likely have died if she’d stayed there.
They’d been in a church together, and because they’d separated and the church members didn’t approve of divorce, she was shunned because she was seen as being the person who caused this divorce.
It didn’t matter that it was because of domestic violence they just ignored that. So suddenly, all her friendships were just torn up and turned to dust, and she lived in a poor area of Brisbane, an outer suburb where there was very poor transport, and she didn’t have a car. So life was pretty tough, and she had Centrelink benefits and managed to obtain a job, but it wasn’t a high paying job, and in the midst of this, of course, she had her court case, and the court case was ugly, it was really, really ugly.
Lots and lots of letters going backwards and forwards, all these accusations about things that she’d done before and I looked at this and I thought, I’m glad this is not me going through this, and I really felt for her. So one day I phoned her up and said, How are you? And her answer really surprised me. It was, I’ve never been better, and of course, I went through this checklist of things thinking, well, life is really rough, and I should say that she’d had a health problem as well it was her kidneys or liver, and it was apparently attributed to stress, and that was awful. It was crippling to her each and every day, and so she responded, I’ve never been better, and of course, this didn’t compute with me.
I said well, here you are doing it tough in this place, and you don’t have a car and you don’t have much transport, you’ve got to rely on public transport, it’s pretty unreliable in that area and you’re not earning very much, and you are shunned by your congregation and you’ve got your ugly court case, and she said, yeah, it doesn’t matter, I’ll tell you what’s happened. I’m in a new Church, I’ve got new friends, I love going there every Sunday, and I found all these new friends. Would you believe I’ve taken up water skiing?
So here she was at the age of 60, water skiing for the first time in her life, she’d never done that before. She said, It’s so much fun, I love getting out in the water, it’s just so much fun, it’s such a joy and having all these new friends, it’s wonderful and my job, well, my job doesn’t pay very much, and it’s pretty hard to get around.
But I am in a job, and that job means I’m doing stuff, I’m helping others, and I’m earning some money, that’s wonderful. I said, But what about the court case? Well, the court case, we’ll get through the court case. But I’ll tell you what’s also happened. I don’t wake up every day worrying whether I’m going to die.
I wake up every day feeling safe, and guess what? Not only do I have a feeling of feeling safe, but do you remember my health problem that the doctors couldn’t work out how to treat it, but they attributed it to stress? Lo and behold, since I left my husband, it stopped, I’m feeling well. So every day I wake up feeling safe, I feel well, I look outside, the sun is shining, I see the flowers, I go out and sniff them sometimes and go, wow, isn’t this wonderful? And I get on the bus and I go to work and life is grand, life has never been better.
So what this client taught me is what what we might see in this, for example, is that I was seeing that this is a glass half empty, whereas, of course, she was seeing it as a glass half full, and she was right, I was wrong.
And I was so glad to have had that conversation with her.