A New Documentary Series Is Shedding Light on Australia’s Problem With Domestic Abuse

**Trigger warning: this article contains references to domestic violence and abuse 

It’s a grim statistic that, on average, one woman a week is killed by a current or former partner and 1 in 4 women has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner in Australia.

The issue is so severe that in 2010 the Federal Government in partnership with state and territory governments developed a 12-year plan to combat violence against women and children, investing $723 million in federal funds in the cause.

Even though it’s no secret that our country has long been in the throes of a domestic abuse epidemic — one that likely worsened with the increased pressures and isolation brought on by the coronavirus pandemic — the numbers are often treacherous to quantify given that so many victims of abuse are too afraid to come forward. Additionally, abuse can sometimes be difficult to identify as it does not always manifest in physical injury or death, but can also be financial, social or emotional.

According to the UN, “Violence against women is any act of gender-based violence that causes or could cause physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of harm or coercion, in public or in private life.”

Just recently, the reality television series Married at First Sight was the subject of an online petition demanding accountability for the pairing of a couple that many viewers found troubling — and triggering — due to the apparent coercive control and gaslighting behaviour perpetrated by the groom. Over 10,000 people signed the petition, with many citing their own harrowing experiences with abuse as their motivation for getting behind the cause.

To coincide with Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month, SBS will be airing a range of content to shed light and provide education around domestic abuse, starting with a documentary called See What You Made Me Do.

The docu-series — hosted by investigative journalist Jess Hill and inspired by her award-winning book of the same name — hopes to ignite a crucial conversation about the domestic abuse epidemic while asking what needs to be done to keep women and children safer and hold perpetrators to account.

Jess Hill Credit: SBS

Over three episodes, Hill meets victim-survivors who describe the shape-shifting of abusive behaviours – with violence one element among many. She also talks to perpetrators and the people working with them to curb their behaviours as well as the families who have experienced the horrors of domestic violence firsthand and have been left traumatised in the aftermath.

The series features interviews with the parents of Brisbane mother Hannah Clarke, the family of Melbourne mother Katie Haley and long term activist Phil Cleary, whose sister was murdered by an ex-partner.

And, an entire episode will explore the question that Jess Hill has so often been asked in the seven years she has investigated domestic abuse – “Why doesn’t she just leave?”.

“Millions of Australians have been subjected to domestic abuse and coercive control. The time to confront it is now,” Hill said in a statement.

“Domestic abuse is a corrosive force undermining the fabric of our society and causes immeasurable harm to individuals and families. It is still badly misunderstood, and our systems – police, courts, family law – are still a long way from being reliably protective. In fact, too often, they further enable the perpetrator and perpetuate the abuse.

“With this SBS series, we hope to kickstart more difficult and honest conversations – in our households, police stations, and parliaments. See What You Made Me Do is paradigm-changing television.”

See What You Made Me Do will premiere at 8:30 pm Wednesday, May 5. Immediately following the final episode of the docu-series on Wednesday 19 May, Jess Hill will join a panel of experts to discuss solutions that Australia can implement today to solve the family violence crisis.

Additionally, at 8:30 pm on Tuesday 11 May, Insight will explore coercive control and whether it should be criminalised and at 9:30 pm on Wednesday, May 12, NITV will air a standalone response program titled We Say No More where panellists unpack how domestic abuse impacts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

For the full line-up of content airing on SBS and NITV for Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month, head to sbs.com.au. 

If you or anyone you know is struggling and needs support, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or Lifeline on 13 11 14, both of which provide trained counsellors you can talk with 24/7. You can also talk to someone from 1800RESPECT via online chat. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.

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