By Gianna Huesch
It has been harrowing to read about celebrity Mel B’s escape out of a violent marriage to her alleged abuser. In Australia, children are protected from having their identities revealed in media reports of family law cases and all parties are given pseudonyms, with only the anonymised judgments available for public scrutiny. It seems in America, though, it’s all grist for the mill, and one really feels for the children involved…
At first blush Mel B’s case certainly bears all the hallmarks of a woman finally having the wherewithal to escape a violent relationship. As hard as Mel B must have found it to go public, and as much as she probably spent years trying to save a bad marriage for the sake of her children, it’s a courageous act and what it reminds us is that domestic violence cuts across all classes and types of women; even celebrities are vulnerable.
Mel B is a smart woman, and she’s likely to have the evidence to support her allegations–which is probably why her alleged abuser’s public statements in denial have been so weak. In fact, he was more intent on using the media to try to manipulate Mel B further, with a guilt trip about what her legal action might do to the children.
In Mel B’s case, it’s lucky that she appears to have a strong support network in her mother and sister, with whom she’s been reunited after many years of estrangement. As women in similar situations will understand, one of the tools of control an abuser uses is isolation—in her case, this isolation appears to have gone on for up to a decade.
She’s also lucky to be in a position to be able afford good security. As she would be well aware, this is the most dangerous time for her—once someone has decided to leave, and their former partner’s ego can’t deal with it. Personal safety is a critical issue when women want to leave violent relationships. This is where it so often goes so horribly wrong, and this is an area where more needs to be done to help women who wish to leave a violent partner.
Australian women who are trapped in violent relationships do not represent a huge percentage of all Australian women, despite the high profile nature of the terribly tragic cases we see in media. However, the women in this vulnerable percentage clearly need our help. We do need our governments to continue to fund frontline community legal services, and to appropriately resource the family court system. Perhaps we do need a better family law triage system—creative solutions being debated by practitioners should be canvassed. It remains to be seen what other solutions will be developed to deal with domestic and family violence in this country. But there is surely a lot more we can be doing to help women like Mel B.
If you or a loved one could relate to Mel B’s story, please seek help. You are not alone, and leaving is the best possible thing for you and your family.
From a family law perspective we would suggest that you obtain advice in relation to your legal rights. If you are concerned about the potential cost of hiring a family lawyer, take advantage of ‘free first conference’ offers such as that offered by us here at Alliance, so that together we can work out what your needs and solutions may be and provide you with a cost estimate. Please call family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors on (02) 6223 2400.
See our webpage regarding domestic violence which contains useful links and contact numbers: https://www.familylawincanberra.com.au/our-services-2/domestic-violence-support-and-advice-links/
Read more opinion about Mel B going public: http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/news-life/mel-b-should-be-applauded-for-going-public-with-the-details-of-her-divorce/news-story/c7d3208caef93206bb2d0d733a61d904
Read a fact-check on the issue of domestic violence: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-06/fact-file-domestic-violence-statistics/7147938
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For details on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.