For 20 years, Horne Prize finalist Joy Goodsell worked with women seeking refuge from domestic violence. She listened as they detailed their interactions with their violent partners. Here, she presents the words of these men, recounted to her over the years by women who have survived family violence and those who have not. By Joy Goodsell.

Voices of domestic violence

Hello beautiful, can I sit down?

Have I seen you here before? Would you like a drink?
I will be here next Friday. Can I have your phone number? What star sign am I?
I love being with you, you are so sweet, you know how to treat a man.

Yes, it is love at first sight. It is so rare.
I want to be your Prince Charming.
I want to be with you forever, to protect you. You are so special to me.
I can’t live without you.
You are the first girl who really understands me. You know the real me and I appreciate that.

No, I just can’t wait to be with you. Oh, come on! Why wait?
I am not like other men – I will really care for you. Women should be on a pedestal. You can rely on me, go on, trust me.
Who is telling you to wait and to be careful? They just are jealous of us.

What about my other girlfriends? Forget about them, I don’t want to think about them.
They were liars or sluts, or both, come to think of it. Not like you; you are so lovely. I need someone like you and you need me to protect you and have someone like me to depend on.
Why are you putting me on hold? What’s up with you, don’t you love me? Is there someone else? I have plans.
We can save money for a house, I will look after the money.

I bought you a new mobile, so I can be in contact with you all the time. No, I am not rushing you. Don’t you love me enough to live with me?
You think you are too good for me, don’t you?

Why do you want to get that promotion at work?
You looked after me really well when we first moved in together but I can’t live in this messy place.
Do you have to go to work and do that night course? It’s too much for you. I don’t think you can really cope.
No, I respect you and I want you to be yourself and have your own dreams. I really do, honestly.

How many times do I have to tell you?
Don’t ring me at work again. I will ring you.
Where will you be?

Why did you look at him like that? Do you know him? I saw you looking at him. You know I am a jealous guy. Don’t you ever humiliate me like that again.

You know what a hard time I have at work with that old bastard/bitch at work, always picking on me. No one else sees it.
He/she is such a control freak.
You know I could do their job so easily.

It’s so frustrating. I am not appreciated in that shop,
corner office,
high-income job,
trucking company,
retirement village,
Centrelink queue,

I am not agitated or angry. It is in your head.
I am not giving you the cold shoulder. You are imagining things again.
I need some space and quiet. It’s up to you to keep the peace. That’s your job isn’t it? Shit, I am getting sick of this whingeing and nagging.
Please shut up.

Why do you feel alone and isolated? That’s ridiculous, you’ve got me. I do talk to you.
We go out, we do. Well, we have to watch the money, don’t we?

That woman next door is a stickybeak. Why does she come over here?

How come it takes you so long to come home from work? What time do you finish work? Where are you going after work? It doesn’t take that long to buy milk. Those friends of yours shouldn’t put ideas like that in your head.
Which sewer did your work friends come from?
Don’t tell me how to speak; I can criticise anyone if I want.
Who are you to try to control me?

I am not changing, it’s your imagination. You are the one who is changing – go and look in the mirror.
I think you are crazy…
I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it, I am under so much pressure. You believe me, don’t you?

I will repeat: No, you can’t drive my car. You are a terrible driver, and besides, I might need it.

Your mother is on the phone again. What does she want now? Tell her to hurry up, I want to use the phone.
No, I don’t want to go to your grandmother’s birthday party. Your family look down on me, don’t they? I’m not good enough, am I?
Why is your mother ringing, can’t she leave you alone? What are you saying to her?

Why is my ex ringing you? I don’t care what she said, I told you she is a bloody liar, a dog, and NO, I didn’t hit her or her whingeing kid. That solicitor is costing me a fortune, and for what? She just wants to break us up. Can’t you see she’s jealous of you?

Yes, it’d be good to go out like we used to…
Yes, buy a new dress, I want to show you off. I know you haven’t spent any money on yourself for ages.
I’ll give you the money this week.

Why did you buy that dress? It’s too expensive and you look awful. I can see your breasts. Do you want to look like a slut? Who told that you looked good in that? You are so gullible and stupid, believing those salespeople.
How come you went over anyway to see your family? I don’t care if your father did come over and insisted you go, who does he think he is? You have deliberately defied me.
I told you not to go. Don’t do that again, or else.
We are married now, you are my wife, and you must do what I say.

Why are you still taking the pill? I told you to stop it. And why are you still seeing those so-called friends of yours? It will be better when you don’t go to that stupid job of yours.
You are going behind my back, I know it.
You think you are smarter than me, don’t you?

I didn’t mean it to frighten you. I didn’t say that. I am sorry, I was just so frustrated about work. I promise I will change.

I am not giving you the silent treatment, I am just disappointed that you are still doing that course, despite what I have said. I’ve seen all those men at the college.
I just don’t want to talk at the moment.
I will talk when I’m good and ready.
If you really are pregnant, things should really change around here.
Now you should stay at home.
Boy, are you getting fat.
How much did you say that pram is? We can’t afford that.

Is it really my baby? I don’t believe you. I have never been able to trust you.
How can I support you and this baby? I am not ready to have a child.
You have trapped me, treated me like a fool.

Don’t go, please. I am begging you. I didn’t mean that, I am a stupid fool. I really love you, forgive me. I won’t do it again. I promise. I love you, you just push all my buttons.
I don’t know why I am like this.

Why did you tell your mother that I hit you again? You know I didn’t mean it. It was your fault, really.
Give me another chance.

Ring your father and tell him not to come over. I promise not to do it again.
Of course, I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to hurt you.
I have a high sex drive and you don’t.
Your mother is really giving me the shits, always coming over to my house, with that stupid father of yours. He’s as weak as water; she’s got him under her thumb.
Is it really my baby? It doesn’t look like anyone I know.
I can check, you know.
How much does a DNA test cost?

Stop crying. You are such a girl. Stop crying or I will shut you up. I wanted a son anyway.
Typical for you, to give me a bloody girl.

No, we’ll call this baby the name I choose. After all, I am paying for everything.
I want the family payment put into my account – you can’t manage money.
Why is there no dinner? What is going on in this place? Look at it. What have you been doing all day?
Shut that screaming child up.

Yes, I have been thinking about what you said. I do appreciate you and that’s why I bought you these.
Red roses mean I love you. See, I love you, and you know I do, don’t you?

You can’t spend all day just feeding the baby. I don’t care how long it takes to get used to feeding, put it on the bottle.
I want my food too and this place looks like a brothel.
You are supposed to look after your husband, first of all.
You wanted the baby. I come home tired and expect things.
You are always tired and such a sad sack. I am the one who is depressed. I have to come home and see you every day, too tired for sex, breast milk everywhere, baby crying all the bloody time.

What’s wrong with that baby?
Why is she frightened of me? She cries every time I look at her.
I can’t even go near it.
How do you get yourself in such a state? You’re tired?
Try working five days a week.
You must be joking, you can’t expect me to clean the house, cook the food, take the baby out. I am not a wimp like your father, you know.

What do you mean you are pregnant again?

If that bloody child won’t shut up, I will shut it up. If you were a good mother you could control them. Don’t let those kids from next door come over here,
I don’t want them in our house.
Don’t be so bloody stupid.

Why can’t you control those kids? Why is he wetting the bed and failing at school – brainless and weak, like his mother.
Stop trying to make excuses for him. He is a mummy’s boy; he needs to man up,
If he wets the bed again, I will fix him up.

I will not be quiet, I don’t care what the neighbourhood thinks.

I can’t believe how you’ve changed – look at yourself. You have let yourself go, you are so hopeless, and you could never cope without me.
You can’t control the kids, look after the house or yourself. I know you went to see your friend, I know you did.
Don’t lie to me, I know where you are going all the time. I check.

If you leave me I will track you down, no matter what, I will find you and when I do, you will be more than sorry. I have powerful friends who know the system.
I see them all the time. You can’t hide from me.
I will kill you, no one will know and then I will get the kids too.
No, I didn’t mean what I said, I was just frightened that you would leave me.
What do you mean you don’t know what to believe anymore? I will never hurt you again, I promise. Give me another chance. I will kill myself if you leave.

Tell that stickybeak old man and woman next door to piss off. Get rid of them and your fucking interfering parents or I will.
I don’t care how she helps you or what she heard or what she says, this is my family and she can keep her interfering “advice” to herself.

You are not going to that community centre. Bloody feminist lesbians, they break up families, they just hate all men.

She rang the police? I’ve never hurt you, you tell her to back off.
When the police come, tell them it was just an argument. Cover up your arms. Get the kids into bed and tell them to stay there.

Yes, come in officer, this is a mistake. You are a man, you will understand.
She is crazy, mental, I don’t know why I married her.
It was just a fight and she started screaming.
Those neighbours are nosy parkers.

She hit me, and I was protecting myself. She is so lazy.
You know, I think she is hurting the baby.
Don’t believe that stupid old couple, that neighbour is an interfering witch.

I don’t need therapy. I know what the order says, and what I promised you and the court, but there is nothing wrong with me.

You’ve got to tell me where she is,
I have to talk to her before we go to court.
I want to know where my wife and children have gone, I’m going to kill the dog. It barks all the time, I can’t look after it. You tell her, unless she comes home.

Yes, I know all about the apprehended violence order, but this is so unfair. She is out of her mind.
Look, if you can just tell her that I really love her and I want her to come back and give me one more chance.
Please talk to your daughter.
Surely you don’t want her being divorced?
I know I am not supposed to ring you, but you listen to me, don’t you dare hang up.

Why did you go with the police to that refuge? Why did you get this stupid order? I am not a criminal.
What did they tell you about me? That’s not true; I don’t have a record of violence against women.
That was a mistake when I was young, I told you, that woman always lied about me, she just got back at me.

What do you mean that you and the kids have post-traumatic stress disorder? That’s what soldiers get; you haven’t been in a war. What stupid crap.
Those kids are just like you, nervous Nellies, brainless morons, light sleepers, wet the beds, weak characters with peabrains.
I know where you are going every day.
I can track you.

Your honour, I really object to this.
You can’t do this to me. I refuse to let her divorce me, and why can’t I see my kids? I will never let her go.
I am not a dangerous man or a risk to them, as you are saying. I promise not to chase them or stalk her and the kids again. I will not hurt them again…
But they are my children.
She has poisoned their minds.

Hello beautiful, can I sit down?

I didn’t mean to hurt her.


National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service 1800 737 732
Lifeline 13 11 14


This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on January 26, 2019 as "Domestic terrorism".

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Joy Goodsell worked in frontline community services for 20 years.

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