See What You Made Me Do
Walkley Award-winning journalist Jess Hill’s experience as a Middle East correspondent is evident in her coverage of another battleground closer to home: the horror of domestic abuse in Australia. See What You Made Me Do examines domestic abuse from all angles – the mindset of perpetrators, the nature of coercive control, firsthand accounts of women and children trying to survive in their homes and a range of possible solutions.
Hill’s writing throughout has great clarity and compassion. Recounting both stories of trauma and statistics, she debunks common myths, including that survivors come from a particular cultural background or socioeconomic status. Her chapters about women’s violence (often coming from a place of “violent resistance”) and cultural relativism and racism push the book into territory rarely explored. The “Dadirri” chapter is outstanding, an indictment of historical views that violence was inherent to Aboriginal communities before white settlement, views that persist in policing tactics and attitudes. Hill points instead to the violent cultural landscape of Britain, its attitudes to women transported by convicts to our shores, along with disease and alcohol.
At times it’s easy to feel defeated by the monumental systemic failures presented here. The children’s testimonies, in particular, point to a sickening injustice, as court rulings return them to the fathers who physically and sexually assault them, sometimes even when other loving family members are keen to look after them. In some cases the legal process encourages children to self-harm: it is safer for them to be in a psychiatric ward than with their fathers.
Through the torture and barbaric acts, Hill remains resolute, on a mission to change things. She suggests an emphasis on confronting and accepting shame when it comes to therapy for perpetrators; police stations run by and for only women, modelled on a successful program in Argentina; and community-led justice reinvestment, trialled in Bourke, New South Wales.
See What You Made Me Do is an outstanding piece of investigative journalism. With one woman being murdered each week in Australia – most often by a man the victim knows intimately – Hill argues convincingly that it’s time to move beyond words to take real action.
Black Inc, 416pp, $32.99
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 27, 2019 as "Jess Hill, See What You Made Me Do". Subscribe here.