CCChat_The-Jess-Hill-Interview

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CCChat

THE FREE ONLINE MAGAZINE ON AND AROUND

COERCIVE CONTROL

THE SPECIAL INTERVIEW ISSUE

JESS HILL


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Jess Hill

investigative journalist

author

Jess Hill is an investigative journalist who

has been writing and researching about

domestic abuse since 2014.

Before that she was a producer for ABC

Radio, a Middle East correspondent for

The Global Mail, and an investigative

journalist for Background Briefing.

Jess was listed in Foreign Policy's top

100 women to follow on Twitter, and

also as one of 30 most influential people

under 30 by Cosmopolitan magazine.

www.jesshill.net

Her reporting has won two Walkley

awards, an Amnesty International award

and three Our Watch awards.

SEE WHAT YOU MADE ME DO, her

seminal book on domestic abuse, was

published in June 2019 and is available

as a book, e-book and audio book.

The UK version will be released August

2020.

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Back catalogue of CCChat available on

www.coercivecontrol.co.uk and Yumpu.com

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Min Grob

campaigner

editor of CChat

One day, in June 2015, Min Grob decided to

hold the UK's first, possibly the world's first,

Conference on Coercive Control, following the

end of a relationship that was both coercive and

controlling and as a reaction to a poor response

from the police. At the time, she was told that

there would not be much interest in a mixed

audience event on a law that had not yet been

enacted. Since then, there have been 6 national

conferences. as well as several smaller events.

www.coercivecontrol.co.uk

Min started CCChat magazine in 2017, as a way

of sharing information on and around coercive

control to a wider audience from all walks of

life. Her interest lies in recognising coercive

control in its initial stages, identifying the early

warning signs to look out for, so someone has

the information to decide to leave a relationship

before they become too invested, as that is when

it will be much more difficult to leave.

Min is also a public speaker and has talked on

both her personal experience of coercive

control, more generally of abuse that is hidden

in plain sight, as well as identifying covert abuse

using examples from social media to highlight

covert tactics commonly used to manipulate.

All upcoming events and speaker roles are

postponed, owing to the current pandemic but

Min is currently working on an event around the

subject of 'Virtual Mobbing'.

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A Conversation

with JESS HILL

The author of

SEE WHAT YOU MADE ME DO

talks to Min Grob

Thursday, 19th March 2020

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A conversation with Jess Hill

M: See What You Made Me Do,

what made you write that?

J : That’s a very big question. I’m

probably only just starting to

understand that myself. When I

started writing it, I don’t think I

had many personal connections

with anyone who had been badly

abused, I certainly didn’t think I

had any family history of it.

What I’ve done my whole life,

even going back to when I was a

kid, is try to reveal concealed

truths, and I think I was doing

that within my family, as well as

wanting to do it in society. When

I was doing homework

assignments, I was trying to find

out the thing that teachers

weren’t telling us.

It came to me that, when I

started working on domestic

abuse and then the family court

and other associated systems,

this is one of the greatest

concealed truths in the world.

Not only concealed to the public,

but, weirdly, also concealed to

the people who had experienced

it, because, as you know,

domestic abuse and, in

particular, coercive control, robs

people of their words, to describe

what’s happening to them, and it

makes it very difficult to both

explain it to themselves, to

unravel what they’ve been wound

up in, so they can come back to a

sense of self, but also so that they

can explain to people what

happened to them and why they

made certain choices.

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Jess Hill

in conversation

« It sort of came to me that, when I started working on

domestic abuse and then the family court and other associated

systems, this is one of the greatest concealed truths in the

world. Not only concealed to the public, but, weirdly also

concealed to the people who had experienced it. »

Jess Hill, author of SEE WHAT YOU MADE

ME DO, in conversation with Min Grob

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A conversation with Jess Hill

I think that, for a lot of people, a

second isolating process comes

after either the abuse has

finished or the relationship has

ended and they may still be being

subjected to being controlled.

The second part of the isolation is

the social isolation that comes

from feeling like a freak. Feeling

like no-one could possibly

understand what’s happened to

you, you don’t even understand it

fully yourself, and you’ve done

things that you might even be

ashamed of, or that you wouldn’t

ordinarily have done, were you

not in that situation.

I think that people often get

rejected by their

friends, who might think it’s too

hard, or might side with the other

partner, but a lot of people pull

away from that social contact

because they don’t know how to

be in this world anymore.

The reason I wrote it, and it

changed and shape-shifted over

the time I was writing it, it took

about 4 years or so, was to give

back that language and that’s

why, I replicated, not the process

of coercive control, but certainly

the isolation and the otherwordliness

of it by completely

cutting off from social life.

Every time I sat down to write, it

was like trying to drill down

deeper and deeper into the

subconscious or even

unconscious feelings that

coercive control would trigger. I

wanted to make the reader,

whether they had experienced it

or not, feel it viscerally and for

survivors to read it and go ‘ that’s

my story, someone has finally

told my story.’

M : Your book really did that,

and it also make me think more

broadly, not just of my own

experiences, but what I have

heard from others.

J: I’m glad, because it was very

hard for me to know except that I

kept testing it with people I’d

speak to. I’d have a conversation,

like an interview. that would

maybe run for a couple of hours,

and I might not even have used

the interview itself, but they

would have said one little

important thing which would

have changed one line in the

book and that one line was

crucial.

It was incredibly important to get

it exactly, as close to right as one

can and to really interrogate

every single thing I was saying so

that it wasn’t too shallow, or too

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A conversation with Jess Hill

easy or, I guess, simple, so that,

at least, everything carried some

kind of weight.

That was what I really wanted to

do and then from there, it turned

into a whole process of reinterrogating

everything that we

understand about domestic

abuse from both the side of the

public, to academics, to the way

governments were confronting it.

Basically, like a scientist who

conducts research from the basis

of having no preconceptions and

just see what I find, even if it

means reinventing the wheel. I

wanted to test it, not assume

anything. What took the time, the

survivor experience, I pretty

much had down in the first 6

months or so, but trying to reinterrogate

everything, that’s

what took so long.

M : That was pivotal to my own

experience- the need to reexamine

everything over and

over again. That is exactly how it

was , looking back at the

relationship with fresh eyes. I

had had this idea of what it was,

how it was and that it was

wonderful, that this person was

wonderful and then something

changed and that the reason for

the change had to be my fault

and that if only I wasn’t this, if

only I wasn’t that, if only I wasn’t

the other, he’d go back to the

wonderful person he was before I

pushed him to the edge, if you

like.

J: Yes, which I presume is

basically the script that he wrote

for you.

M: Looking back , yes, but I did

not see it that way at the time

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and it took years to literally

unpick that relationship and

relive it, in my head , with these

new parameters and I am still

doing it now. I totally believed it

was my fault, that I must be

mentally ill and so incredibly

flawed, as he had framed it , that

it is still my default setting. It’s

almost as though that has been

programmed into me and even

though I know, on an intellectual

level, it's not the case, I don’t

actually believe it and that really

fucks with my head.

J: How I’ve started thinking

about it, even in the last couple of

weeks, it’s a loaded term and I

use it really cautiously, coercive

control is like the colonising

impulse, and whether you’ve

experienced it as indigenous

people, or whether you are a

prisoner of war or in an abusive

relationship, your mind is,

essentially, colonised by the

other person. And so, just as

indigenous people will tell you,

even when they learn all the

theory and all the things, they

can still feel the shame . They can

still feel all the things that have

been colonised into them.

I feel people who have been

coercively controlled, need to

decolonise , just the same as

anyone who has been colonised

by someone else because their

perspective has been, not entirely

taken over, but warped. So, I

think one of the reasons you can

know intellectually that

everything you think and feel is

basically attributed to the person

who made you think and feel

that, it’s still got in deep enough

for you to believe.

It’s all wrapped up in the way

that coercive controllers exploit

loyalty and the feeling that, in

order to be in that loving

relationship, you need to take

their perspective on and you

need to see life through their eyes

and replace your own perspective

with theirs. And abide by their

rules, not just rules like the

washing up has to be done on

time, but their rules of

engagement.

M : Yes, it’s about how you say it

and how you do it.

J : Exactly and who do you tell?

So many people are following the

same script yet it isn’t like

anything that anyone is

experiencing, because it IS so

unspeakable. The expectations,

the way you see the world, all of

that is shaped and moulded and

happens so gradually, that, by the

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A conversation with Jess Hill

time it’s set in place, to unpick it

is probably going to take longer

than it actually took to have it put

into you, you know what I mean?

M: That’s exactly my experience.

J: When people try to otherise

domestic abuse, they really don’t

understand. What we’re talking

about is something that is

absolutely rife throughout

society. It’s the apotheosis of the

whole ‘ power over’ model . It’s at

its most insidious, at its most

total and at its most petty.

M: Something I have noticed, it is

my experience and also the

experience of many people I’ve

talked to, is that when you’re in a

relationship, that is really

controlling, you don’t necessarily

realise it is controlling, and

you’re constantly making excuses

for them, giving them the benefit

of the doubt, you know like,

they’ve had a bad upbringing,

they had dreadful exes, that’s just

who they are, they have

abandonment issues and you

willingly start to cede away your

autonomy, to make them feel

better about themselves, but you

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A conversation with Jess Hill

don’t lose your autonomy

because they have used force to

take it, you have given it

willingly.

What I've also noticed, with a lot

of relationships that are very

controlling and micromanaged,

that the bit you ARE able to

control, you end up overcontrolling,

does that make

sense? In areas where I wasn't

expected to comply, where I was

still able to have that choice over

decison making, I needed that

control and, to the outside world,

it was disproportionate, but not

when seen in the whole context.

J: That’s your resistance. That’s

how you were resisting.

M: It took me a long to unpick all

of that and to understand that I

was being deliberately goaded

into a reaction that could be used

against me. I’ll give you an

example of the resistance: He

started constantly criticising my

children. It was always why are

they always here? Why aren’t

they with their father? I don’t

want them here, I married you

not your children. It was constant

and although he scapegoated

them to me, he rarely criticised

them to their face. It was all

behind their backs.

There was this incident ,where he

thought he’d lost something and

rather than look for it, he

immediately blamed my children.

I was in the kitchen, at the time,

unloading the dishwasher, and

he was literally shouting at me “

Your children are all liars and

thieves” and he was really going

at my children. I became really

angry and threw an espresso cup,

that I had unloaded, at him. It hit

him on the hip and smashed on

the floor. He looked at the broken

pieces and said something like

“ I’m not picking that up” and

stormed off. Anyway, fast

forward to Family Court, that

incident, as well as another

where I had thrown his cufflinks

out of the window, after he had

called me a ‘bipolar bitch’ were

cited as examples of my violence

to him and the thing is, I had

thrown those things, I couldn't

deny it.

J: You were literally being driven

insane . That’s why Amnesty

International calls it a form of

torture, it is literally crazy

making. The dignity is being

assailed and the dignity of the

children.

M: He was so awful to my

children. I just thought, how

fucking dare you.

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J: I guess the hope for the

coercive control laws, as society

becomes more sophisticated, is

that we can start to see the

context around these acts and

really start to see women’s

resistance and see why and how

it happens. The stuff you have in

the UK, like the Archers is a

perfect illustration of cultural

change and it is teaching people.

I’ve sat in a room, full of

magistrates watching a court

room drama, the judicial college

uses in some teaching seminars

and all the magistrates are so

creeped out, especially when they

see the behaviour that has

preceded what has happened in

the court. They’re all trying to

figure out , how do we get her to

describe this, she doesn’t have

the words for it, what kind of

questions can we ask? We can’t

have that exercise within a news

report, the sort of stuff that gets

people inside these relationships

is fiction. If you want to expand

your reporting on domestic

abuse, get the fiction

departments, the television

drama department involved. It

doesn’t need to just be news, in

fact it can’t be, because you can’t

have a news camera inside these

relationships. All you can see is

the aftermath.

M: Exactly. What was so

powerful about the Archers was

that you were a fly on the wall

and if you only got to see what

Rob was like outside the house,

you'd have no idea of what he

was like behind closed doors,

when it was just him and Helen.

I already knew what it could be

like, because I’d lived it, but for

other people to see both his

presented version and his true

self, was really revealing because

controllers control how they are

seen.

J: It’s what’s needed and that is

why I’m really advocating for

coercive control laws here

(Australia). The way you can do

it, and it makes absolutely no

dent on anything, is if you

introduce a bunch of legislation

and don’t back it up with

anything, but what I know, from

conversations I have from being

inside the media, this stuff gets

covered in an entirely different

way when there’s a new law.

Before the laws criminalised

marital rape, there’ was no

consciousness that there is such a

thing as rape within marriage,

that that could even be possible

and then you get laws that have a

pretty low prosecution rate, if

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we’re honest, but its culture

changing because it tells people

that you don’t just give your

consent on your wedding day. As

countries come on board with

criminalising coercive control,

they will, if they actually mean to

do something with those laws,

develop more and more

sophisticated versions of what

we’ve seen in the UK and it will

really change the way the justice

system and all the related

systems deal with this.

I really see, in Australia, from the

police and magistrates I deal

with, I’m not saying that all of

them are on the same page, but a

lot who are really spearheading

different and really sophisticated

approaches. A lot of survivors are

becoming magistrates and

working as police, so it’s shifting

more than people realise.

There’s still the crap examples of

police thinking that that’s a bad

relationship, and all of that is still

very damaging but where it is

getting better, it is really getting

exponentially better.

M : I see that. There are a lot of

people who say the law doesn’t

work but the law was never going

to be enacted on one day and

suddenly on the next day

everyone was going to wake up

and *get it* , it was always going

to be a process of continual

enlightenment.

J: Yes, and England was the first

to do that, and they were

probably not going to do it the

best and that’s the problem when

you act first.

M: That’s true

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J: When I spoke to Marsha Scott

( Chief Executive at Scottish

Women’s Aid), she was saying

that there are still police in the

same jurisdiction, in Scotland,

who, on one hand, will see that

it’s abuse and we can prosecute

and the other is just like, well,

don’t be so picky.

M: That’s absolutely true, even

when there has been extensive

training.

J: Yeah, totally, both those police

officers have been trained in

coercive control.

M: Some people you can train to

the hilt and they will never get it.

J: That’s right and to be honest,

that’s why I really like and

advocate for that model around

women’s police stations , if you

actually had people who were

choosing to police this and they

weren’t being forced to, or first

responders who got into the force

for something completely

different, but actually had a

police force that was dedicated to

policing this and doing it through

a completely different

framework, that’s when I think

you will see a massive and very

quick change in how this is

responded to but, unfortunately,

countries like Australia and the UK

don’t really want to admit that

they’ve got a massive misogyny

problem within their police force.

M: What I’ve seen is that, if an

institution has had training, they

don’t want to accept that even

though there has been training, that

some still won't understand it and

there will be a need for ongoing

training and feedback. This stuff is

complicated and people need time to

cogitate in their own time , to

process what they have learnt and

then apply it to real life situations.

What worries me is when I come

across attitudes that are like, yeah,

we’ve had training, tick the box,

we’re now experts when that is

clearly not the case.

Also, I think one of the biggest

things that could really help the

police in the UK, I don’t know if

you’re finding it over in Australia, is

for the cyber crime units to

understand coercive control. So

much coercive control, especially

post separation, morphs into online

control, so it can only help with

understandin and identifying course

of conduct offences such as

harassment, stalking as well as

online abuse.

From what I understand, they are

tech-trained to look at dark web

stuff, hacking, but not coercive

control and that leave a huge gap in

understanding.

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Suffer the children

« In a recording of the letter, her unsteady voice becomes

indignant. “At what point do I become old enough? I want

to … think that somewhere in the cosmos is a place

where I am valued and safe. I don’t want to be the next

Luke Batty … Please, please help.”»

Suffer the children by Jess Hill

The Monthly, 2015

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A conversation with Jess Hill

I can’t remember if it was you

who said this , but once you see

coercive control, you can’t unsee

it, and then you can see it

anywhere. It’s like putting on

special glasses, like a super

power.

J: Here in Australia, the judicial

college that I work with, is so

good that they’ll have people

from the rental tribunal doing

sessions with the magistrates and

learning about coercive control,

because they’re going to come

across it too and the whole idea

that you’ve only specialist police

or certain departments of police

or first responders who are

understanding this, as if the

other departments aren’t going to

interact with it, is absurd,

especially with cybercrime, but

this is the problem, it’s still a very

second class crime, as far as the

police are concerned and that’s

represented in the way they

approach it, in terms of police

hierarchy. You can see what

happens when police

departments marshall everything

to fight and keep people safe.

When they have a strategy they

can localise and use to

collaborate with all the other

sectors, then you get these

amazing results.

Unfortunately police can’t get

that paradigm shift and see how

so much crime and so many

issues stem back to this root of

domestic abuse, then they will

never come at it properly.

M: Yes, it’s always going to be the

puzzle piece that is missing and

they are always going to be

scrabbling around, not even

realising that that is the key to

the whole picture.

J: Exactly

M; Something that I’ve been

thinking about a lot, is how the

family court looks at coercive

control. I often see narratives

saying that the family court is

corrupt, and although my

personal experience has been

horrific, I haven’t found the

system to be corrupt. What I

have found, though, is that the

majority of judges I know are

white, male, privately educated

and have had no hand in raising

their own children. Whether they

had nannies, au pairs or their

wives were happy to stay at home

and raise the children, they don’t

have much personal experience

of what is involved in parenting

and it’s not that they are

deliberately biased and favouring

mothers, or fathers, it’s just that

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A conversation with Jess Hill

many don’t really have a frame of

reference, outside of what they

have seen in court and they have

no real understanding of coercive

control.

J: And they don’t have any

interest in getting it.

M: Definitely. They’re not

interested and they don't seem to

want to learn from the people

who could teach them.

J: There’s a lot of trauma in the

advocacy groups. The trauma,

the sense that they’ve been

persecuted within the court, is so

strong and sometimes justified,

in the way that cases are run, in

the family court, the aggression,

how they are talked to by judges

or by certain experts , there’s a

lot of aggression that is used and

certainly in Australia, the

aggression that I have heard used

in court rooms is so unlike other

court rooms, it’s like a space onto

itself. There is a total impasse

between the advocacy groups and

the family law system because

both believe them to be utterly

beyond reform

M: I’ve noticed that but I believe

that, if we are willing to come

together, respect each other’s

viewpoints, even if we don’t

necessarily agree, we can come to

some compromise that is better

than what is currently in place.

J: I think so too. I think the

problem is, and I don’t know if

it’s the same in the UK, there’s

now an industry that surrounds

the family law system,

particularly with single expert

witnesses and there’s money to

be made in covering up DV.

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The fact that lawyers here

(Australia) have openly said they

know which report writers to go

to, if they have a perpetrator as a

client, that’s how that report

writer continues to get work.

The fact is that, when we have

report writers who are real

experts in child abuse, child

sexual abuse, domestic violence,

it’s quite unusual- certainly less

usual than the other way roundfor

that court writer to be taken

seriously within the family law

system.

They seem biased because so

many of the expert report writers

are writing this completely

unscientific nonsense and so the

judges get used to reading that

and they’re not psychologists and

they don’t have their own

expertise in domestic abuse,

apart from the expertise they

think they’ve developed from

working with it and it can be that

you just reinforce and reinforce

the wrong assumptions, the

wrong stereotypes and all that

leads us exactly in the wrong

direction.

I’ve been pretty harsh on the

Family Law system, partly so the

public actually wakes up to how

bad it can be but, at the same

time, whenever someone has

said, would you mind coming to

talk to us, speak at our

conference, I am over the moon

as I do believe, like you, that this

can be reformed, I just think that

there’s a lot of education and a

total change in accountability

that needs to be instituted in

order for that to happen and I

don’t know if that’s possible.

I don’t know if the system would

allow that because the family law

judges are pretty resistant,

uniquely resistant, compared to

magistrates, from what I’ve

experienced, to being educated,

because they feel that they’ve got

the experts to do that for them.

They don’t need to be experts,

because they get these report

writers. So this nexus, the expert

report writers, for me, have

always been the fundamental

problem because enough are

providing incredibly bad advice

and they are operating within

this weird bubble like where

parental alienation is being

misused and this kind of stuff.

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The family law system has always

been beleaguered and besieged

and so there is this mentality that

nobody really understands what

they have to deal with, and they

do have to deal with a lot. I don’t

envy any family court judge,

lawyer or report writer.

There’s a lot of contesting

allegations that are hard to

unpick but, at the same time,

once you do have expertise in the

area, and you were to actually

give proper time to assessing

families, and maybe not just one

report writer but having a triage

system where a number of

different professionals assess the

family, then, I think, you might

start to get better results.

I think the fact that you’ve got

one report writer, who assesses

them for an hour or two, maybe a

little bit more, maybe then

doesn’t have any proof of the

session aside from their notes,

and can then basically make any

recommendation they like,

without any oversight, that’s

obviously a corruptible system.

Whether or not it is corrupt,

that’s up to people to prove or

disprove but where there is no

accountability, it’s certainly a

system open to corruption.

M: My experience has been that

it is certainly open to very deeply

held biases, take the police for

example, depending on what

your beliefs are. You will take

down notes confirming them and

these notes aren’t written down

until maybe several hours later

and then not used in court until

several months, even years down

the line and when you read the

notes back, it takes on a certain

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slant which is not necessarily

indicative of what happened at

the time, and I don’t think that is

addressed at all. I hear a lot that

when, for example, a judge

instructs a jury to, let’s say,

disregard rape myths, that all of a

sudden, hey presto, the jury is

able to ignore all of their deeply

held and ingrained biases

because they have been

instructed to do so, but that is

just not how people are. Does

that make sense?

I find it incredible that people

who are in a situation, judges,

lawyers, experts, social workers

CAFCASS etc are making serious

decisions but not being assessed

for their biases.

J: I think that’s why you need

triage. I have an issue with my

brain. I had a tumour that I had

operated on a few years ago and

we monitor it constantly to see if

it is growing back, so I get advice

from my neurosurgeon who

maybe thinks we should do some

radiation to kill off the cells,

maybe we should go back in and

operate on the bits that are

growing back, and then I go to

my neurooncologist and she’s got

a different idea, she gives me

different insight based on her

understanding and then I can go

to the radiologist who can say,

well look, this is what I think,

and then they can all speak to

each other. I would not want to

just have to trust one opinion on

that, we always go for second

opinions in the medical world so

why can one family report writer,

who has seen the family for just a

few hours, be trusted to provide

reliable advice on that family

with no history of treating them?

M: Exactly! Everyone claims to

be objective and they’re not.

J: No, of course not, they’ve got

their own things going on , that’s

why we do have triage systems. If

you had a team of people that

was coming at it from their own

particular expertise, because

that’s how we work, and have a

process that actually works and

that brings in all different

expertise. I can’t believe that you

can’t do that for the $15,000 or

so that people are paying for

these reports. I feel that the way

people are charged for these

reports, it’s so expensive and the

value is so very low , for what

they pay for.

M: What I find really interesting

is how often the expert’s report

has been rejected.

x

x


What I've learned about domestic

violence in my year reporting on it

« What’s even more confusing is that commonly, perpetrators believe

they are the victim, and will plead their case to police, even as their

partner stands bloody and bruised behind them. They can genuinely

believe their partner provoked them to commit the abuse, just so they

could get them in trouble. After a while, the victims start to blame

themselves for the abuse, too – after all, he’s so nice to everybody else.»

source:

What I've learned about domestic

violence in my year reporting on it

Jess Hill, September 2015

The Guardian

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A conversation with Jess Hill

J: Well, that’s what the family

court judges will say. Their

evidence is contestible in court,

which is why a lot of doctors

don’t want to be experts, they

don’t want to sit in from of a

barrister questioning their

advice, that’s not why they

became a doctor, but whose

reports are rejected, and for what

reason and whose reports are

accepted ? It differes from judge

to judge, it’s the same as, you

can’t be sure what response you’ll

get from individual police

officers, within the same station,

because they’re all different and

so, some report writers will

absolutely get their reports

rejected. That’s a fairly rare

occurence in Australia, it seems

that, family court report writers,

especially the single expert report

writers, the psychiatrists, the

external report writers, they are

really the Gods of the family

court and it’s pretty rare that

their reports get rejected entirely,

but in England, it might be

different.

M: I don’t really know enough

about that

J: It also seems that getting

access to court documents and

stuff like that appears to be a lot

more difficult for journalists.

M: It also takes a very long time

and the information on what to

do is not easily available but,

certainly in the UK, resources

have been decimated. This is the

thing I struggle with, funds have

been drastically cut and the

general view is that the system

does not work because of the

lack of funding, but I don’t

believe it’s as simple as that

because, if money started being

ploughed into the system, the

system would still be deficient, it

would just be deficient but with

money because a significant

number of people still wouldn’t

understand the dynamics around

domestic abuse.

J: I see this in Australia all the

time, there’s not enough funding,

there’s too many cases, there’s

too many delays and that all

seems , to me, to be pretty low

hanging fruit that has a

reasonably simple fix which is

funding, but tell me how all these

problems are going to be fixed

with more funding?

At the moment, I see people

paying $15,000 upward for a

single expert report and the

report is what takes them down

the avenue to losing their

children, or they’re having to

hand their children over to

x

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A conversation with Jess Hill

someone they know to be

dangerous. How is that anything

to do with the lack of funding in

the courts? They’re having trials

that last 3 or 4 days, the judge

has got plenty of time to consider

this.

These are the really high end

cases that are running and

they’re getting bad results, and

they’re like the blue chip cases, so

totally, it’s a distraction and it’s a

way for people within the system

to believe that , if they had more

resources, they’d be able to

handle the cases differently.

It’s very confronting. I can

understand why the family court

is resistant to the type of

criticism it gets, because it’s used

to it, especially in Australia,

where there have been violent

terrorist campaigns against the

family courts like bombings,

assassinations and the Father’s

Rights groups here have been

incredibly influential and scary,

you know?

Me: They are influential here

too.

J: I totally understand that, they

are in between a rock and a hard

place and that’s why, when I

report on this, I always try and

interview children who are either

going through the system, or

have just come out of it. They

don’t have agendas, and I’m not

saying that protective parents

have agendas, they don’t

necessarily, but the ones who are

getting the most air time, maybe

the family law system sees them

as having a particular agenda. So

what do you think about this kid

x

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A conversation with Jess Hill

who is now on disability support

pension because of the trauma

they encountered, in the family

court, because of the orders that

you made? That’s how I try and

get around that .

M: That is actually how I got to

hear of you, and initially got in

contact. It was an article you

wrote in 2015 ( Suffer the

Children, The Monthly 2015)

where a child talked about her

experience of the family court, so

nobody could say that the mother

was intractably hostile, it was the

child’s lived experience and the

child’s recollection of that , which

was so powerful, because that is

really the only way people will

understand the impact of

decisions that have been made.

J: And the thing is, it also stops it

being a gendered discussion, if

you bring it to the children and

that’s why I prefer the term

protective parents, even though I

think that they are, by and large,

women, and there are issues

around misogyny and various

other expectations around

motherhood and fatherhood that

play in to that, there are men

who are in similar situations and

had similar treatment and so

while it is definitely gendered, it’s

not exclusively gendered and so ,

if we take it from the child’s point

of view, what’s happening here?

The children are being

disbelieved for these reasons,

how do we change it so that

children are able to make

disclosures in this setting, and

not have them manipulated and

misconstrued by people who

don’t really have any expertise in

what they are trying to assess, no

specific expertise in child abuse

or domestic abuse, or they are

just a psychiatrist who did their

training in the 70’s, and we all

know what training on domestic

abuse in the 70’s was like, in the

psychiatry world, even now.

Somehow, by virtue of the fact

that they are a psychiatrist,

they’re deemed to be an expert

on all these issues. It’s just crap,

they’re not. They need a

particular clinical expertise and

not just writing a report

expertise. Psychiatrists have

actually caused great harm.

M: I’d like to ask you a question.

In my experience, and I know

this isn’t probably representative

of what is going on, I know more

mothers who have been alienated

from their children than fathers.

I’m just going to leave that out

there.

x

x


A conversation with Jess Hill

J: I think that parental alienation

is a term that has, unfortunately,

been misused and created really,

by a person who was very candid

about his views on paedophilia. It

has been misused and misapplied

where, in fact, what we’re talking

about is the effects that a parent

can have on a child, that can be

really damaging and in the realm

of abuse. I don’t subscribe to the

idea that this is worse than

physical or sexual abuse or

domestic violence, in the way

that parental alienation is talked

about. What we see, most

prominently, is perpetrators

trying to sever or degrade the

relationship between the mother

and the child, like the woman in

my book, whose partner was

teaching their babies to call her

slut instead of mum, and even

just undermining, making the

child feel that the mum is a bit

unstable or not really reliable, or

not very smart.

M: yes. You know what Mum’s

like, she’s mentally ill, what’s

mum’s health like, is she coping

ok?

J: Yes, precisely and that whole

thing of the children having to

absorb the degradation of the

mother and having to find where

they sit with it, with their own

loyalties to both parents. It’s very

damaging and, unfortunately,

parental alienation was basically

invented by someone who

had views on paedophilia and

how we should think about it. I

think the actual conundrum we

see in domestic abuse has been

co-opted to turn it on people who

allege abuse and have them

disbelieved.

x

x


A conversation with Jess Hill

M: That’s certainly something I

have heard a lot.

If things are going to change, and

a lot of us agree that change is

needed, we have to do something

new. All sides have to come to the

table and talk. At the moment the

debate is too polarised with both

sides pushing hard against the

other and meeting resistance. I’m

really hoping that your

groundbreaking book helps to

start up a dialogue that is so

urgently needed.

A HUGE thank you to Jess Hill

for this interview with CCChat

magazine.

For more information on

Jess' work, go to

www. jesshill.net

The UK version of

SEE WHAT YOU

MADE ME DO will be

released August 2020.

The original version is

available as a book, an e-

book and also an

audiobook.

x

x


Suffer the

children

« other observers say these problems can’t be fixed by simply

injecting more resources. They say domestic violence

education is urgently needed. At the very least, it’s clear that

single experts – whose evidence can be so influential – should

have to meet minimum standards of expertise in domestic

violence and child abuse. »

Suffer the children by Jess Hill

The Monthly, 2015

x

x


Articles by Jess Hill

Children and family law: 'How can you share

parenting with an abusive parent?'

March 2020

The family law system is supposed to put children’s safety

first, but in many ways they become further endangered

when they enter it.

Patriarchy and power:

how socialisation underpins abusive behaviour

March 2020

Men don’t abuse women because society tells them it’s OK.

They do it because society tells them they are entitled to be

in control.

I believed the Australian family court system was

biased against fathers – then I found the rot at the

core of it.

September 2019

The system needs to be overhauled, but not by Pauline

Hanson who seems to be driven by vengeance on behalf of

her son

It’s like you go to abuse school’: how domestic

violence always follows the same script

June 2019

In this extract from her book, See What You Made Me Do,

Jess Hill traces the psychology of abusers and how they use

the same techniques of oppression

What I've learned about domestic violence in my year

reporting on it.

September 2015

Pretty much everything I thought I knew about violence

against women and children turned out to be wrong. Here’s

how

x

x


Suffer the

children

« There are promising signs of change. Even fierce critics of

the Family Court say it’s starting to recognise these

shortcomings, and becoming more open to consultation. But

openness alone will not change the fact that every week

parents who fear for their children’s safety are being

pressured into making potentially tragic compromises. »

Suffer the children by Jess Hill

The Monthly, 2015

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www.coercivecontrol.co.uk

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