Domestic abuse is not an easy topic to write about or research. I’ve almost finished reading Jess Hill’s See what you made me do, the 2020 Stella prize winning non-fiction book about domestic abuse. I’ve also almost finished watching the Netflix series Maid, about a young American woman who ends up homeless with her two-year-old daughter, running out of options to find a home. I’ve been talking with a friend who works for a centre supporting women and children who have experienced domestic abuse.
There’s a small thread of domestic abuse in my young adult verse novel – I’m rewriting it now. The thread is only small, no more than 2,000 words over a few sections but it is so, so, so important that I write it based on research. Even though my thread involves minor characters and their story is entirely fictionalised, I don’t want to misrepresent the women and children who face domestic abuse.
Even though the Netflix series is fiction and Hill’s book is non-fiction, even though the Netflix series is American and Hill’s book is Australian, there are startling similarities. Did you know that it usually takes a woman seven attempts to leave her abusive partner?
I usually read a non-fiction chapter in the morning, and I’ve been watching Maid at night – it’s a grim way to bookend my days. But it’s important not to turn away from these realities, to bear witness to what so many women and children experience.
If I were to take away one thing from my research, it’s that – as Hill explains in her introduction – domestic violence is not an inclusive enough term. The emotional and financial aspects of coercion need to be included as well so domestic abuse rather than domestic violence is a more accurate term.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can call 1800RESPECT or 1800 737 732.