Strangulation attempt creates fear which is control
Strangulation attempt. The question Sophie put to her ex at the court hearing got absolutely no response from behind the screen between him and her. The thought caused Sophie to cover her face as it intruded. Her typing could not keep up with a tsunami of information gushing from her suppressed memories. She stopped to drink tea from her homemade thermos (a stainless-steel water bottle and lid wrapped in an old handtowel) as she ate a few spoonfuls of food. As she watched different birds interact with each other on the lake an inspiration popped into her mind, and the speedy typing recommenced.
‘The ex was probably spinning his index finger around his ear to sign “crazy” to the judge. He was prone to do that and just ignore my questions. Her Honour looked at me, then him, then me.
‘“It’s no use Your Honour. This is exactly what always happens. He just ignores me.” I probably asked another closed question, and the usual silent treatment followed. I think I got angry with the lack of response to a couple of other questions before pleading with the judge to abandon questioning and let her make her assessment of the written affidavits and the VRO hearing transcript.
The judge said, “Are you sure that you’ve finished?”
Having not had time to sit and watch any other hearings, other than a quick glance at one before the three-day-trial, I had no idea of the processes, or that this was the only chance I had to present my evidence. I also had no idea of whether or not the judge had read the mountains of evidence I’d managed to submit, in between numerous unnecessary hearings which the other party demanded further evidence be submitted to.’
Sophie wrote how she was working night and day to learn how and what to respond with.
‘A friend told me I should become a lawyer, to which I retorted, “No thanks, I’d rather be doing what I love: preventing relationship breakdown, and marriage enhancement counselling, as soon as I have finished both this and my Master’s in Clinical Psychology.”’
Her friend was amazed how Sophie fitted everything in, and helped her by providing her back shed for Sophie to live in. The major pack-and-move happened one week prior to the date of the trial. Over the three months of house-sitting there had only been a few people interested in buying the hundred-acre farm. The new owner suddenly changed their mind about the settlement date such that the house needed to be cleared out by a date before the trial, rather than the original date.
Sophie drew on her Equity account, which had been topped up by a second drawdown on her Superannuation to pay for professional removalists. One of the men turned out to be an abusive control freak, who threatened to leave the job if Sophie had too many requests. He did pack up and drove off at one stage but returned after Sophie phoned his boss to cite the trouble one of his employees was inflicting. She was a terrified mess when she arrived at her friend’s place. Her friend had cleaned the shed nicely, placed carpet squares all over the concrete floor. Together they hung tea towels, and beach towels on the windows for privacy from the back yard. Her friend had two teenage sons, one with lots of visitors, and was also embarking on the property settlement process. She said she was learning so much from Sophie.
When Sophie had moved to the farm, twenty-four kilometres’ drive from the nearest train on which she travelled for metropolitan commutes, her friend brought her eighteen-year-old son to help clean the house. It had been unlived in for some time, sufficient to accommodate all kinds of spiders, dust and other insects – including a millipede plague. White powder had been sprinkled like long cords across every opening for doors and windows that were abundant in the huge house. The deal to housesit was that she had to clean it up and keep it prepared for urgent sale. Nobody expected it to sell on account of market conditions, but it ended up being just for the three winter months.
Another friend wanted his big two-year-old Italian sheep dog cared for, which made Sophie have a walk around the farm with him most days checking the fruit trees, the sheep, water supplies etc, when she wasn’t at university. Otherwise he stayed at the homestead guarding it. She loved the welcome home whatever time it was in the evening, and still cries uncontrollably when she recalls all the evenings that she cried with him when she found out that her temporary home and farm had been sold.
So, the week prior to the three-day hearing was filled with packing away partly prepared evidence in some kind of order so that she could pull it out as required at the hearing. It was a traumatic moving day. Then, with very little room in the single room/shed, she practised going through her evidence, day and night. She’d only been sleeping four to five hours per night for weeks before the trial.
Sophie continued writing after the relief of the distraction watching the birdlife on the lake.
‘I nodded, “Yes, Your Honour, this is how it always goes. Silence treatment.’” I panicked for a moment, wondering if I’d told the judge about the strangulation attempt. At the time, I consoled myself that I’d attached the VRO court transcript. I hadn’t time to refute the other side of the story in the ex’s perfectly prepared submission which twisted the perspective of his win in the VRO court day-long hearing transcript.
The judge had agreed with the other side’s perspective when she handed down the decision over five months later. The reasons and further analysis of all the evidence took a further twenty months for her to write up her reasons. The time was all the more difficult, given that she was seeking treatment for the last fifteen months– for malignant terminal cancer.
Sophie became tearful as she wrote:
‘September trial in 2010, Orders handed down on 11 February 2011, Reasons emailed at end of September, and Her Honour died on public holiday Monday, 1 October 2012, just over two years after the trial ended.’
She burst into tears after she’d typed the perfectly recalled series of events. At that time, there had been no laws to deal with attempted strangulation. Nothing that made perpetrators serve time for attempted strangulation in family violence. Sophie had been told the family court didn’t take DV into account when calculating property settlement; hence it was no surprise that Her Honour let it all slide under the carpet. So, it was easy to see how Alida ended up locked up for most of her life, now nearly a hundred years ago.
At the time of writing this chapter (2022), it is noteworthy that a recent spring 2021 news report briefly described how somebody was charged for attempted strangulation. Hence this account has been included in Alida’s story now. Most people don’t believe it. We who do, struggle to do so, but when you look at the facts of what happened to Alida’s granddaughter, it might seem that nothing has changed. Who knows how assertive Alida may have become about the mistress living in their home, or was the domestic violence, particularly gaslighting so severe, that she was having a breakdown. There are some changes, but in many instances, families are still locking up other family members on false premises. Sophie met a few women at the Family Court to whom it had happened to, while preparing further evidence for an Appeal.
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