Kate and Judah*
Kate was forced to quickly try to find adequate legal representation with knowledge of the Hague Convention. Their defence, that there was grave risk to the child, was derided and laughed off by the judge. The judge stated that the abuse she endured was nowhere near significant enough to reach the threshold required. Her case was dismissed within minutes. This is #HerHagueStory
The abuse started soon after the birth of their son, Judah*. “It was like a switch went off, it all just changed.” Kate* suffered mental, psychological and emotional abuse to the point that her partner controlled everything she did, isolated her, gas-lit her, “played mind games”. She had been isolated from her friends, and had no family or support in Australia, so she called her father overseas who encouraged her to call the police. Following an incident at home, he was removed by the police and a protection order was issued by the local court preventing him from going near her or her son, or making any contact. However once out of the house, she was completely cut off financially, and he stopped paying the rent.
There was now no local support, family or friends; no money for food, formula, nappies or rent, they were soon to be evicted and in the middle of a harsh COVID lockdown. A maternity health care professional referred her to a local support organisation and they arranged a Salvation Army family violence case worker to help her. She and her child were surviving on grocery vouchers that could only be posted because of the lockdown, and were not eligible for any government support due to not being Australian citizens.
Her Salvation Army case worker managed to raise some funds for a flight home. They secured the earliest flight possible so they could leave under the cover of night so no one could see and alert her ex partner. She and her son arrived home and spent two weeks in isolation, feeling safe for the first time in years, “suddenly I just felt like I could breathe without having to worry about what I was going to do next.”
She contacted her ex and told him they had flown home and explained their reasons for leaving. He was angry and accused her of “running away” and “abducting” their son. However, now at home and in safety she and her son thrived, getting to know grandparents and cousins. She also maintained and encouraged contact with her ex partner’s parents and family, and offered contact with the father, video calls on special occasions and kept him updated with important milestones such as the baby's first steps.
Then everything came crashing down. Just eight days short of twelve months since living safely at home she heard a knock on the door - a court bailiff serving her with documents for Hague proceedings. She said, “My heart sank. I will never forget this moment”. She was forced to quickly try to find adequate legal representation with knowledge of the Hague Convention. Their defence, that there was grave risk to the child, was derided and laughed off by the judge. The judge stated that the abuse she endured was nowhere near significant enough to reach the threshold required. Her case was dismissed within minutes.
The abuse wasn’t physical, so it didn’t count. The sexual coercion didn’t count. The mental and emotional abuse that led to suicidal ideation didn’t count. The financial control, to the point where she was not even allowed money for tampons, didn’t count. The harrowing affidavit from another woman (the father’s former partner, with whom he also had a child) outlining her experience of the same kind of abuse didn’t count. Nor did any other statement from trained professionals assisting throughout the history of trauma and abuse - not the police protection order, the GP, Safe Steps, Orange Door files, Salvation Army case files. To be told your trauma isn’t enough, that it doesn’t “reach the threshold” is mystifying, devastating, and heart-breaking.
Now back in Australia, the fight continues to try and return home and escape the ongoing trauma. Kate hopes to see urgent changes made to the Hague Convention to protect victims of family harm and violence, and take the impact domestic violence has on children more seriously. "Basically you have to be beaten so severely you're within an inch of your life for them to consider family harm," she said. All abuse should be recognised, not just severe physical abuse. “The Hague impacted my life in a way I would never wish to happen to any other mother ever. How do you tell a two year old they can’t go home?” A law that was created to protect children and their primary attachment parent should not be being used as an agent to traumatise them further.
*To protect the privacy of individuals, names have been changed.