Hannah Clarke’s Murder Should Be a Line in The Sand On Domestic Violence

We’re seven weeks into 2020 and eight women are dead. Eight women murdered at the hands of men who should have loved them. That domestic violence statistic should shock you. It should shock our politicians, our media and our nation into action. But it hasn’t.

Yesterday Rowan Baxter murdered Hannah Clarke and her three children Laianah, 6, Aaliyah, 4, and Trey, 3.

Baxter poured petrol on Hannah and her three children as they sat in a car on the streets of Brisbane. He then set it on fire. In full daylight. In view of neighbours. Hannah crawled out of the car alive, hosed down by onlookers, she made it to hospital, only to die hours later. She is the eighth woman to die from domestic violence this year. That we know of.

How many more will there be?

Hannah Clarke Domestic violence
Domestic violence victim Hannah Clarke and her three children Laianah, 6, Aaliyah, 4, and Trey, 3. Photo: Facebook

This senseless murder has shocked many of us, and the media headlines on this case have stirred a wave of anger.

The Headlines

mum central No, he didn’t die in a car fire. He killed his wife and children. That’s a big difference.

Fox Sports later changed its headline.

Domestic violence

The Australian forgot about Hannah and made special note of Rowan Baxter’s former NRL career.

This is seriously wrong

It doesn’t matter who you are, what sport you played or even what gender you are. Violence against your partner and your children is wrong. And we shouldn’t excuse it, or play it down. Ever.

Let’s compare those headlines above to the reporting of other crimes.

This headline was from the BBC after the murder of Curtis Cheng, a Sydney police officer.

Curtis Cheng headline

Hannah Baxter died. Curtis Cheng was killed.Crime headlines versus domestic violence

Cold-blooded killers, man ploughs his ute (note he is responsible in this sentence) and murder. Why couldn’t we say the same for Hannah and her beautiful children?

What happened to Hannah?

This murder has made every woman I know angry. It’s made loads of men angry too. It’s horrific. And sadly, it wasn’t a one-off incident.

Friends and family have told the media that Baxter “controlled every aspect” of Hannah’s life. He hacked her phone, he recorded her conversations and he left a huge welt on her arm after she challenged him over photos she saw in his car.

She tried to leave him. Detective Inspector Mark Thompson confirmed both Hannah Baxter and her estranged husband Rowan had been referred to support services in the lead-up to their deaths. A court had granted at least one domestic violence order relating to the couple.

Hannah Clarke Domestic violence
Hannah Clarke and her children and her three children Laianah, 6, Aaliyah, 4, and Trey, 3. Photo: Facebook

It’s time to change the conversation

We need to talk about Australia’s problem with domestic violence.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that 2.2 million adults have been victims of physical and/or sexual violence from a partner. That’s both men and women.

Seventy-four Australian women and 27 children died at the hands of someone they loved in 2019.

In 2016  Australian police handled 264,028 Domestic Violence cases.

Whatever we have been doing, clearly isn’t working.

YouTube video

What can we do?

Steve Biddulph is the author of Raising Boys and a relationships expert. In a Facebook post regarding the murder of Hannah Clarke and her children, Biddulph says dishing out AVOs for domestic violence isn’t working. Men who perpetrate domestic violence need intervention and help, similar to the way terror suspects go through deradicalisation programs.

“Programs exist and have for years, such as MENDS in Queensland which surround newly separated men with confronting, practical, supportive, and clear-headed help from other men, to realise they were behaving in ways that drove women away, and that if they are to ever make real links with their children, they have to stabilise, start behaving safely, stop feeling sorry for themselves, and learn how to relate without control being at the core,” Biddulph writes.

“It has helped thousands of men over 20 years. There is more too: A significant number of these high-risk men have massive attachment disorders from infancy, and so mistake intimacy for ownership. and become frantically afraid when women act independently.

“Control and power arises from fear, and that has to be got to the bottom of. We provide parole officers for men after crimes, but nothing before. So its a nightmare for women and their extended families trying to escape the escalating behaviour the man himself is trapped in, trying to gain through intimidation the love they have driven away by being so controlling in the first place.

In his book The New Manhood, Biddulph details case where groups of male friends talked men back from “stupid and emotional crisis behaviour, and toxic thinking” using round the clock monitoring and methods for releasing the grief and despair that underlies their anger.

He suggests that Australia needs to train volunteer groups of men to work with their peers and that such groups should be properly organised under court direction.

In the UK this is done with deradicalization of young men. But how many massacres, tragedies, and just shattered lives of children and wives might we prevent. Almost half of marriages end and even that is often needless if men learned to be grown up and trusting and open-hearted. Male change is possible, but its individual and hard work, and not going to happen from platitudes.”

Hannah Clarke’s death should be a line in the sand. We should take domestic violence as seriously as we take cases of terrorism. Enough is enough.


**In an emergency, call 000.

Read more:

Supporting Domestic Violence Survivors: Please Don’t Ask Why I Didn’t Leave

Are You Being Financially Abused by Your Partner? Here’s What to do About It

Avatar of Alison Godfrey

Alison Godfrey has worked as a journalist and editor for more than 20 years. She loves coffee, wine, skiing and spending time with her husband, two children and their dog. But she's still not sure about the cat. He's pretty cranky.

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