Warning signs Allison’s loved ones missed
WHEN a domestic violence murder occurs, everyone is a bystander, and everyone has the power to prevent a death.
That's the message the Allison Baden-Clay Foundation will share this February through the launch of their Australia-wide corporate education program.
Created in collaboration with Griffith University's MATE Bystander Program, the course uses the story of murdered mother-of-three Allison Baden-Clay, who was killed by her husband Gerard Baden-Clay in 2012, to create practical training for workers on how to recognise signs of abuse and abusers, and empower people to take action.
"We just want to empower people to be brave, and to be brave enough to step in and approach that person and just check in with them," said Allison's elder sister, Vanessa Fowler, 52, who is a driving force behind the foundation.
"My parents, my family and I, and Allison's friends, we're all bystanders and I think if we had known what we know now through this training, things may have been different."
QUEENSLAND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SERVICES
Former Brisbane real estate agent Gerard Baden-Clay, 47, is serving a minimum of 15 years' jail for the murder of Allison, who disappeared from their Brookfield home on 20 April, 2012 - her body was found 10 days later at Kholo Creek, Brisbane.
Fowler says when she looks back on the situation and considers the evidence that came up in Gerard Baden-Clay's trial, she realises there were lots of indicators of "things that were going on behind closed doors".
The education program will show participants how to spot the signs of a perpetrator, such as a person who isolates their partner or puts them down in public.
"So it could be he (Baden-Clay) was saying Allison never wants to go out or he doesn't bring her to stuff and comes on his own," said Shaan Ross-Smith, director of the MATE Bystander Program.
It's important for people to become familiar with the different forms of behaviour common to domestic violence perpetrators, Ross-Smith believes. An example she points out is how Baden-Clay white-anted Allison to everyone by introducing her and claiming, "she has mental health problems".
In terms of the victim, Fowler warns that red flags are not always obvious.
"The signs are not always as clear as a bruised eye or a broken limb. They don't always present like that and Allison certainly did not show any signs of physical abuse. For her and for many others, it's all about the psychological and emotional abuse and so that for many people is difficult to see.
"Looking back, there were things that we saw that if we'd have known a bit more, or delved in a little bit more, we may have changed the outcome," said Fowler.
The decision to target the corporate sector was deliberate - abuse is often overlooked in more affluent communities, such as the one Allison belonged to as a successful Brisbane businesswoman.
There are misconceptions that violence mainly occurs in lower socio-economic communities, and that inquiring into a person's private life is uncouth.
"We are brought up with the mindset that you don't interfere with somebody's marriage because what happens behind closed doors is their own personal business, it's not your business, and so you don't really delve too deeply into it," said Fowler.
"However, I think that is really the crux of what we're trying to change in our community. We really need to change everybody's mindset around the thinking: it really is your business.
"And we are able to teach people the skills of how to be an active bystander and intervene in a situation very sensitively but effectively, without consequences to the victim or to any family members or children that may be involved - and, of course, (without) repercussions on you yourself."
The new training will use the warning bells that were missed in Allison's case to delineate practical examples.
"There was a change in her behaviour and she was being isolated from her family and friends," said Fowler.
"She was confident and a successful businesswoman and she went from that to having very little self-esteem and no faith in herself.
"I guess she got to the point where, because of the persistent language that he was using toward her that she probably felt very worthless in the end."
There was also financial control, where Gerard Baden-Clay monitored their bank account and credit card. Fowler says he was also obviously looking at her phone and the contacts and cutting the phone or blocking numbers from selected callers so they couldn't get in contact with her.
"It was just little things over many, many years that obviously culminated in her death and her murder."
• For more information or to book training, visit www.allisonbadenclayfoundation.org.au