Rosie Batty and Sophie Delezio talk domestic violence and moving on
Sophie Delezio speaks to Rosie Batty about harnessing her grief and transforming it into national change.
It was an incident that sent shock waves across the nation. On the afternoon of February 12, 2014, while practicing cricket at an oval in the Victorian town of Tyabb, Luke Batty was beaten and stabbed to death by his father, Greg Anderson.
Anderson was shot by police at the scene, and later died in hospital. The moment Luke’s mother, Rosie Batty, addressed the media that evening, she became one of the most vocal advocates against domestic violence that Australia has seen.
Batty quickly established herself as a force to be reckoned with, campaigning for law reform and increased awareness, and was so successful in her cause that in 2015 she was appointed Australian of the Year.
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Her strength, courage, wisdom and perseverance after experiencing something no mother should ever go through set her apart as one of the most inspiring and resilient people I’ve ever met.
What are your memories of the day Luke was killed?
I remember saying, “I’ve joined a club that no-one wants to join.” The reality of that day for me has played out in post-traumatic stress disorder and other forms of mental-health issues.
It’s really important that I don’t go into that space too often or too deeply. I wasn’t able to go to him – even when your child has been killed, you want to be with them, to hold them, but I’m thankful now that I got spared the trauma of what he looked like.
You go through different stages, but the one that stayed with me the longest was [realising] the future that Luke will never have, the sharing of our life together as he grows up.
It’s complicated, it’s painful, and it’s difficult. [I’d] give anything to turn it back.
What was your lowest point? And how did you move forward from there?
The low points hit you at different times. Three years later, I came back from volunteering with orangutans in Borneo and thought, I don’t want to do this anymore, I don’t see the point of living.
I was tired and wanted something to happen to me; I didn’t care if it was an illness or an accident, I just couldn’t bear the thought of trying to keep going with this pain.
A few weeks later, I was in the back of a taxi and as I pushed the door open to get out, a bus came past and took the door off the hinges.
I sat in shock and wasn’t sure whether I was relieved or disappointed that I was still there. That was a really significant moment when I understood how people can lose hope and why I’ve continued to claw forward.
It’s been seven-and-a-half years now. Does it get any easier as time passes?
It’s been a tough journey – one I wouldn’t wish on anybody. If you’d said to me at the beginning that it would take me five to seven years to start feeling [OK], I’d have thought, I can’t bear to feel like this for that long.
But now the painful moments are fewer. I’m happy with the life I’m living.
Luke would have turned 19 this year.
You clearly had a beautiful and close relationship – what was your favourite thing about him?
When you’ve had a child, they’re an amazing miracle that comes from you. Every nook and cranny, the contour of their body and their quirky little face is perfect and you wouldn’t change a thing.
To have known what a pleasure it is to be a mum is something no-one ever forgets.
You’re responsible for this little being – it can’t survive without you – so over time you become so in-tune with your child that you know what they’re feeling just by the way they stand or look.
You began your crusade against domestic and family violence by speaking to the media the night Luke was murdered. Since then, you’ve campaigned tirelessly. Do you feel proud of everything you’ve achieved?
That was the day I started to fight and I haven’t stopped since. I tried to be authentic, and if the sharing of my journey can give insight that can create change, well, I feel very, very fortunate.
I’m just one person doing the best I can to improve the world.
What can be done to prevent things like this from happening to others?
It’s about generational change, respect and gender equality. We need to recognise how we treat boys and girls differently and how we excuse some boys’ behaviour.
What we need to understand is there’s a spectrum of violence – every woman in this world experiences some form of harassment or discrimination or inequality.
We don’t recognise it sometimes because it can be so subtle. But now we’re starting to see it, starting to push back and challenge it.
Everyone deserves to feel safe. Everyone deserves to be safe.
If you or anyone you know needs support, call the National Sexual Assault, Domestic & Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800 737 732, or Lifeline on 13 11 14.