Victim of family violence calls for tougher sentencing

A BALLARAT woman who endured decades of abuse at the hands of her former husband is calling for tougher sentencing of family violence offenders.

Her pleas come in the wake of a series of family violence court reports in The Courier in recent weeks, including a court sentence on Wednesday in which a Ballarat man avoided jail after pleading guilty to a violent and unprovoked attack on his then pregnant girlfriend. 

Dean Speedie attacked his partner in 2006, kicking, punching and stomping on her head. Speedie then fled to Darwin and remained at large for seven years.

After reading of Speedie’s community corrections order handed down by judge Liz Gaynor in the Melbourne County Court last week, "Wendy" (not her real name) broke down. 

She fears Judge Gaynor’s sentence has set a precedent for similar crimes, where men who inflict violent abuse on women could walk free. 

In sentencing Speedie to the three-year corrections order, including 300 hours of community work, Judge Gaynor said she was “satisfied” the offending took place because of his drugs and alcohol intake.

Speedie, 34, had been a drug addict since 13 and was affected by alcohol and the drug Xanax when he assaulted his partner. 

But Wendy said drug and alcohol abuse, or even an offender’s background, was “never an excuse to abuse”. 

“I’m speaking out about it because it is wrong, because it should never be acceptable"

“The part I do not understand is that she is a female magistrate. How can she excuse this type of crime against another woman? Whether he was on drugs or abusing alcohol should not even come into it. It is immoral, it is wrong.”

Wendy said the emotional, physical and psychological abuse she suffered during her ex-husband’s alcohol-induced outbursts was crippling.

On the outside, Wendy struggled to hold together the facade of a happy marriage. 

But behind closed doors, her self-esteem declined as he began to control her every move.

“There is so much shame for women,” she said.

“There is fear. You are put down so much you believe it is your fault. I was always waiting for the next time he drank and I copped it.”

At times, she said, she didn’t know if she would make it out alive. 

Wendy said she was coming forward to encourage victims of family violence to seek support and to remove the stigma of shame that surrounded the issue.

“I’m not doing this for me,” she said.

“I’m speaking out about it because it is wrong, because it should never be acceptable.”

Wendy said she also wanted to see more counselling and education programs for men in Ballarat to prevent or break the cycle of abuse. 

“They need help and counselling too,” she said. 

“They need to be educated that is wrong in any circumstance.”

melissa.cunningham@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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