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This video drama introduces Ben and Jess and the impact that family and domestic violence has on themselves and their family.
It shows the many forms that violence can take within a family and focuses on how you can access help, support and legal advice if your safety.
TEXT: Family and domestic violence—when you and your family's safety is at risk.
TEXT: When separating. A guide for doing what's best for you and your family after separation.
LOGO: Legal Aid Queensland.
TEXT: Some of the scenes in this film may be confronting and contains coarse language, however, it is also a story of hope and change.
The story is not based on any particular family, and reflects the experience of thousands of Australian women, men and children affected by family and domestic violence.
A woman sits on the couch watching TV. A man enters through the front door and walks out of shot. The woman gets a worried look on her face and clutches a pillow.
JESS: Oh, hi Ben.
BEN: Jess, where’s my dinner?
JESS: You said this morning you might be home late. I wasn’t sure what time you were coming home. There’s some leftovers in the fridge.
Ben walks back into the room and leans against a doorway.
BEN: So it’s my fault I had to work late? Now you’re punishing me by making me eat these leftovers?
JESS: No, Ben. I didn’t think it would be a problem.
BEN: So, you can’t cook a meal, you can’t clean the kitchen—how lazy are you? Reagan could do a better job than you. You hear that, Jess? A four–year–old would make a better housekeeper than you.
Jess stands up timidly from the couch and tries to walk into the kitchen but Ben puts his hand against the wall, blocking her way.
JESS: Look, I thought I’d do the dishes together after you’d eaten.
BEN: You’re still trying to make me eat this garbage.
Jess moves back to the couch and sits down. Ben moves to stand in front of her.
JESS: I’m sorry.
BEN: If I hear I’m sorry one more time, I swear I’m gonna freakin’ explode. Every day I go to work and slave my arse off. I don’t wanna come home to a lazy, whiny bitch of a wife!
JESS: I’m not whining, Ben.
BEN: Don’t try and justify yourself to me, you spoilt bitch!
Vision shows a child wearing pajamas and clutching a soft toy as she walks down a darkened hall.
BEN: You’re a worthless piece of shit.
JESS: Stop it, Ben. Don’t call me names like that. I hardly get time to relax after I put Reagan to bed.
The camera cuts back to Ben and Jess.
BEN: You poor little thing. Must be incredibly tough hanging out with Reagan at the shops after work and whatever the hell else you do in the afternoon. Huh? ‘Cause you sure as hell don’t do much here!
A dramatic noise fades in and suddenly stops. Ben slams a chair with his hands.
JESS: What’s your problem, Ben?
Ben picks up the chair and throws it against the wall.
Vision shows the young girl standing expressionless as she watches her parents in the turbulent scene.
Ben looks up at his daughter standing at the foot of the stairs.
Jess picks up a broken picture frame and looks at a family photo through the shattered glass.
Ben walks out the front door, slamming it behind him.
Jess looks up and realises her daughter is at the foot of the stairs. A look of dismay flashes across her face.
The scene changes to Michelle lying on a leather couch. The telephone rings. She looks with concern at the caller ID as she brings the phone to her ear.
MICHELLE: Are you OK? What’s happened? Jess, are you OK?
JESS: I can’t live like this anymore.
MICHELLE: Is Ben still in the house?
JESS: He’s nicked off somewhere.
MICHELLE: OK, just grab some clothes for you and Reagan and I’ll be there in 10 minutes. Jess?
JESS: I really thought Reagan had no idea. The look on her face, Michelle...
[GENTLE PIANO MUSIC PLAYS]
Vision shows a shot of Michelle’s house. Jess’ daughter is asleep in a bed as Jess walks out of the room and closes the door behind her.
Vision shows Michelle bringing two mugs of tea to an outside setting where Jess sits with an upset look on her face.
MICHELLE: You guys are welcome to stay as long as you need.
MICHELLE: I’m just relieved you’re out of there.
Jess’ phone vibrates and she hurriedly picks it up to look at the caller ID.
JESS: Yeah. I don’t want that for Reagan.
MICHELLE: What do you want to do?
JESS: I don’t know. We just can’t go on like this.
MICHELLE: Go and get some legal advice. I can look after Reagan. Why don’t you call Legal Aid.
Jess nods in agreement.
The scene changes to Ben waking up alone in bed. He rises, walking into the kitchen to open the fridge door. Closing the door he notices a piece of paper stuck to the fridge. He grabs the piece of paper and magnets clatter to the floor.
The camera pans around to reveal a family portrait drawn by Reagan. The father figure in the picture is menacing and drawn starkly in red, towering above two smaller feminine figures with unhappy faces.
The scene cuts to Jess and a woman walking down a hallway and into an office.
LAWYER: I can see from the notes that you have a little girl called Reagan who’s four. And that you’re concerned about something that happened at home a few nights ago?
JESS: Yeah, Ben got really angry. He was yelling and he threw a chair. It didn’t hit me but I was really scared. Reagan was there but I’m not sure how much she saw.
LAWYER: Where are you and Reagan staying at the moment? Are you safe?
JESS: We’re staying at my friend’s place—Michelle. We’ve stayed there a few times before. She’s been great.
LAWYER: That’s excellent. Anytime you feel afraid, you should do what you need to make sure that you and Reagan are safe. Sometimes leaving for a while is the best option. Getting back to the other night, is this the first time something like this has happened?
JESS: Ben’s not one of those guys, he’s never hit me or anything like that. It’s just that when he gets under a lot of pressure and I don’t get everything quite right, he loses his temper.
LAWYER: Family and domestic violence is not just hitting, pushing and shoving. It’s about one person exercising power and control over another. It includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional and verbal abuse, putting you down, calling you names, intimidating you, threatening you, checking up on you all the time, making it difficult for you to see your family and friends. Yes? It also includes things like controlling money and finances. Some forms of family and domestic violence are crimes.
JESS: It’s not like that with us. Most of the time things are great. It’s just that every now and again things build up and he loses it. But afterwards he’s always sorry and then things are really good for a while.
LAWYER: If you’re constantly tiptoeing around Ben it’s going to take its toll on you and it will affect Reagan too.
JESS: He’s never done anything towards Reagan.
LAWYER: Ben might not have directed his anger at Reagan but there’s a lot of research to show the serious impact of family and domestic violence on children. It can lead to depression, anxiety, problems at school, eating disorders and even physical symptoms like stomach–aches.
Vision shows Michelle sitting on in front of a couch and reading a book to Reagan.
MICHELLE: And, over here? Oh, there he is. [MAKES TRAIN NOISE]
[REAGAN IMITATES TRAIN NOISE]
MICHELLE: Good! What does he do?
MICHELLE: Cough. [COUGHS]
The camera cuts back to the office in which Jess and the lawyer sit.
LAWYER: Jess, I’m going to need to get some more detailed information from you before we can talk about your options. I want to explore the practical things that we can do to make sure that you’re safe now and in the future, discuss your living arrangements and your financial situation, and talk about whether applying for a court order for your protection is a realistic option. Then we can move on to an overview of family law and how it might apply in your situation. And, of course, we do need to discuss the issues that affect Reagan, such as what time she might spend with her dad and what that might look like.
The scene changes to Michelle’s house where she is making a cup of tea. The telephone rings and Michelle answers it.
BEN: Michelle, hi it’s Ben. How are you?
MICHELLE: I’m alright, Ben.
Jess walks into shot from a hallway.
BEN: Is Jess there? Can I speak with her please?
MICHELLE: Do you want to speak to him?
Jess nods and walks over to pick up the phone.
JESS: Hi, Ben.
Ben is sitting in a chair at a desk.
BEN: Jess. I want to talk to you about this. When are you coming home?
JESS: I’m gonna stay here for a while.
BEN: What? You bloody are not. I want you home by the time I get back from work.
JESS: I’m hanging up.
BEN: Don’t you dare.
Ben stands up angrily from his desk.
JESS: Ben, the lawyer said I don’t have to speak to you. I can get an order for you to stop calling me all the time.
BEN: Who the hell do you think are, Jess?! You spoilt little piece of shit…
Jess hangs up the phone and gives Michelle a disappointed look. Michelle looks worriedly from the phone to Jess.
JESS: I’ve had enough.
The scene dissolves to white with a transitional whooshing effect.
TEXT: Three months earlier.
Jess stands at the kitchen sink doing dishes as Reagan sits at a table with colouring books.
Ben walks into shot and embraces Jess from behind.
BEN: Look, I’m really sorry, Baby. Alright? [EXHALES]
Do you want a cup of tea? Yeah?
BEN: Why don’t you go play with Reagan. I’ll do this. Go on.
Jess begins to walk towards Reagan and then stops and turns to face Ben.
JESS: Look, I don’t like it when you call me names like you did last night.
BEN: You’re being too sensitive, Jess.
Ben is sitting in an office with a male counsellor.
COUNSELLOR: At what point did you choose to pick up a chair?
BEN: I don’t know. I just…when I picked it up…just…just did it.
COUNSELLOR: And, looking back, how could you have acted differently?
BEN: [INHALES AND CLEARS THROAT] I dunno. Maybe I could have gone outside for a bit. Ah, cooled off.
COUNSELLOR: If a stranger came into your house and behaved the way that you did towards Jess, would you think that was OK?
COUNSELLOR: What are you feeling now? What have you realised?
BEN: I’m sorry. I just want Jess to see how sorry I am.
COUNSELLOR: But you’ve apologised lots of times before, right? And who carries the hurt?
BEN: Jess. And Reagan.
COUNSELLOR: Who needs to carry the hurt? Whose responsibility is it?
BEN: It’s mine.
COUNSELLOR: So, Ben, how does all this fit into the person that you want to be?
TEXT: One month earlier.
Ben sits at the couch and hurriedly picks up his wallet, emptying the money into his pocket.
Jess enters the room in a floral dress.
JESS: Can I have some money?
BEN: What for?
JESS: Buy some food for Reagan and I. We’re going to Michelle’s, remember?
Ben picks up his wallet and hands it to Jess who opens it but finds no money.
JESS: I’ll see if Michelle can pick us up.
Jess walks a few steps away, picks up her mobile phone and dials a number.
BEN: So you leave me alone again…on a Sunday huh?
JESS: Hey. I don’t have any cash. Would you mind? [EXHALES] You’re the best. Thanks. Bye.
Jess hangs up and looks angrily at Ben.
Ben pulls a sports bag out of the back passenger seat of his car and walks towards a friend who stands in the doorway of a house.
Vision shows Ben and his male friend sitting at an outdoor setting at night.
BEN: I just want to see her. Just want to talk to her.
FRIEND: Don’t even go there, mate. Don’t even let yourself think about it. Ben, you’ve brought this on yourself.
BEN: I’m not that bad, am I?
FRIEND: Only you can answer that. I really think you should go and talk to someone.
The scene changes to Ben and his friend carrying boxes into a living room.
BEN: I’ll just get my clothes.
The friend exhales and walks into the kitchen. He looks at something on the fridge with concern.
Vision shows Ben packing clothes into a box and walking downstairs to his friend who is still standing in front of the fridge. Ben grabs the family portrait from the fridge and shoves it into the top of his box.
Vision shows Ben and his friend parking pulling up to the curb in a red hatchback. Ben sits in the passenger seat as his friend pulls on the handbrake and turns to him.
FRIEND: I’m not gonna make you go.
BEN: Just drive me here and book the appointment?
FRIEND: [CHUCKLES] Ring me when you’re finished.
Ben exits the car.
Vision shows Ben sitting pensively in front of the counsellor. Ben picks up the family portrait that Reagan drew. The camera scans across the drawing, focusing on the two unhappy female figures, the youngest of which has tears streaming from her face.
Footage shows of Jess and Reagan sitting at a table and playing happily with dolls.
Ben steps out of his counselling session and walks slowly up the street.
TEXT: If you are in danger phone the police on 000. If you need support to escape domestic violence call DV Connect on 1800 600 636 or DV Connect Mensline on 1800 600 636. If you need help or a referral visit www.legalaid.qld.gov.au or call 1300 65 11 88.
TEXT: This video is intended to provide you with information only. If you have a legal problem, you should get legal advice from a lawyer.
TEXT: If you need help or a referral. Legal Aid Queensland, phone 1300 65 11 88 or visit www.legalaid.qld.gov.au. Community legal centres, phone 07 3392 0092 or visit www.qails.org.au or look under “community legal centres” in your local phone book. Family Relationship Advice Line, phone 1800 050 321.
TEXT: Copyright 2012 Legal Aid Western Australia. This film had been adapted by Legal Aid Queensland from resources produced by the Legal Aid WA When separating project.
Legal Aid Queensland thanks Legal Aid WA for permission to reproduce this content. This information is copyright. All persons or organisations wanting to reproduce this material should get permission from Legal Aid Western Australia.
LOGO: Legal Aid Queensland, www.legalaid.qld.gov.au, 1300 65 11 88.