Soap operas like Home and Away should include stories of coercive control in an effort to combat domestic violence, according to the parents of Brisbane murder victim Hannah Clarke.
Sue and Lloyd Clarke, whose daughter Hannah and three children were set alight and killed by her ex-husband, also discussed a long-term plan for ‘gated communities’ which would allow women in fear of their partners a place to escape.
Appearing on SBS’s Insight program, the Clarkes joined victims of abuse, case workers and police in discussing coercive control in relationships and the prospect of new laws to deal with the problem.
Hannah Clarke (pictured with children Trey, Aaliyah and Laianah) was murdered by her estranged husband Rowan Baxter, who exhibited controlling behaviour in their relationship
Hannah Clarke (pictured, right, with her grandmother, left) and children Trey, Laianah and Aaliyah were doused in petrol and set alight by her ex-husband in February 2020
Ms Clarke and her three children Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4 and Trey, 3, were set alight by her ex-husband Rowan Baxter at the Brisbane suburb of Camp Hill in February 2020, following the end of a relationship in which Mr and Mrs Clarke said Baxter’s behaviour became more and more controlling.
‘He would demand sex every night,’ Mrs Clarke said when asked whether she noticed that Baxter’s control over her daughter Hannah had become problematic. ‘If Hannah refused sex every night he would sulk for days but then it was Catch 22.
‘If Hannah agreed to have sex with him and didn’t seem to enjoy it, again he would sulk for days.
‘He took up Brazilian ju-jitsu and would say, ‘I could choke you out and snap your neck,’ just to let her know he was in control.’
The burnt-out car of Hannah Clarke is removed from the scene at Camp Hill, Brisbane in 2020
As a direct result of Hannah’s death, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced in February a taskforce headed by former president of the Queensland Court of Appeal, Justice Margaret McMurdo, to investigate specific coercive control laws.
The taskforce will consult survivors of domestic violence, service providers and the wider community, and report back to the government in October.
‘If we have coercive control laws so the police can question and ask, is he tracking your phone? Is he controlling what you wear? Is he controlling the finances?’ Mrs Clarke said.
‘If we have a checklist and the police can see, well yes, this is coercive control. Even if we have to lock the perpetrators up for a couple of nights, take away their sense of entitlement.’
The Clarkes also discussed some of their plans through the Small Steps for Hannah foundation they set up in memory of their daughter, including visiting schools to address mothers and daughters, and also fathers and sons.
‘I would like to see ads on TV,’ Mrs Clarke said. ‘I’d like to see a coercive control situation put into one of the soap operas like Home and Away or Neighbours… because even today so many young people don’t understand what coercive control is. If it’s shown to them on a platform they understand, it could be very helpful.’
Lloyd and Sue Clark embrace during a vigil for Hannah Clarke and her three children Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4, and Trey, 3 in February 2020
Lloyd and Sue Clark light candles for their daughter and her children on the first anniversary of their deaths
Mr Clarke said the Foundation had a 10-year-plan to create ‘gated communities’ for woman escaping coercive control and domestic violence.
‘So that once they leave the perpetrators, they’ve got some sort of protection, where it’s harder for the perpetrator to get in. There are some out there but we need so many more, particularly in the rural communities.’
Mrs Clarke became emotional when she spoke about how she is trying to recover after the horrific death of her daughter, including volunteering forthe Beyond DV organisation where she had helped Angie, an abuse survivor who also appeared on the show.
Sue and Lloyd Clarke discussed coercive control and plans to help abused women on Insight
‘To see the women get their freedom and get their life back on track, that’s healing for me,’ Mrs Clarke said as she began to cry. ‘To know you can have a life after domestic violence and even though Hannah couldn’t have that now, it’s lovely to see other women and that helps me so much.’
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced in last night’s budget a further $1.1 billion to help women and children experiencing domestic violence and coercive control to access emergency accommodation, legal assistance, counselling and financial support.
‘We will improve the family law system to better protect children, give victims of domestic violence greater access to justice and reduce time spent in court,’ Frydenberg said.