Having your life splashed across national television might be great if you’re a rockstar, but it’s not so fun if you’re a survivor of domestic violence (DV).
Local woman, Jacqui Barker, felt compelled to air the gritty details of her relationship with her former partner in the hopes of highlighting the unjust outcome of a violent act.
On May 24, Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes broadcast an interview with Jacqui and a report about a criminal case she mounted against her ex, Mark Jacobs.
On the night of November 20, 2015, an argument escalated and ended with Jacobs throwing petrol and some splashed onto Jacqui. Afterwards, Jacobs was given what Ms Barker believes was a $1,500 slap on the wrist.
It took a long time to get to court, and in January this year, Jacobs pleaded guilty to threatening violence and admitted to splashing petrol on Ms Barker.
No conviction recorded
Noosa Magistrate Christopher Callaghan sentenced him to 120 hours of community service, but said that no conviction would be recorded.
The 60 Minutes program highlighted the apparent inadequacies in the system, but Jacqui got to have her day in court – after over four years of fighting to bring Jacobs to justice – and is now trying to step forward after the huge financial abyss the case created in her life.
Part of moving on has been opening a Byron Shire business and getting her life, and those of her children, back.
Ms Barker says that exposing a perpetrator of family violence is a known ‘triggering event’ in any risk assessment for future violence.
‘This is the reason I moved interstate for safety after I brought criminal charges. I have found the community here to be really supportive, and although my PTSD is sometimes still triggered, I am now able to live free of fear in this beautiful place.’
Ms Barker hopes to advocate for family violence survivors to have better outcomes in the criminal justice system, focusing on evidence-based solutions such as introducing Lethal Risk Assessment as a standard tool for police to use to assess the level of protection a survivor needs.
She says, ‘I believe this would save lives. At the moment a survivor’s experience in the criminal justice system is really a lottery – it depends on the individual police officer’s understanding of the dynamics of family violence.’
Ms Barker said for survivors to achieve justice in court a perpetrator’s pattern of behaviour, including previous AVO’s which are currently inadmissible, need to be made visible to the court.
‘Without this, as in my case, a serial perpetrator is able to present his violence as a “one-off” out of character act and then receives an inadequate sentence that fails to either make him accountable or to change his behaviour.
‘Typically, he then just moves on to the next victim.’
Hiding behind a ‘good guy’ public mask
Ms Barker feels it is really important for everyone to be alert to the fact that many perpetrators hide behind a public mask of the ‘good guy’.
‘An example is Hannah Clark’s estranged husband. My ex-partner used his public image as a lifesaver, a community hero, to both groom women and to hide his abuse. In these situations, it can be really difficult for a victim to be believed when she does speak out.’
Ms Barker says she is also passionate about supporting trauma recovery for family violence survivors.
‘Although you can never be the person you were before you experience violence at the hands of an intimate partner, it is possible to find hope and joy for life again.
‘By supporting women to recover from trauma we’re also supporting their children to heal and helping to prevent the long-term effects of trauma on physical and mental health.
‘At present, the only options are medication or talk therapy, and while both have their place, neither heal trauma, as neuroscience tells us that trauma is stored in our bodies.’
Ms Barker says she found yoga to be a powerful tool for healing and this is backed by a large body of international research.
She founded Cocoon Yoga to continue her road to health and to help others.
‘I have re-trained as a yoga teacher and I offer these tools to help anyone navigate stress, anxiety and to gently support trauma recovery – it’s not just for family violence survivors.’