The Real People Behind Australia's Domestic Violence Disgrace

23/11/2015 5:37 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

Here are a few statistics we’re getting used to hearing when we talk about Australia's domestic violence crisis:

Two women will die each week in Australia at the hands of their partners.

Domestic violence is the leading cause of death, disability and ill-health in Australian women between the ages of 15-44.

At the time this article has been published, 77 women have died this year as a result of domestic violence.

And so while we talk about how to keep women safe on the streets, women are actually more at risk in their own homes.

It is, as the Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull described earlier in the year, Australia’s national disgrace.

But since Rosie Batty galvanised the community by boldly pursuing the conversation over family violence and intimate partner violence in Australia, people are starting to take notice.

In a new documentary, Hitting Home, journalist Sarah Ferguson has secured unprecedented access to forensic doctors, prisons, courts, safe rooms, and the victims and perpetrators themselves.

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Journalist Sarah Ferguson spent six months investigation Australia's domestic violence crisis.

Ferguson admits before filming this documentary, her own understanding of domestic violence was of the big burly man standing over his wife with a raised fist.

This, however, is merely the tipping point in what is usually a toxic build up of tension in a relationship, she told Huffington Post Australia.

"I don’t think people understand control being a part of it and once you know that, the rest of it begins to make a lot more sense.

“This isn’t about violent people, it’s about people who want to control other people, and that widens the net so hugely that you begin to look around you and see where it might exist.”

Ferguson spent six months on what she described as the “frontline” of the national crisis -- spending time living in a women’s refuge, staying with some of the victims who tell their stories, and gaining that access to the response services.

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Ferguson interviews one of the many NSW policemen attending domestic violence events.

“It’s a real life lived by thousands and thousands of people all the time. We didn’t want to do it retrospectively, people whose stories were five or 10 years old, we wanted to do it with people who were going through the events that came directly out of domestic violence events,” Ferguson said.

There were many events through the six months of filming that shocked Ferguson, she told HuffPost Australia.

None more so than when one of the victims, Wendy, jumped out of a moving car to escape her abusive partner.

“The idea that someone would jump out of a moving car. The pressure, that control… built up so much for her that she jumped out of a moving car. Understanding how unhappy you can be, she said.

"Obviously a lot of this is about assault, but it’s also about the deep unhappiness of these people -- that they live deeply unhappy lives."

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Wendy fractured her skull when she jumped from her ex-partners moving car, just to escape him.

Of course, experts say the most dangerous time for any woman is the time she decides to leave. Not only because the partner loses that control he seeks, but also because the victim can no longer predict his moods and his whereabouts.

"What they told me, the people in extreme danger, is that it's much more scary to be out of the relationship than in it, Ferguson said.

"Because when you’re in a relationship no matter how awful it is, you’ve got some mechanism for dealing with it. You know when they’re coming home, you recognise the moods, you can sort of protect yourself a little bit. Not completely but you can manage it, you can manage your fear.

"Women know when they’re going to be hit from nowhere, due to a result of a kind of growing tension. Whereas when they split... they’ve got no means of knowing what part of mood the partner is in, what they’re doing, where they are, so it’s a really random broad fear."

Compelling and powerful barely describes this documentary. Compulsory viewing is more appropriate for such a social issue.

Because knowing what an abusive relationship looks like, getting deep into how this all builds up to the point of danger, will prevent others from ending up in the same position.

“You know all of the women said, next time they would go the first time someone shouted at them and made them feel worthless. They would go then, never accept that," Ferguson told HuffPost Australia.

“The first time someone tries to interfere with your phone, your Facebook, try to stop you seeing your friends, stop you seeing your family -- that should be a big alarm bell."

Hitting Home, an investigation hosted by Sarah Ferguson, will air on November 24 & 25 at 8.30pm on ABC.

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