Yesterday four children witnessed the murder of their mother. Teresa Bradford was stabbed to death by their father, her estranged husband, before he killed himself at their Gold Coast home. The children ran to the neighbours to get help but it was too late.
There is no suitable adjective for the horror of this attack: five innocent lives are forever and indelibly marked by brutality no person, let alone a child, deserves to witness or endure.
And yet it is brutality that many many people – children included – witness and endure daily.
David Bradford’s violent crime wasn’t out of the blue. In November last year, he punched Teresa so hard that she blacked out. He gaffer-tapped her mouth shut and dragged her across the room by her hair. She struggled to call 000 for help while he sat on her, choked her and threatened to cut her up. Police arrived in time to ‘save’ her.
Bradford was facing charges of choking, deprivation of liberty, assault occasioning bodily harm and domestic-violence-related common assault because of it. Despite police objecting, he was released from jail on January 12.
Of course, he wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near Teresa: legally he was subject to strict bail conditions. But what was legal was rendered entirely irrelevant yesterday.
He broke into her home and did exactly what Teresa’s friends say she feared: he killed her.
It is now another one of the horror stories we have become unwillingly accustomed to. Another immutable reminder of the terrifying reality of domestic violence.
And yet beneath the horror headline of Teresa’s death is a story just as chilling.
It lies in the fact that Teresa is the 5th Gold Coast woman murdered by her partner in the past 16 months alone.
That in 2014 the Gold Coast Community Legal Centre dealt with 60 cases of domestic violence and in 2016 that number had risen 14-fold to 890.
That in the 12 months to June 2016, 5439 domestic and family violence applications were lodged at the Southport Domestic Violence Court, an increase of nearly 60 per cent on the previous year - a rate of 15 applications a day.
That police laid 2668 charges linked to domestic and family violence last year.
That in 1648 instances domestic violence orders were "breached” which means between four and five times every single day a person disregarded a legal order to harass or intimidate someone they have already victimized in some way.
And that is in one part of one state.
Across Queensland there were almost 44,000 applications relating to domestic violence last year, a rise of 30 per cent that is partly explained by the increase in public awareness and greater access to service.
The fact an integrated Domestic Violence Court exists at all is a recent and significant development. It only opened in August 2015 but it is already operating beyond its capacity.
It all raises the question that Teresa’s death forces us to confront: how can we keep women safe?
When there are 44,000 domestic violence applications on issue in a single state, which are breached four or five times a DAY, how can they help the women they are supposed to protect?
It is a story not confined to Queensland. Around Australia there are thousands of intervention orders – whether they are AVOs, DVOs, ADVOS, VROs – in place but time and time again, they prove fatally deficient.
In Victoria, in 2015 alone, Kelly Thompson, Luke Batty and Fiona Warzywoda were murdered, despite intervention orders being in place. Warzywoda was stabbed on the steps of the Family Court in Sunshine, just moments after an AVO had been issued.
The system as it currently stands is failing and women are dying because of it.
Teresa Bradford’s death should be truly shocking – a brutal aberration - but when you delve into the details of domestic violence in Australia it isn’t. It was almost inevitable and that is truly horrifying.