By Melanie Suzanne Wilson
It was writer Rebecca Poulson’s 33rd birthday. It was a day she will never forget. It was the day her brother-in-law murdered his young son Sebastian, 20 months, daughter Marilyn, 4, and Rebecca’s father, Peter, 60.
Rebecca dealt with the tragedy by writing about it. “You don’t really choose to become a writer,” she says, “writing is something that has always been with me. When I lost my family members in violent circumstances, the book chose me – I had to write it,” she says.
Rebecca’s book, Killing Love, to be published by Simon & Schuster in September, was the winner of the Australian Society of Authors Emerging Writer Prize and the 2015 Varuna Fellowship.
The book is Rebecca’s journey through homicide – grief, the police investigations, the media interest, the court cases, the moments of great despair – and the healing.
It is a story of individual tragedy and a family’s strength, but it is also a story of a community’s attitude to family violence. As a reluctant warrior for those who cannot speak for themselves, Rebecca talked to the NSW State Premier and politicians on television shows and to newspaper and magazine journalists in the hope that the mistakes made by the police force, DOCS, the legal system and solicitors will never be made again. Her story has directly influenced domestic violence laws in the state.
She says the writing process was an emotional roller coaster. She says it took courage to write and publish her story.
She now openly speaks against domestic violence. She says she was driven by an inner voice that would simply not shut up, would not give up until she had written the story of domestic violence in her family.
“It was extremely hard but in a way strangely rewarding. At the time, everything was on super fast forward. I had to get through so many surreal events like media gatherings, organising funerals, police statements.
“It was such a strange time but writing it all down allowed me to process it slowly, see things from different angles. It allowed me to review and reflect on those events.”
She says writing the book was “an exhausting struggle” especially as she had three children under four.She believes the importance of being “an adequately caffeinated writer and mother” cannot be overstated.
Rebecca now encourages women to speak out about their own experiences. She urges them not to give up.
“Seek out and demand to speak to Domestic Violence Liaison Officers who are specifically trained within this area,” she says. “Speak with your friends for support and ask them to help you contact these officers. Ring 1800 respect.
“I recommend that women report all breaches, preferably with a friend as a witness. Police must follow up on all breaches even if the woman withdraws her breach report.”
Rebecca’s brother-in-law left a note for the family; he hoped that he would destroy them. Rebecca Poulson tells the story of how he failed.