“The only thing worse than having your family murdered is being blamed for it,” said Ann O’Neill, an Australian mother whose estranged husband killed her children in 1994, in a speech to the Australian Parliament and Prime Minister on Monday. O’Neill described for the audience how her estranged husband had stalked her for 18 months after they separated and then broke into her house and shot and killed their two children, shot her, and then killed himself in front of her. When she awoke in the hospital, having had her leg amputated, she found the news coverage of the event placing the blame on her for supposedly dragging him through family court and not allowing him to see his children. “The most common question I got asked after this event was “what did you do to ‘make’ him do that?'”O’Neill said.
O’Neill said that there have been positive changes in the way the media has come to report on domestic violence cases in the 15 years since she lost her children, and that she is hopeful that Australian society is beginning to challenge the “culture of silence” that surrounded domestic violence in the past. She urged the media to avoid victim blaming, stereotyping, and offering excuses for the perpetrator while reporting on domestic violence, and to include any past history of violence as well as sources of help and support for victims in their reports.
Read the full text of O’Neill’s speech at The Sydney Morning Herald.