‘System continues to fail’: Ariel Bombara’s statement exposes deeper issue

Just days after her father’s senseless actions took the lives of two innocent women, Ariel Bombara delivered one of the clearest and most poignant messages about domestic and family violence that Australia has ever heard.

In a televised statement, the 27-year-old detailed the harrowing chain of events that led to May 24, when Mark James Bombara arrived at Jennifer Petelczyc’s Perth home armed with a pistol, looking for his estranged wife Rowena. He could not find her and instead murdered Ms Petelczyc and her teenage daughter Gretl before turning the gun on himself.

A stoic Ms. Bombara described how she and her mother fled the family home in late March, fearing for their lives, and how those fears – as well as her warnings that a Glock pistol was missing from Bombara’s 13-gun stash – “were ignored by five different male (police) officers to three complainants.”

“What my father did was an act of domestic violence. My mother and I made it clear that lives were at stake and we were repeatedly ignored. Repeatedly failed. These failures cost the lives of two incredible women,” Ms Bombara said.

“My father should always be held accountable for his actions. They were his actions and his actions alone. However, there are authorities that should have helped us stop him and they failed.”

The police response to the ignored warnings of the Bombara women, as well as Western Australia’s outdated gun laws, are now being critically examined in light of their testimony.

In social media, a person said Ms Bombara’s words should be required reading for every politician, lawyer, judge, justice of the peace and police officer in Australia.

Her story, domestic and family violence experts told news.com.au, shows the importance of taking victims seriously, that Australia’s gun laws are “precarious” and that our system remains unable to adequately respond to the so-called “national crisis” of male violence, which has reportedly claimed the lives of 31 women this year and puts countless more at risk every day.

“The system has failed them dramatically”

Ms Bombara and her mother, Women’s Legal Services Australia chief executive Lara Freidin, said: “They could have trusted that our response systems would step in to protect them and their loved ones.”

“There were clear indications that the perpetrator posed a security risk, including repeated reports to police that (Ms Bombara) feared for her safety, possession of multiple firearms, including some without a permit, and a recent separation,” Ms Freidin said.

“The fact that the system has failed them so dramatically is absolutely devastating.”

Dr Asher Flynn, Associate Professor of Criminology at Monash University, echoed this sentiment.

Not only is her experience a “truly tragic example” of the myriad ways in which victims can be let down, it “also underlines why we must ensure that cases of domestic and family violence, including any breaches of orders, are taken seriously by frontline responders.”

“(We need to) have the resources to support women in leaving violent relationships and situations,” said Dr. Flynn, who is also chief investigator at the ARC Center to Eliminate Violence Against Women.

“Studies show that escaping from a violent situation is one of the most dangerous situations for victims. We need to change this to make leaving the situation easier and safer.”

Underestimation of risk is “extremely worrying”

The absence of physical violence or property damage can also influence the authorities’ assessment of the risk posed to a victim.

WA Police Commissioner Col Blanch reiterated last week that police did “exactly what they were supposed to do under their policy” in response to the concerns raised by the Bombara women.

“To say nothing has been done is wrong. A lot has been done,” Commissioner Blanch told ABC Radio Perth on Wednesday.

What the police did or did not do “is obviously under investigation right now,” said Dr. Silke Meyer, criminologist, social worker and holder of the Leneen Forde Chair in Child and Family Studies at Griffith University.

“(But) these experiences point to a broader problem: the underestimation of escalating danger in the absence of physical harm and the failure to include immediate support for victims/survivors in domestic and family violence risk assessments,” said Dr. Meyer.

“This is extremely concerning given the current situation. Years of national discussions about coercive control, non-physical forms of domestic and family violence and the timing of separation have highlighted the high risk of escalation of harm in these cases.”

Australia cannot “get out of trouble with the police”

Because of these blind spots, “many victims have to rely on their own safety planning and protection mechanisms, even though the police are aware of their situation,” added Dr. Meyer.

“This is partly due to the inadequate response of the police, but also to the determination of the perpetrators to maintain control over the victims,” ​​she said.

“Unfortunately, the police cannot protect victims alone because our justice system is not designed to do so. As lawyers, we have long said that we cannot solve the national crisis of domestic and family violence with police action.

“While appropriate police responses are an important part of the puzzle, they are only one part of the system that needs to respond with joint risk monitoring and management. Men who commit domestic and family violence are usually visible and known across multiple parts of the service system.”

Errors in our system’s responses need to be identified, Dr. Meyer said, so we can learn from them and improve current practice.

At the same time, it is important to “recognise the ongoing reform work and recognise that there are many officers committed to improving the police response to domestic and family violence”.

Dr. Flynn agreed, pointing to research that had shown “demonstrable improvements” in police response to victims/survivors.

“The challenge lies in the individual nature of the reporting. In other words, it may depend on which officer you speak to what kind of treatment you receive,” she said.

“The key to this is ongoing police training, but also the inclusion of case studies. In This training is intended to give expression to the real manifestations of domestic and family violence – there is not just one single form of it.”

“We must listen to the victims”

Following the tragedy, both Western Australian Prime Minister Roger Cook and Police Minister Paul Papalia said they wanted to further tighten the planned new gun laws in the state.

In addition to limiting the number of weapons a person may own, Mr Papalia also wants to give the police the ability to confiscate weapons from people “who may pose a threat.”

Dr. Flynn said we as a nation “also need to think about how and why one person can own and acquire so many firearms.”

“Something like this can hardly be justified, especially when there is even the slightest suspicion of violence,” she said.

Dr Alison Evans is Executive Director of the Centre for Women’s Safety and Wellbeing, Western Australia’s leading advocacy group for women and children affected by gender-based violence.

She said that while gun reform was “appropriate and necessary, it would not bring about the change that is so urgently needed to prevent domestic violence-related homicides.”

“Ariel Bombara herself said she felt her father would have committed his violent acts even if he had not had access to weapons. We need to listen to the victims,” ​​said Dr Evans.

“Gun reform will make some women in society safer – but only those who are at risk of gun violence. We know that women are terrorized and killed with ordinary household items that have been converted into weapons by violent men.”

If Australians should learn anything from this tragedy, Dr Meyer said, it is that they must listen to and believe surviving victims when they express fears for their safety.

“We need to understand and identify the risks to others associated with a primary victim/survivor, including children, family and friends,” she added.

“And we need to recognize that managing the risk of domestic and family violence is a system-wide response and hold that system accountable accordingly.”


Leave a Comment

URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL