When women strike back, courts can't always see their history of abuse

When Anita broke into her former partner's home, she thought he would snatch her knife and use it against her. She can't explain what happened next.

She said she can't explain why instead she lunged at his screaming partner, stabbing her in the chest and puncturing her lung, before attacking him.

But as he sentenced her to six years and three months in jail earlier this year, Judge John Smallwood recounted a different story entirely.

"The fact that you have made threats essentially to kill both your husband and [his partner] previously," he said, "indicates that, in my view, you went there to hurt them."

"I am not going to buy into the family history leading up to all this," he told Bloom, who pleaded guilty in the County Court to four charges: two counts of intentionally causing injury, making a threat to kill, and aggravated burglary. The previous day, Bloom had been charged with assaulting her daughter.

"There has been a fair amount of material placed before me in terms of domestic violence," the judge continued.

But "the fact of the matter", he concluded, was that Bloom had "clearly" been "very angry" about the breakup of her decades-long marriage and, in light of the threats she'd made, having told her ex's neighbour on the phone she had "a bullet" for each of them and one for him too, must have gone to their place to deliberately hurt them.

An ABC News investigation recently revealed growing concerns that Australian courts are still often ignoring the significance of family violence and its impacts on women who kill abusive partners, with most ending up in prison despite arguing they fought back to save their own lives.

Now there is evidence the same challenges are plaguing women charged with non-lethal violence, with experts warning attention must urgently be turned to how the justice system treats those who fight back against but don't kill abusive partners.

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