Boxing Academy in Newcastle
Boxing Newcastle – The following story is reproduced from an article in the Newcastle Herald.
JESSICA Batty can feel sweat running between the rivets of her cornrows as she laces up her boots.
The 23-year-old can hear the dull roar of the crowd beyond her room at the Hilton Hotel in Sydney, where she is preparing for her first fight.
“There is a huge adrenalin rush when you’re preparing to enter the ring,” she says. “Stepping in there with someone who wants to knock you out brings excitement, nerves and fear, but also a strange calm. There’s no turning back, so you have to trust yourself and just give it everything you have.”
She wonders about her opponent as she fastens her squashy helmet and looks for her gloves.
They’re gleaming white now, but there’ll be blood on them soon.
This might be Batty’s first fight in the ring, but she’s no stranger to violence outside it.
‘‘WE NEED TO STOP ASKING WOMEN WHY THEY STAYED, AND START ASKING HOW WE CAN HELP.’’
– JESSICA BATTY
Batty was 17 when she met *John, then 22, a “compassionate and genuine” vegetarian youth worker who ran in the same alternative music scene. But what began as a fun relationship based on mutual interests soon disintegrated into a spiral of emotional and physical abuse.
“Emotional abuse is often a precursor to violence and my relationship was no different,” she remembers.
“Over time, he became very negative and isolated me from my friends. I would delete the phone numbers of people he didn’t like to appease him, even though I didn’t want to. Eventually we were very co-dependent, and I had nobody else to turn to, which made it easier for the abuse to continue.
“He blamed me for his depression, and minimised mine while at the same time convincing me I was the crazy one any time we had a disagreement.”
Feeling afraid and alone, Batty decided to end the relationship one evening at the Cambridge Hotel, somewhere public, and with her friends close by.
“I took him outside to tell him that I was leaving him and he began screaming at me, threatening to kill himself, and then pushed me into the gutter in front of onlookers, ripping out some of my hair as he did it. He ran away down the street, but later came back to where I was sitting inside with some friends and punched the window, smashing it all over us. He was arrested and the police took out an AVO on my behalf.”
Batty’s groomed dependency on John, coupled with his desperation and pleading, led to their reunion, but his violent episodes got worse.
“He often threatened to kill himself, or me,” she says.
“On one occasion he was drunk and assaulted me and two of my neighbours in my apartment block, again in front of witnesses. He terrorised the hallways threatening anyone that tried to help with a broken bottle until the police came.”
Batty left John for the final time after he shoved her, struck her face, bruised her wrists in an attempt to stop her calling police, and then punched a hole in the wall. On the way out, he threw her TV on the ground and broke a door handle.
“Two female police officers came and took my statement, and what they said finally changed my perspective,” she says.
“I was defending him, saying ‘but he only pushed me’ and the officer said to me, ‘Honey, we attend scenes like this all the time where people are ‘just pushed’ and they hit their head on something and get seriously injured, and sometimes they die. If he put his hands on you in a violent manner, it is assault. There are no two ways about it’. It was blunt, but it was what I needed to hear. We didn’t contact each other again after that.”
Although Batty had successfully made the break from the abusive relationship and taken out an AVO against John, she said the experience hit her self-confidence and left her ashamed.
“After my relationship ended, I was in a bad way, mentally. I spent some time in the mental health unit at the Mater Hospital because I was so depressed. I was suicidal.”
Now 23, Batty attributes much of her recovery to her life-long interest in martial arts, evolving into a passion and talent for boxing.
She began boxing at a gym last year as a way to improve her fitness, and after a few months her trainer suggested she might do well in a fight.
She upped her training to daily, with up to three sessions a day leading up to a fight.
“People don’t always recognise the hard work and discipline required to be a fighter,” she says.
“There’s a lot of physical conditioning, mental toughness, hard work, and perseverance involved on my part. It’s not just about punching things.”
Batty gives much credit to her coach, Danny Crouch, at Pollet’s Martial Arts Newcastle, who she says brings out the best in her.
“Since May when I began competing, I have had four fights for two wins, with my most recent fight being for the NSW State Light Welterweight title in Nyngan on November 8.
“To have had four fights in a period of six months, including a title fight, is a big achievement and I’m really proud of myself for that alone.”
Batty says boxing has changed her life for the better, despite juggling the 5am runs with studying biomedical science at the University of Newcastle and working for a government department.
“These days I’m genuinely happy with my life, and I have my confidence back,” she says. “I attribute a lot of that to boxing. I’m not intimidated by conflict and I know how to defend myself, but most importantly I believe in myself. I know that whatever I set my mind to I can achieve and I have realised that by applying myself to the sport I love.”
When it comes to domestic violence, Batty says she would like to see the focus shift from victim blaming to perpetrator behaviour.
“Women stay in abusive relationships for a number of reasons, and a major one is the fear of backlash and disbelief,” she says.
“We need to stop asking women why they stayed, and start asking how we can help. We need to support victims to speak out because silencing our voices is a weapon of those who oppress us. It’s a hard road, but I believe that change is possible. We can make it happen.”
*Name has been changed.