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Jess Hill wins 2020 Stella Prize with domestic abuse study See What You Made Me Do

Jess Hill

Sydney-based journalist Jess Hill has been awarded the $50,000 Stella Prize for her eyeopening exploration of domestic abuse in Australia, See What You Made Me Do.

Now in its eighth year, the annual celebration of Australian women’s writing selected Hill’s book from a strong 2020 field including Charlotte Wood’s The Weekend, Tara June Winch’s The Yield and Caro Llewellyn’s Diving Into Glass. In addition to Hill’s $50,000 win, sponsored by the Wilson Foundation, each shortlisted author will receive $2,000 courtesy of The Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund.

Hill’s carefully researched book, which draws on a wealth of original reporting and survivor stories that Hill gathered over four years, works to explain the concepts of coercive control, shame, entitlement, power and patriarchy that underpin domestic abuse in Australia (and around the world).

As Hill explained in her session at Adelaide Writers’ Week 2020, the book also implores readers to decouple their understanding of domestic abuse from acts of violence; while violence is often a feature of abusive relationships, assessing abusive behaviour strictly through this lens fails to grant equal weight to often-devastating patterns of manipulation and control, and stops us as a society from fully understanding the scale and roots of the problem.

“Jess Hill is a journalist whose clarity of expression and thought are of the highest order,” Stella Prize judging panel chair Louise Swinn said. “What she has done with her incredibly powerful book, See What You Made Me Do, is meticulously dismantle all of the lazy old lies we associate with domestic abuse.”

“This is one of the most important and greatest stories going on in this country right now.”

Jess Hill

“This is not a niche issue or a women’s issue,” Hill said in her acceptance speech, recorded from her house as part of a remote, livestreamed award ceremony. “This is one of the most important and greatest stories going on in this country right now, and we all need to understand it, because there are literally millions of us walking around who have experienced it as adults or as children, or both. And what we also need to understand is that while all intimate relationships are vulnerable to abuse, domestic abuse is not inevitable. It is a social problem that can be solved, and it must be solved, but the first steps to solving it are believing it is possible.

“This is not just a book about men beating their wives; it is about the culture that underpins and enables that abuse. It’s about love and about power; part of the Australian story has been our struggle to face the truths of our recent history, and to me this is a book about what happens when there’s nothing in our culture to help us process these unseen forces, and instead they erupt behind closed doors. Our future depends on telling and reading these stories, not recoiling.”

Read Jess Hill’s Stella Prize acceptance speech in full

See What You Made Me Do is out now via Black Inc

Walter Marsh

Walter Marsh

Digital Editor
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Walter is a writer, editor and broadcaster living on Kaurna Country. His work has appeared in Rip It Up, The Saturday Paper, Smith Journal, Royal Auto, Swampland Magazine, Broadsheet and The Thousands.

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