'My father murdered my mother'

When her husband threatened to kill her and their children, Zahra had enough. She moved out with the kids and took out an Apprehended Violence Order against him. But it wasn't enough to save her life.

Warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of domestic violence

Atena Abrahimzadeh was celebrating Persian New Year's Eve in 2010 with her mother when she saw her father approach their table. They didn’t expect him to be there.

Immediately, her mother Zahra moved to a different table.

"Throughout the night I was watching him from wherever I was, whether it was on the dance floor, on the table or anywhere," Atena tells SBS's Insight. "I was also watching mum to make sure that she was okay."

In February 2009, Zahra took out an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) against her husband Ziaollah. He had threatened to kill her and their three children by burning down the house while they were inside.

But the AVO was amended just days before the festivities, which meant Ziaollah was legally allowed to be in the same room as his estranged wife.

Atena, who was 24 at the time, didn’t take this situation lightly. She knew firsthand how violent her father could be. Although there were 300 people inside the Adelaide Convention Centre that night, as a precaution, Atena alerted security and asked to be escorted to their car afterwards.

Still, it wasn't enough to protect her mother.

At the end of the night, Atena and her friend decided to have one last dance before heading home. Her mother Zahra was deep in conversation and gestured that she would join them shortly.

"So I turned around and walked to the dance floor," Atena tells SBS’s Insight.

"i don't remember after how long I turned around… and when I did, I saw mum on the floor, face down. And I saw my dad with a knife being dragged away from her body."

Ziaollah had hidden a knife inside his jacket and used it to stab Zahra eight times.

"I started running towards him and I was just screaming: 'You killed her!'" says Atena. "She [her mother Zahra] had a lot of blood around her and there was a lot of people surrounding her. It was an horrific scene."

Ziaollah was sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 26 years for the murder of his wife on 21 March, 2010.

Tonight, Insight brings together Atena, her brother Aman, and other families with firsthand experiences to talk about violence in their homes.

Perpetrators of domestic violence also speak candidly about why they were abusive, exploring the impact of cultural expectations, gender roles and childhood trauma on their relationships.

Guests discuss their struggle to break the cycle of abuse, revealing the challenges of leaving behind ingrained behaviours.

Catch the Insight discussion on Tuesday at 8.30PM on SBS ONE and live streamJoin the conversation on our Facebook page or use #insightSBS on Twitter.

If you need help, please contact the following organisations. They are available 24/7.

Lifeline13 11 14
1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732
Kids Helpline1800 55 1800
MensLine Australia1300 78 99 78 

Call 000 if the situation is life-threatening.

Watch a preview

Rod on changing his abusive ways

Though Rod is a changed man, he still struggles with his anger. He abused his wife Julieanne emotionally and psychologically to the point where she felt suicidal. Rod was raised in a country town and believed a man should be a 'rock' and never share his feelings. He says counselling was one of the 'scariest moments' of his life.

'Boys don't cry'

Tui grew up in the Pacific Islands and says men in his culture were taught not to cry, to "suck it up" and be tough. He didn't see himself as an abusive partner because he never physically hurt his wife. He later realised verbal abuse could do a lot more damage. Now he helps other men confront their violence.

'I had to have the last say'

"Harry" grew up in an abusive family. He thought being aggressive towards women was the "normal way of life". He didn't realise verbal abuse and threats were a kind of domestic violence until he went to behaviour change classes. Harry is disguised because his wife wants her identity protected. They say both their extended families don't know about the abuse.
Source: SBS, Insight