Reality TV

OPINION: Wayne Carey’s history of abusing women can’t be forgiven with one segment on SAS Australia

''If he thinks one interview to camera on a reality TV show can wipe the slate clean, it can't and it won't.''
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Trigger warning: This article contains discussion of family and domestic violence that may upset some readers.

“Jesus Christ, this guy is a f—king train wreck,” Ant Middleton said of Wayne Carey on Tuesday night’s episode of SAS Australia.

The former AFL great, 50, appears to have signed up to the military style reality show in a bid to change his public image after years of being known for a cheating scandal, domestic violence allegations and assault convictions.

“I’m not proud of some of the things that I’ve done, but I’ve done a lot of work on myself over the last 10 years, and I take ownership of it,” Carey revealed on the show.

Though one of his biggest scandals was his affair with a teammate’s wife, the more insidious controversies surrounded his treatment of past partners.

Former AFL great Wayne Carey as he appears on SAS Australia.

(Image: Channel Seven)

In 2007, Carey’s then-girlfriend Kate Nielson accused him of smashing a wine glass against her face, cutting her mouth and neck.

“I got accused of glassing my girlfriend,” he recalled. “I went over to throw wine on her in a restaurant, which clearly is wrong, the glass touched her lip. The headlines were that I glassed her.”

US police arrested him, but not before Carey lashed out and kicked a female officer in the mouth. While Nielson chose not to press charges, Carey was convicted for assaulting the officer.

On SAS, he called the incident with his girlfriend one of the biggest regrets of his life as sad piano music played, painting the moment as one of atonement.

“Of course, throwing wine on a girlfriend is unacceptable, completely unacceptable,” he said, before seeming to minimise the incident. “Yes, the glass touched her lip. It didn’t break, I wasn’t trying to glass her.”

WATCH: Wayne Carey addresses ‘glassing’ incident with ex-girlfriend on SAS Australia. Story continues after video.

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“The incident was so long ago now and it was a dark period of our relationship, but I can say with certainty the glass of wine was intentionally thrown into my face and smashed my mouth pretty bad,” Neilson recently told The Herald Sun.

“(It is) definitely something I well and truly want to leave behind me.”

On the show, Carey admitted that he has abused women, though “never physically”, claiming that his actions stemmed from “not addressing” the family violence he witnessed as a child.

“All of my former partners will say I’ve never been physically abusive. But have I been abusive mentally and also, I guess, intimidating? Absolutely,” Carey said.

Despite witnessing the violence his father subjected his mother to, the former AFL star said his past led him to believe that it wasn’t abusive when he yelled at female partners, or “put [his] arm” on them.

Wayne and Kate Neilson arrive at court in 2009.

(Image: Getty)

“I now know how warped my thinking was,” he said. “You don’t actually have to hit someone to be abusive.”

Confessing that he’s still a “work in progress”, Carey said that he has since changed, though there was no way to show viewers this. We just have to take his word for it.

The music then turned hopeful and with a pep talk from Ant Middleton, who later said that Carey appears to “have moved on, which is great”.

It played out like a redemption scene, as if one five-minute segment on a reality TV show can undo years of harmful behaviour.

But the truth is that it can’t, and the idea that a reality TV gig can rehabilitate the public persona of any man who has subjected a woman to any kind of abuse is disgusting.

What the show left out is that the incident with Nielson in 2007 isn’t the only black mark against Carey’s name when it comes to abuse aimed at women.

In 1997 he pleaded guilty to indecent assault after he grabbed a passing woman’s breast and allegedly told her “Why don’t you get a bigger pair of tits?”. The woman later filed a civil suit against him, which was settled out of court.

Meanwhile, a US security guard named Kyle Banks claimed in an interview with A Current Affair that he had witnessed Carey attacking Neilson in on a separate occasion 2006. Carey denied the allegations.

Kate has since said that she wants to leave the “dark” time during her relationship with Carey behind.

(Image: Getty)

Carey’s history of abusing female partners goes well beyond a glass of wine and while he claims to be a better man today, his past shouldn’t be wiped clean with a polished TV segment set to emotional piano music.

While it is commendable that Carey is spreading the message that there is a responsibility for perpetrators to put a stop to abusive behaviour, the reality is that redemption isn’t that easy, nor should it be.

Painting his history of abuse as a reality TV sob story that he has “moved on” from does nothing but minimise the severity of his actions and the trauma of millions of abuse survivors, like Carey’s fellow SAS recruit Ellia Green.

Less than an hour after Carey’s admission, the Rugby Sevens Olympian shared their own experience of escaping family violence and made it painfully clear how the trauma has stayed with them for decades.

Fellow SAS recruit Ellia Green escaped family violence as a teen.

(Image: Channel Seven)

Ellia revealed they were subjected to horrific violence at the hands of their mother’s partner from as young as six-years-old.

“There was one situation where he had my mum in a chokehold and he was going to hit her with a brick,” Ellia bravely recalled.

“I was holding my mum’s hand and I said ‘hit me. Hit me, do it, just do it.’ And he wouldn’t do it.”

Ellia eventually escaped the abuse, along with their mother and brother, and took up rugby as an outlet for their anger and trauma, but it’s something that still affects them to this day.

WATCH: Ellia Green reveals their harrowing experiences with family violence. Story continues after video.

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Ellia is proof that we cannot minimise the devastating impacts of violence against women and children, regardless of whether it takes a physical, emotional or mental form.

And while Ellia is a bold survivor sharing her story to put a stop to the cycle of violence, so many women and their children don’t escape abusive relationships with their lives.

On average, one woman a week is killed by her intimate male partner, a statistic that should horrify every Australian.

Last weekend marked the two-year anniversary of the heinous murders of Hannah Clarke and her three children by her former partner, who used coercive control to abuse Hannah for years before taking her life.

Hannah’s parents told The Australian Women’s Weekly just how deadly it can be when people don’t take domestic abuse seriously, especially if the abuse doesn’t appear to be physical.

“People think, ‘If he’s not hitting her, he is not being controlling.’ But it doesn’t matter. If someone is trying to control you, that’s abuse,” they said.

“I just hope people become more aware and actually start saying something instead of, ‘It’s not my problem.’ That is what it has been for so many generations.”

We have so much evidence that tells us that violence against women is still a crippling issue in Australia, that it kills women every week, and that it is still normalised and minimised in so many ways.

It makes things like Carey’s SAS Australia ‘redemption’ feel like a slap in the face.

Violence towards women of any kind is unacceptable and should never be minimised or made light of, even if the behaviours may not appear violent from the outside.

It can be something like a partner yelling abuse at their wife or girlfriend, tracking their phone and movements, or punching a wall. It can be something like throwing a glass of wine.

Wayne Carey says he’s a changed man today and that abusing women in the past is something he regrets deeply. It’s a good start, and something for him to be proud of.

But it’s not enough to redeem him completely. It’s not enough to make any of what he did okay. Nothing ever will be.

And if he – or anyone, for that matter – thinks one interview to camera on a reality TV show can wipe the slate clean, it can’t and it won’t.

If you or someone you know has been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, help is always available. Call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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