Rebecca Poulson never thought the knock on the door on her birthday would be the end of her life as she knew it.

The Sydney woman woke up the morning of September 15, 2003, as a 33-year-old with a tight-knit family and by the time she went to bed it was all torn apart.

She heard a police officer's voice come through her intercom but she thought it had something to do with her brother-in-law breaching his AVO (Apprehended Violence Orders) against her sister again.

It had happened so many times already, including the night before.


As Poulson rolled her eyes at the fact he broke the AVO again, she knew immediately that this time was not like the others.

Her heart pounded loudly in her ears after she was told her brother-in-law had murdered her father and niece and nephew.

Malee Kongsom was only 4 when her father murdered her.
Malee Kongsom was only 4 when her father murdered her.

Her father Peter Poulson was babysitting 4-year-old Malee, and Bas, almost 2, at a home in Wilberforce, northwest of Sydney.

Poulson had already lost her brother Adrian to suicide, but nothing had prepared her for the brutal attack on those she loved more than anything.

As police pulled up to the Wilberforce home, three people were lying in the driveway, their blood over the cement. Neung Kongsom had the knife raised as police jumped out of the car and shot him. He later died.

This is a nightmare unimaginable for many, but for Poulson this is her reality. Having lived it herself, she now fights against the horror of domestic violence.

Bas Kongsom was found lying in blood in a Sydney driveway.
Bas Kongsom was found lying in blood in a Sydney driveway.

At the end of this month, Poulson will speak out at the National Family Violence Summit in Canberra about the lack of understanding around domestic violence and what needs to change.

Not only was Poulson's sister a victim of domestic violence, but she herself also suffered from having an abusive partner.


He would pinch and twist her skin and push and shove her around. At first, she didn't even realise she was being abused.

"Domestic violence is not just full-on punching," she told

"You have emotional, psychological and sexual abuse as well and some of it is hard to pinpoint."

Poulson said if a man told a woman what to wear or texted her 50 times a day, he could be an abusive partner because he was controlling.

People who are put down or criticised by their partners could also be victims of domestic violence.

Poulson said her partner would criticise her for how she would maintain the house and her parenting skills.

The terrifying thing about violent partners is sometimes it's not discovered until people are deep in relationships and often women in particular will fall in love with a charming persona before they turn evil and violent.

Rebecca Poulson has written a book about domestic violence.
Rebecca Poulson has written a book about domestic violence.

In her book about her traumatic experiences with domestic violence, Killing Love, Poulson says Kongsom was clever in the end.

"He had outwitted us all. His threats had only ever been about self-harm, which had us
dancing attendance on him," she wrote.

"He knew it was a weak point; our family had been riddled with the guilt of Adrian's suicide for 10 years.

"How gleeful and superior he must have felt as we handed Malee and Bas over to him, again and again. We thought they were safe with him. Neung was claiming our lives too. His rage was seeping out."

Poulson's main aim now is to teach children in schools about domestic violence and what it means to be in an abusive relationship. It wasn't just partners who suffered from domestic violence.

"Right now there's a kid in terror, which is heartbreaking," Poulson said.

"There would be thousands of kids in terror, and boys who see domestic violence are twice as likely to become abusive and girls become two or three times more likely to become a victim.

"It's a horrible cycle we really need to break."

If you're in danger NOW:

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours or friends to ring for you
• Run outside and head for where there are other people
• Scream for help so your neighbours can hear you
• Take the children with you
• Don't stop to get anything else
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay

Where to go for help or more information:

• Women's Refuge: Free national crisisline operates 24/7 - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisisline 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice:
• National Network of Stopping Violence:
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent.