Six years after Angela Hardy was almost murdered by a man she met on a dating app in Port Macquarie, New South Wales, the young doctor is set to return to the coastal town for her medical career.
In 2016, Dr Hardy (nee Jay) was stabbed multiple times and doused in petrol inside her home at Port Macquarie, New South Wales by her boyfriend of two months, Paul Lambert.
Dr Hardy left Port Macquarie after the attack but in February she will take up a job at the town’s public hospital, where she said she had “so many happy memories” from her previous employment.
“I have such fantastic colleagues and friends in Port Macquarie,” she said.
“I’ve got colleagues that came to the emergency department and held my hands right after I was stabbed until my family could arrive … after you’ve been through something like that you are more like family.”
The obstetrician and gynaecologist, who last year married trainee orthopaedic surgeon Benjamin Hardy, said she would try to use her experience to provide care to people in an understanding way.
“[And] also hopefully open the eyes of my colleagues to what it’s like to be a victim and survivor and how it can be really difficult to seek support or even receive help.”
Dr Hardy said having such a positive response from the local community after the attack was really special for her.
“I just feel so welcome … so hopefully [I will] provide a positive service to the community that really embraced me and took such good care of me.”
‘Journey of healing’
Dr Hardy said the past six years had “certainly been a journey of healing” requiring a lot of support from family and friends, understanding from her colleagues, and some professional help.
“Now I’m just trying to channel a lot of that energy into supporting other victim survivors where I can, either through advocacy work or as a clinician looking after women in my practice.”
Dr Hardy said her husband has been wonderful and supportive.
“He, of course, knew about my background … and [it’s] just really nice to have that companionship and to be in a safe, healthy relationship.”
“As much as my experience was terrible I think luckily I was still able to get past that and open myself up again, which I know that victim survivors find difficult.”
‘Trust your gut’
Dr Hardy said she was “forever grateful” for the quick response from emergency services and the outcome.
“I’m so grateful every day that I had the outcome I did because I certainly have lots of friends and colleagues and patients that are not in the same situation and feel very unsafe.
“I unfortunately was too ashamed at the time and thought I was overreacting and didn’t trust my gut and I have learnt the hard way, that if things weren’t a little bit different I could be dead now.
“So trust your gut, reach out for help, and get yourself into some emergency accommodation or call triple-0 if there’s something really serious going on.”
In Port Macquarie Local Court this week there were 56 apprehended violence orders (AVOs) of a domestic nature, making up 23 per cent of all matters.
In the previous week, coinciding with Break the Silence, a 16-day campaign to raise awareness of domestic violence, there were 44 domestic AVO cases, making up almost 20 per cent of all matters before the court.
Dr Hardy filed for an AVO but it was never served.
“And of course that doesn’t stop someone from breaking into your home and attacking you anyway,” she said.
“If I ever found myself in a similar situation, I think I would have to get the courage to communicate with my colleagues and family and actually just relocate myself.”
Public and private practice
As well as working at the Port Macquarie public hospital, Dr Hardy will also provide private obstetric care.
“I’m also planning on offering abortion care, which is also not currently available in Port Macquarie, so I’m hoping that … offering the general gynaecology care and private obstetrics and abortion care will be something welcomed by the community.”
For the past couple of years, she’s undertaken extra training in the maternal foetal medicine unit at John Hunter Hospital.
“Unfortunately some families have unexpected things happen in pregnancy and you have to also make a heartbreaking decision to stop a pregnancy,” Dr Hardy said.
“Reproductive coercion is a type of gendered violence as well.
“For me it’s a human right and a vital part of women’s health to have a safe and equitable access to abortion care.”
Dr Hardy has also been working as a medical forensic examiner for a sexual assault service.
“One of the first feelings I felt was embarrassment and [that] what I experienced had been my own fault and that I should have known better,” she said.
“Even as I’ve worked through everything and obviously know deep down that no-one deserves to be treated with disrespect or certainly experience violence — there’s still such a stigma related to intimate partner violence.”
And, she said, there was the additional element that she met her perpetrator on Tinder and that he had a history of violence that she was unaware of.
“It’s just really easy to fall into that shame loop.”