10 LESSONS FROM CHARLISE MUTTON
Hearts across Australia and the world broke this week after NSW Police confirmed that nine-year-old Charlise Mutten, whose body was found in a barrel on the banks of the Colo River, died after being shot by her soon-to-be stepfather 💔
Investigators believe Charlise was killed at a property in the Blue Mountains where she was on holiday with her mother, Kallista Mutten, and her mother's fiance, 31-year-old Justin Stein.
Mr Stein has been charged with Charlise's murder in an alleged crime that was "unimaginable and egregious". Police allege that Mr Stein was alone with the nine-year-old in the evening on January 11 when the murder occurred, while her mother Kallista was staying at a caravan away from the property.
Police said, "It's probably very unpalatable for the community to hear the circumstances of this beautiful nine-year-old girl but it's important for us to do that (release the details) so we get answers for the family. Charlise is not here to defend herself. We have to act on her behalf and we want to make sure justice is delivered."
Yes, what has happened to Charlise is unpalatable. It is absolutely heartbreaking. Whilst we do not want to speculate on the case, it is important to admit what has happened and to discuss it to hopefully prevent any future tragedies like this. We reiterate: we do NOT wish to speculate on what has happened in this case – our hearts ache no matter what happened. And we genuinely don’t believe the mother is to blame in any way whatsoever, a mother is rarely EVER to blame when someone else hurts their baby.
But from where we stand in the now, here are 10 lessons we can potentially learn so far from the murder of little Charlise.
1. THERE ARE BAD PEOPLE OUT THERE
Children are kidnapped, raped and murdered in Australia. Sometimes it is premeditated, sometimes it is opportunistic. Sometimes it is by someone known to the child, sometimes it is not. Sometimes the child survives. Sadly, sometimes the child suffers in ways we can not bare to imagine and may not survive, like Charlise Mutton. Quite simply, kidnappings, abductions and killings are not as rare as we wish they were. Just ask Cleo Smith’s mum, the Morcombe family or stricken mum Kallista Mutton. Don’t ever think it won’t happen to YOU or YOUR CHILD.
Child homicide constitutes the lethal end of a long continuum of violence against children. Globally, it is estimated that up to 1 billion children aged 2–17 years experience physical, sexual or emotional violence or neglect each year. Violence against children differs from other crimes because of the vulnerability of its victims. It is always heartbreaking. And it always happens.
2. YOU CAN’T PICK THEM
You can never guess what an offender looks like. Charlise was cared for by her loving Grandmother, who never would have let Charlise go on holidays with Justin Stein if she had any idea what he was capable of. And as we know it, Kallista Mutton was engaged to marry the man who murdered her daughter, never knowing the depths of his depravity. Murderers and heinous criminals are our partners, our neighbours, our teaches, our friends, our sporting coaches – they are anyone. Don’t ever assume it isn’t someone around YOU.
3. POTENTIAL PARTNERS MUST BE SCREENED THOROUGHLY
Sadly, children, adolescents and young people constitute a significant share of homicide victims. We also know that the presence of stepchildren in the home and the separation or estrangement of parents are known to be risk factors for family violence, particularly lethal violence. These factors appear to be playing a growing role in child murders. Given the prevalence of separation and divorce in Australia, this is significant and worthy of strong consideration in single-parent families.
This means that, if you are a single parent and dating, you have a solemn responsibility to screen your partners. Exercise caution, conduct due diligence, and check their personality and background thoroughly, so you're not putting yourself or your children at risk. This stands no matter how much of a good feeling you get from them. Hold off on sharing photos and details until they've earned your trust over time. And by time, we mean a LOT of time. Predators can be very patient.
4. SINGLE MUMS BEWARE
The screening of potential partners is particularly important for mothers, as the fatal abuse of children mostly involves male perpetrators. This is not to say that women do not perpetrate also - of course they do. But the data shows that historically and pervasively men commit these crimes. The reasons and causes for this are an issue worthy of consideration, as well as policies and actions to help prevent it. That is undeniable and we will continue to support all endeavours in remedy of this. But we are self defence experts, so we will focus on our area of expertise here. And sadly, as much as we wish it wasn’t so, on the victim side of things the data and incidence shows that women and children are most vulnerable and most at risk 😔
We see predators focusing on single mums on dating sites and apps, playing the great amazing understanding partner that was so chill and great with the kids. Years later these men do harm. No, it isn’t common, but it happens enough. It happened to Charlise.
Always chat to your friends and family openly about your new partner before introducing them to your child, as your friends will raise any red flags they see. Listen to your friends if they have concerns! Do not let your ego rule your decisions, you do not know your boyfriend better. In fact, you barely know him. A year is NOT a long time when someone is showing you their best face.
Once you’ve done all the things, your partner has passed all the checks, and you have introduced him to your children, ask yourself DO I NEED TO LEAVE MY CHILD WITH THIS PERSON. You might adore your boyfriend/ fiance, and think he is the best thing in the world. You trust him completely with all your heart. But do you need to leave your child alone with him for extended periods of time? An hour here or there and school is are understandable. But an overnight without you may not be necessary. Consider your options.
5. CRIMES CAN HAPPEN ANYWHERE
The alleged crime was committed at a popular celebrity wedding venue on a picturesque property in the Blue Mountains. It was “safe”, it was beautiful, it was not remote. Mum was only 90 minutes away. People were around. Always remember that no town is too big or too small, no property is too wealthy or too poor, no family is too esteemed. No suburb is safe or protected from criminals. YOUR neighbourhood is not immune to crime.
6. LISTEN TO YOUR GUT
You must listen to your instincts. Anything a little unusual or strange that makes you think, “well that’s weird” is your instinct warning you something isn’t right. Listen to that inner voice and never ignore your gut feelings!
Kallista Mutton appears to have had a nagging feeling something was not right, despite speaking on the phone to her fiancé multiple times. She acted on that feeling by calling police to report her child as missing, in spite of what her fiancé was telling her. Whilst police are yet to release details of further discussions with Kallista Mutton, it is apparent she felt something was not right. And indeed, something was very wrong. Always listen to your instincts.
7. PREDATORS CAN BE VERY PATIENT
Nothing can prepare you for the lengths a predator will go to trying to access your child. Predators will always be found in any target-rich environment and the reality is that single mums are one of these. Predators are actively targeting mums to get to their children, and it can often be hard to identify grooming until it is too late.
Predators will charm their way through personal and professional settings, using flattery and positive attention to win over those who will help him get ahead. These predators do not necessarily violate the law initially; but they always violate loyalty. They exploit their victims financially, reputationally, emotionally, and sometimes sexually, carefully covering their tracks to avoid any "official" wrongdoing. They seduce and discard a broad spectrum of trusting individuals.
The ability to go undetected and unlabeled is perhaps the most dangerous aspect of predatory behavior. By contrast, individuals who are outwardly abusive, intolerant, or condescending are easily identifiable—and thus somewhat avoidable.
Social (and sexual) manipulators have had years of practice hiding their darker traits. Many such people share another dangerous feature: they are smart enough to pull off the disguise.
Many social predators have psychopathic traits, yet if formally evaluated they might fall short of an actual diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder. They may lack the ability to perceive or care how their behaviour affects others, leading them to break promises, reveal private information, and take credit for others' accomplishments. They get away with it by ingratiating themselves in an often drawn-out dance with victims that targets their ego and unique vulnerabilities. Ultimately, these are the “bad guys” and they can be very patient before really showing just how bad they can be.
8. STRONG BOUNDARIES ARE DETERRANTS
Abusers and predators are literal sharks, testing boundaries and checking for opportunities to infiltrate lives. They by and large take the path of least resistance in terms of boundaries.
A parent with really healthy strong boundaries will likely act as a deterrent to abusers, just as in domestic violence situations (women with healthy boundaries often deter abusive partners from the get go). A parent with strong community connections can also protect children because predators know the child is supported, cared for and loved.
These boundaries are not impenetrable, but they can help. Try to build them as strong as you possibly can.
9. TALK AND LISTEN TO YOUR CHILD
Part of building strong boundaries and screening people well is always talking to your child about those in their life (and in yours). Ask them if your partner/ friend/ colleague makes your child feel safe at ALL times? Is there ANY discomfort with them being around? Did they frown at your child when your back was turned? What is your child’s gut feeling? When you approach your partner about your child’s feelings do they listen and validate them and agree to discuss it openly and calmly to find solutions for you all? If not, red flag.
Also encourage your child to talk to others. Let your child talk to grandparents, aunts, uncles, coparents, teachers about their relationship with your partner. Ask your community how they feel about your child’s feelings. Listen. Listen very carefully.
10. BAD THINGS MIGHT HAPPEN ANYWAY
Sometimes we can do all the right things and take as much care as possible and still bad things can happen. We know, because this has happened to some of us here at COBRA and we read it in police reports all the time. No one is immune and all you can do is your absolute best.
Please be vigilant and be aware, but also be kind and non judgemental to others in heartbreaking situations where their child has been harmed. It is every parents worst nightmare 😢
More detail and more lessons will undoubtedly unfold as police continue to investigate this heinous crime against an innocent little girl. One child is too many. Rest In Peace, Charlise.