Review: The First Time He Hit Her by Heidi Lemon

Title: The First Time He Hit Her: The shocking true story of the murder of Tara Costigan, the woman next door.

Author: Heidi Lemon

Published: June 30th 2020, Hachette Australia

Status: Read July 2020 courtesy Hachette Australia


My Thoughts:

Twenty-eight-year-old Tara Costigan was one of 103 women who died violently as a result of family violence–related homicide* in Australia during 2015. The hardworking, loving, mother was holding her newborn daughter in her arms when her ex-partner swung an axe at her neck, her two young sons looking on in horror.

Author Heidi Lemon was shocked by the bare details of the murder reported in the news and made contact with Tara’s uncle, Michael Costigan, a few months later. She spent two and a half years writing The First Time He Hit Her in the hope of understanding the tragedy, and bringing awareness to the relationship between verbal abuse and intimate partner homicide.

“He’ll go ballistic,” [Tara] conceded, “but he won’t hurt me. He’s never hit me.”

Marcus Rappel had never posed a physical threat to Tara until that fateful day. In recent months Marcus had become paranoid, most likely due to anabolic steroid and Ice use, and grown increasingly emotionally and verbally abusive, berating her for hours over imagined infidelities and slights. Tara held on to the hope that the man she fell in love with would reappear until at eight months pregnant she could no longer endure Marcus’s behaviour and asked him to leave. Despite already being embroiled in a new relationship with an ex-girlfriend (the mother of his first child who was also now pregnant), Marcus continued to harass Tara. A few days after Tara gave birth to Ayla she successfully applied for a DVO, and on the day it was served Marcus used an axe to break down Tara’s front door.

During her own experience in a verbally abusive relationship, Lemon failed to recognise it as a form of domestic violence, because she never felt that she was physically at risk. She was shocked to learn during her research for this book that in an estimated quarter of cases of intimate partner homicide there had been no physical violence before the murder. It’s a startling find that contradicts our misconceptions about the danger emotional and verbal abusers pose to their victim.

“Control, then, is the link between all forms of abuse, including murder. The very same appetite for control lies beneath the invisible forms of violence and the single act of violence that will result in someone’s death.”

The First Time He Hit Her is a thought-provoking examination of domestic violence in Australia, a devastating tale of murder, and a moving portrait of a life taken too soon.

If you or someone you know (in Australia) has experienced any kind of abuse, sexual assault, domestic or family violence, please call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visit their website to chat online.

If you’re concerned about your own behaviour and would like support or information (in Australia), please call MensLine on 1300 78 99 78 or visit their website.



Available from Hachette Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jennifer
    Jul 08, 2020 @ 15:01:27

    Great review. I’m hoping to read this shortly.You might want to check the title, Shellyrae: it has ‘Tara Citibank’ rather than ‘Tara Costigan’.

    Title: The First Time He Hit Her: The shocking true story of the murder of Tara Citibank, the woman next door.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Laura @ Library of Clean Reads
    Jul 10, 2020 @ 00:08:23

    So sad…books like this help women understand that psychological and physical abuse are not acceptable.

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Helen Murdoch
    Jul 12, 2020 @ 10:04:13

    What a shocking subject matter, but such an important one. I’m glad this book is well done.

    Liked by 1 person


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