Australian Opals basketball star Alex Bunton details her horrific experience with domestic violence

Alex Bunton went from celebrating a silver medal with the Opals to being isolated, broken and living in fear. For the first time, she reveals her horrific experience with domestic violence.

Alex Bunton has detailed her horrific experience with domestic violence
Alex Bunton has detailed her horrific experience with domestic violence

Alex Bunton went from celebrating a silver medal with the Opals to being isolated, broken and living in fear. For the first time, she reveals her horrific experience with domestic violence.

Alex Bunton is no longer a victim, in fact she feels empowered.

As an elite basketballer emerging from retirement after 11 knee surgeries, a mother and a survivor of domestic violence at the hands of her former partner while pregnant with his child.

In 2018, Bunton was on the podium in Spain with her Australian teammates celebrating a World Cup silver medal.

Twelve months later, she was isolated, broken and living in a ‘world of abuse.’

In April last year, her former partner was convicted and received a suspended sentence and probation in the ACT Magistrates court for two counts of assault creating actual bodily harm.

He was also charged and convicted of one count of intentionally choking, suffocating or strangling.

Today, Bunton and daughter Opal, who turns two next month, are thriving.

Alex Bunton has detailed her horrific experience with domestic violence. Picture: Martin Ollman
Alex Bunton has detailed her horrific experience with domestic violence. Picture: Martin Ollman

The 196cm centre says basketball and returning to the court for Canberra in the WNBL this season, has helped her heal and rediscover herself.

“The people around me have empowered me and helped me remember who I am because for a few years I lost that and lived in a world of regret, shame and negative labels I gave myself,” Bunton, 28, said.

“I am a good person, an amazing mum and friend. It was another world then, something I don’t recognise now. I was a professional athlete, a confident woman, how does that happen?”

And that question is part of the stigma around domestic violence.

“It definitely stripped me, but I’m back.”

The pair met in Sydney at the start of 2019 and were quickly besotted but red flags began to show after a few months.

Flags like Bunton waking up to him checking her phone. Around others and in public, he was charming.

She says the abuse was mental and emotional to start with. With Bunton’s body failing her, she considered retirement and he actively encouraged her.

Alex Bunton and daughter Opal at home in Canberra. Picture: Martin Ollman
Alex Bunton and daughter Opal at home in Canberra. Picture: Martin Ollman

He was going to create a new world for her which didn’t include basketball or her family.

“He had a huge impact on how I felt about retiring and convinced me nobody would really care if I just moved on which created this idea that it wasn’t a comfortable environment for me any more.

“He’d tell me he’d support me and be there, that I didn’t need my family,” she said.

The abuse was also financial.

“You might think it’s simple, just say no, but when they’re manipulative and abusive it becomes scary if you don’t do it,” Bunton explained.

The couple had been staying with Bunton’s parents, Virginia and Robert, in Canberra but they’d asked her partner to leave.

“It built up to the point where I was pregnant and getting things thrown at me. I’d get things broken right at the side of my head.”

August 8, 2019 will forever be etched in Bunton’s mind.

When notifications frantically buzzed on his phone, Bunton asked what was happening. Things then took a terrifying turn.

“He took the phone, pushed me down and strangled me to the point I almost lost consciousness.

“He hit me pretty hard, and I just had to pretend I was OK so I could get out,” she said.

“I was saying I couldn’t breathe, I was crying. He asked why I was crying, pretending nothing had happened.

Alex Bunton is loving being back on the court. Picture: Getty Images
Alex Bunton is loving being back on the court. Picture: Getty Images

“I got to the bathroom and my neck was red. I took photos of it. I knew something in me was getting prepared to leave because I took photos, I had evidence.

“I didn’t think he’d hurt me because I was pregnant but the last episode of abuse was physical abuse.”

With the support of her parents, Bunton went to the police and years of court dates followed.

In March 2020, Bunton gave birth to a daughter. Her name a nod to her mum’s international career representing her country.

“Opals saved me in a lot of ways. I didn’t have time to dwell, some days were harder than others but I’d look at her and think ‘it’s time you and me we’re going to be ok.’

“I found strength to be a single mum and I’m proud of myself.

“My parents have been so good with Opal and my rock when everything seemed to be falling apart.”

Bunton wants people to know domestic violence isn’t just something you see on the news.

According to Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre, intimate partner violence is the greatest health risk factor for women aged 25-44.

“Every time I’ve done something, gone to the police, court, doing this interview, it’s not just for me, it’s for other women going through the same thing,” she said.

“Once you reach out, the pathway clears for you. You just have to keep going, keep crawling out.

“It’s hard, the most emotionally draining and horrible experience.

Alex Bunton with her daughter Opal. Picture: Davey Barber
Alex Bunton with her daughter Opal. Picture: Davey Barber

“Once you get to the other side, it’s a huge relief and your life is on the other side. The world is at your feet.”

On the other side for Bunton, is a rekindled passion for basketball. Her comeback is more than a physical triumph, it’s a mental one.

“I almost didn’t come back to basketball because I was so afraid of judgment, being misunderstood and the stigma around the domestic violence.

“After being through it I now know I have nothing to be ashamed of, it’s not me it’s something I’ve been through,” she said.

“I wanted to play again because I wanted to find myself again. I hated being in social situations, and that wasn’t me, in team sport you’re surrounded by people every day.

“I just had to get out there again.

“My body can handle playing again which is amazing and I really want to see what basketball can do for me, but I also have this soul kind of feeling that I’m meant to help others, share my experience and help make people on the outside understand those who are trapped on the inside.

“Something inside tells me it’s something I can really help with.”

Confidential information, counselling and support is available from the National Sexual Assault, Family and Domestic Violence Counselling Line.

Phone 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – which open 24 hours to support people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse.