May Day… All May long
Here we are again in May – Domestic Violence Month – 2012. Here we are again with a whole month dedicated to domestic violence. Why a whole month? Do we really need to focus attention on this issue for that long? I’d love to say that it is not necessary given that many other significant issues only require a day or a week to highlight the concerns. However, given the realities of domestic abuse, we need this issue on our radar the whole year through.
Domestic violence is still one of the most pervasive issues in our society. Abuse against women is rampant. The impacts on women and children in our society cost us sociologically. It also costs us to the tune of billions annually economically in paying individually and collectively for the short and long term impacts of such abuse against women and children.
Most significantly domestic violence kills. It is our silent epidemic. Each year at least a quarter of murders in Queensland result from domestic violence. This is a fairly consistent statistic throughout recent years.
Whilst we have all the research about patriarchy, complacency, victim blame and the like, it is still hard to make sense of why any human being would be either accepting of or complacent with regard to those who exert power over their partners. Particularly when the statistics so clearly demonstrate the likelihood of horrific outcomes such as long term trauma impacts for the victim, children and other family members or death.
Last May I wrote the blog post Permission to Perpetrate, which outlined the need for our society to pay attention to the acts of perpetrators and address biases by recognising that women do not invite abuse, but rather that perpetrators plan it, defend themselves against any backlash and gather pawns in their game to support their perpetration. This year not much has changed. Thus we again highlight that domestic violence is the choice and responsibility of the perpetrator. Their actions not only hurt women who are their current or former intimate partners, wives and mothers of their children, it also harms their children and their families as a whole.
So why are we still so focused on the women who are abused? Why are there so many myths about women who experience domestic violence such as: they don’t tell the truth, they nag and invite it? We know through on-going research that women are more likely to stay silent about domestic violence than to speak out against their perpetrator so such myths act only as excuses for perpetrators. Click here for some of the common myths and fact responses to these myths.
Some advances however have been made in Australia since PeakCare’s 2011 May blog post:
In Queensland the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 1989 was reviewed and federally the Family Violence (and Other Measures) Bill 2011 was passed in December 2011. This bill contains a number of amendments designed to strengthen the Act in relation to the protection of children in environments where family violence has been present.
PeakCare responded to the call for submissions for these legislative changes. When I placed these proposed legislative changes on my ‘google alerts’ to keep myself abreast of the issues, I was dumbfounded by the on-going commentaries that spoke of such proposed legislative amendments as sexist, feminist and an affront to men. Most significantly the feedback suggested such legislation designed to address domestic violence and child abuse was undermining fathers in Australian society.
So, I started to read more closely in an endeavour to make sense of such relentless diatribes espousing this legislation as the work of ‘man haters’. Men or fathers aren’t the target of the legislation, perpetrators of abuse are. Little recognition was given to the fact this legislation was designed to protect children and adult victims of domestic violence regardless of gender.
Even if we were to see this legislation as protection for women and children, which it largely is due to the fact that they are the most common victims of domestic violence, why is protecting women and children from violence and abuse a process of undermining fatherhood or maleness in any way? In what way were the rights of loving fathers being undermined as major contributors to their children’s lives?
Why is there a sense that by affording equal rights and mutual respect to women and children, most notably the right to safety and well-being, men are somehow being vilified? Their rights are somehow being trampled. How? As the White Ribbon Campaign, a campaign led by men internationally against violence towards women states: The majority of men are not abusers but all men need to speak up and be united against violence perpetrated on women.
In closing, a quote from an icon of our time, a man who has a real grasp of horror:
“There’s a phrase, “the elephant in the living room”, which purports to describe what it’s like to live with … an abuser. People outside such relationships will sometimes ask, “How could you let such a business go on for so many years? Didn’t you see the elephant in the living room?” And it’s so hard for anyone living in a more normal situation to understand the answer that comes closest to the truth: “I’m sorry, but it was there when I moved in. I didn’t know it was an elephant; I thought it was part of the furniture.” There comes an aha-moment for some folks – the lucky ones – when they suddenly recognize the difference.” Stephen King
The elephant is not just in living rooms. These elephants are part of our society and indicative of our silence in accepting and remaining silent about domestic violence.
A society intent on equality and mutual respect is not an affront to men or masculinity. It is a society that respects all citizens regardless of gender, creed or any other difference. It is one that endorses respectful behaviour and freedom from abuse for all.
Click here to visit the Queensland Government’s Act as 1 campaign webpage
Policy and Research Manager PeakCare Qld