« "I've been punched, kicked, scratched – if I stay I’ll be killed": Stories of Ireland’s abused men | Main | 1IN3 reponds to latest Daily Life attack on victims of domestic violence »

Blindfolded with a White Ribbon | Quadrant Online

Domestic violence has been getting a lot of attention of late, as indeed it should. What has passed almost entirely without mention is that women are not the only ones to suffer abuse in its many and various forms. That men are also victims just doesn't fit the feminist narrative

The ABC’s blue-ribbon documentary on domestic violence, Hitting Home, went to air on White Ribbon day this week to much acclaim and self-congratulation.  For her six-months’ work, Sarah Ferguson is sure to be nominated for the year’s Gold Walkley. The two-part report depicted the truly appalling situation of women fleeing with their children to refuges to escape the repeated assaults of their partners which had turned them, in many cases, into passive, willing victims.

But in its dramatic mix of raw emotion and slick sentimentality, it told only the half of the story. In style and substance, it followed the proven Four Corners technique of restrictive focus that we saw Ferguson employ in her 2011 programme on Indonesian slaughterhouses. Hitting Home  avoided – excluded, actually – all mention of domestic violence by women towards men. In an incredible one-third of all violence in the home, the man is the victim. When the tension rises to the point where the violence explodes to killing the children, women are worse than men.

Domestic violence is a much bigger and broader problem than the ABC would have us believe. The shame and sense of guilt at victimhood, articulated by women in the programme, are precisely the reasons men are reluctant to come forward. But more important, they have nowhere to go – the DV services for women are denied them. Police often laugh at their complaints.

Ferguson opened with vision of ambulances and police cars, setting the dramatic tone for the series she had been filming for six months “on the front lines of Australia’s domestic violence crisis.” There are 650 DV incidents a day, we were told on police authority. That is one incident every two minutes and 21 seconds,  or 237,250 a year. (Is this correct?) It certainly sounded like a crisis, but it’s been well hidden, apparently.

“I’ve never really known what DV is,” said Ferguson in a walk to camera. “How does it start? How does it escalate from control to violence, even to death? Why do men do it – because it’s largely men – and why do women stay with them?”

I waited for the answers. I waited in vain.

But Ferguson’s words set the framework and themes for the next two hours. The report proceeded to depict the “what” of DV, but never ventured into the “why”. This was reduced to the simplistic, one-size-fits-all word: “control.” Men who are control freaks turn to violence when timid submission becomes a provocation, we were told. We waited in vain for an explanation of what drew these people together, why once-loving relationships go sour to the point of aggression, assault and damage.

One observation, not explored, is that the relationships were dysfunctional from the start. Most men and women appeared to be from the lower socio-economic  levels, with limited education, interests or common purpose. Were they unable to withstand the financial, social and time limitations of family life? We were not told.

There are dimensions to the DV problem that Ferguson didn’t seem keen to explore — aspects that might have detracted from a neat depiction of female victimhood, and require more work than riding around in police cars and nursing the newborn.  The One in Three Campaign aims to bring balance into the picture that programmes like Hitting Home distort. It lists the abuses of men, which take many of the same forms as those against women: physical violence, intimidation and threats, sexual, emotional and physical, verbal and financial abuse; property damage and social isolation. Legal and administrative abuse through false restraining orders, or not allowing access to children.

Discrimination against men is underlined by social marketing campaigns such as Violence Against Women, Australia Says No (Commonwealth) and Don’t Cross the Line (South Australia), both of which suggest that men are the only perpetrators, and women and children the only victims. The New South Wales Government has begun a  scheme called It Stops Here Safer Pathway but its fact sheet does not mention that 31% of the 31,00 victims of DV assaults were men.

Any thought that women cannot be violent is dispelled by the homicide statistics compiled by the Australian Institute of Criminology. The May 2015 research report details homicides from 2002 to 2012.  In that ten-year period, 186 people killed one or more of their children. Ninety-six, or 52%, were women; 90, or 48%, were men.  And of the 654 homicide victims categorised as “intimate partners”, 166 or 25% were men. These figures suggest that Australian of the Year, Rosy Batty should widen her flagship campaign against domestic violence beyond standard feminist talking points.

Only those who have experienced what used to be called a “broken home”, or seen a marriage deteriorate to self-destruction could understand the complexity of human relationships that lead to violence and the police courts. The simplistic triumphalism of  Hitting Home which purported to explain domestic violence in terms of control v. submission, brutality v. fear, male physicality v. female timidity did nothing but provoke emotionalism and irrationality. It seemed an apt political manifestation of the doctinaire feminism that now infects and dominates ABC culture.

Surely it’s time for a rational, balanced approach to a serious problem and a provocative challenge to society. This is how the Three in One Campaign sums it up:

Family violence and abuse can never be excused or justified, however, in order to reduce the levels of violence in the family, we must seek to understand the causes and contexts that give rise to it. We need to address the complexities of violence. All victims need compassionate and highly responsive support, and all perpetrators need services to help them stop their use of violence and abuse. Dysfunctional relationships in which both parties use violence need to be supported to change, as it is these environments that are clearly the most harmful to children.

Geoffrey Luck was an ABC journalist for 26 years

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (3)

What is particularly concerning about the biased White Ribbon campaign, is how the ABC, Rosy Batty, Daniel Andrews etc., can get away with excluding male victims from the campaign in spite of all the research evidence. Why not provide help and services for vulnerable male victims? Not every male is an aggressive macho piece of granite. Most are just human beings trying to do their bit in society. We automatically feel sympathy for a timid woman who is abused by an aggressive, violent man because he is presumably stronger and or bigger than his victim. Yet, when an aggressive, violent women abuses a more timid man who is not assertive and reluctant to defend himself against a women, nobody seems to care? Why? He is a human being just like any timid women is. What is the matter with our social policy makers that they dehumanize weak vulnerable and perhaps over-dependent men in this country? Where has all the big talk about Australian 'values' and being a world leader in 'social justice' disappeared to?? No, there is something else going on here. One suspects that this blatantly biased policy could be due to our male leaders needing to show off to younger women. It is a very cynical explanation but with all the sex scandals emerging in our politics, it is perhaps not far off the mark. As Warren Farrell says, men are no longer of value to male policy makers any more. That could be a real problem for male rights into the future of this country in the 21st century.

December 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterFactsseeker

The very disturbing statistics on the number of domestic or family violence incidents per day reported in police data are also a little misleading. Police statistics that are the source of these data vary by jurisdiction, and include family violence related police events rather than family violence events in most instances. That means that for some data one family violence event may generate 1 or more police events; i.e. (i) police attended event; (ii) AVO obtained; (iii) child intervention order sought; etc. In some instances, a family violence related police event may be related to a call out to an event that on further investigation is not family violence related.
Thus the numbers of family violence events being reported in the media and in Parliment from time to time are very substantially overestimated, and bare little connection to the actual number of family violence events in the community. This is particularly the case when the heat is on the police to demonstrate they are responding to the family violence epidemic.


December 8, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterrabel111

So, I am compelled to share a few words of personal experience as well as what I propose to do about this global pandemic.

I am a survivor of domestic violence, as a child and as an adult. Am also unfortunately guilty of being sucked into the cycle by my Ex-wife and letting the ugliness of the relationship lead to an ever descending spiral of anger and appalling volatility. As I walked forward and finally managed to find my way out of the fog of this relationship I realised the anger had followed me into a deeply beautiful journey with my next partner. Totally destroying that relationship.

The lessons? Well! You can only control your own behaviours and choices. You can not allow others to back you into a corner so you react and create what they want you to be. And most importantly, never, and I mean "NEVER" allow your self to drag the anger and hurt from a past journey into your next relationship.

What can be done, well fortunately I am an influential executive in Australian business, and my intention is simple, I am committed to spending my time developing a global foundation that beings Men together to help Men. Yes I absolutely feel the issues of Men committing domestic violence agains women and children is critical, but the fact remains A considerable number of men are victims of this insidious issue. And the female perpetrators are equally responsible.

It will take courage for men to stand up and say enough is enough, there is a huge global push for female equality, and I am a huge supporter in all areas of life. This includes holding each gender accountable for curing the issues of "adult" driven domestic violence. There is a huge number of "innocent" victims of DV, my now Ex-partner is one of them, she never deserved a moment of what came into her life when we met, yet my ex-wife and our ugliness followed me. Who is responsible? Me! Why? Because at the time I allowed anger to become the norm...

We can not ignore this issue and it is no longer acceptable for our society to let its conscience hide from it.


December 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>