Family Violence is a matter of Attitudes
Recently I heard Phil Cleary speaking on the radio, which reminded me of an interview of his I heard nearly five years ago. What he said during that interview was so right I thought I should, if I was unable to expand on it, fully endorse it. His target was the Royal Commission into Family Violence, which happened in Melbourne, in 2015. As many will know his sister, Vicki Cleary, was murdered by her ex-partner. As he has said, it is important to name the victims, as they deserve to be known by their names, and not only as an ex-partner of a murderous thug. That was not his only message, however.
We can argue the point as to whether the term “family violence” does justice to this subject, and we can argue that the Royal Commission made useful changes, but really, one woman a week? This is not a social ill, this is mass – murder. Male violence toward others, usually against women and children, and to a lesser extent, against other, usually younger, males, is destroying our way of life.
Phil’s argument then was that we were focusing on the wrong causes, which were seen to be predominantly substance abuse, and mental illness. He argued then, and I agree, that they are just excuses. They are lousy excuses. Excuses for bad behaviour, which feed into all the other excuses which weak men use to minimise their culpability.
What do the courts say?
“She looked at another man”, “she went out to work”, “she had a night out with the girls”, “she decided that I was not her ideal partner”, “she wanted a car for herself”. All of these excuses have been run during criminal trials in Victoria, where the person making the ‘excuse’ has actually murdered the person who was exercising her human right to ‘act on her own volition’. And do not for a moment believe that he did not have ‘adequate representation’ in that court.
Drinking too much alcohol does not compel a man to beat his partner. Smoking bongs does not turn a man into a cruel abuser. And the great excuse of our age, methamphetamine, does not pre-dispose a man to abuse his loved ones. It is ACTUALLY his attitude towards women, and children, which drives such behaviour. It begins with a lack of equality, which leads to disrespect. Out of disrespect comes abuse, and violence, and possibly, death.
What can be done about family violence?
Look around you. Bad attitudes to women and children abound. When did it become acceptable to call women by degrading names? Women make up half the population. They are our mothers, sisters, daughters and aunts. They are also our friends and colleagues, and as Phil constantly reminds us, they have names and personalities, and aspirations. The latest woman to be murdered by her partner in Australia was a fully rounded human being, but the facts suggest that another woman has died during the writing of this article.
Why do we let it continue?
It is not even necessary to argue the case for women. They are human, they are half the story, and they make humanity whole. Thinking that women are lesser creatures is the problem. It is a problem so profoundly stupid that it is difficult to believe that anyone would subscribe to the mindset. And yet we have, on average, one woman dying every week in Australia, at the hands of an intimate partner, or ex-partner. That makes a joke of the idea that we live in the land of the ‘fair go’, especially if you are female. See the truly disturbing statistics here, https://www.whiteribbon.org.au/understand-domestic-violence/facts-violence-women/domestic-violence-statistics/
How does it impact Australia?
This is not a trivial matter; it is not an aberration of class attitudes, or of rogue men, or cultural norms from immigrants. A 2011 report stated that “Intimate partner violence is a leading contributor to illness, disability and premature death for women aged 18-44.”
That is disgraceful, and entirely preventable. We, men and women, need to speak up, to actually intervene when we see unacceptable behaviour toward women, to not turn away. If he does it in public I can promise you he is worse in private.
Attitudes to children as possessions to be fought over, and sometimes to be murdered, in pursuit of a victory over an ex-partner is a tragic off-shoot of this lack of respect. They are not possessions, nor are they bargaining chips. They are yours and my future, and they deserve your protection and guidance.
Family violence is always wrong. It is always used to bully and intimidate. it is not legitimate to ‘discipline’ another person, and if you think it is, you are living in the wrong place, at the wrong time. This community needs to set itself a standard for civility, and respect. Similarly to the way we have made racism socially unacceptable, we need men to re-discover the wonder of family, of community, with no victims. And we need to consider that they are capable of change.
This article was originally published on August 20, 2015. I have recently re-visited it, and updated it. Mark Buckley February 16, 2020.