I admire Rosie Batty. She has suffered immeasurable grief and tragedy with grace, courage and fortitude. She has moved forward, from the depths of despair with a resolute determination to highlight the issue of domestic violence and to try and change things for the better. Her obvious character and strength make her admirable choice for Australian of the year.
That said, the sight of the media scrum snapping happily while Abbott cozies up to her at every possible photo opportunity is scraping new depths, even for our minister for women.
The casual misogyny with which Abbott selected his cabinet, named himself minister for women and then went on to support to the proposed funding cuts for women’s refuges; the glee with which he poses in front of fighter jets and spends billions sending our troops off to war (apparently for our safety and security), and yet continues to ignore the plethora of women killed as a result of domestic violence is absolutely breathtaking.
There has been no dialogue about this at all coming from our minister for women, no billions to fund a war on domestic violence, no proposed judicial reform and no education campaigns, just a lame promise to put a national “restraining order” on the books. A move that will do nothing to change the attitudes of the general public or the behavior of offenders. Quite frankly Abbott’s lack of rigor on the issue is an insult to all Australians, men and women alike.
But it’s not just the minister for women that is letting the side down; the media are also missing in action. For the most part we hear absolutely nothing of the people living in our communities that lose their lives to the scourge of domestic violence. Right now there are thousands of men, women and children suffering silently in their homes, with little hope of escape or assistance.
While there are quite clearly perpetrators of both genders, the overwhelming majority of victims are women; and it is a sad indictment of our society that on average one woman is killed by her intimate partner every single week and we rarely, if ever, hear anything about it, save for the odd statistic. We get no names, no faces, no interviews with grieving relatives, no court reporting on the sentence; nothing that makes it real or tangible for us.
So why is it that neither Abbott, nor the main stream media, has any tangible appetite for the issue of domestic violence? Unless of course it is the children that are killed; that’s another thing altogether.
Who could forget the media frenzy that ensued when Robert Farquharson murdered his three sons by strapping them into his car and driving them into a dam, or when four year old Darcy Freeman was thrown off the Westgate bridge, and most recently when Rosie Batty’s eleven year old son was brutally beaten to death. These “stories” hit the news cycle like pop songs on high rotation, where every intricate detail, every arrest, every court date, every psychologist’s report and judge’s statement is ghoulishly devoured and endlessly regurgitated by the mainstream media.
But when it’s the wife or the girlfriend that’s the victim all there is is a deafeningly hollow silence. No media scrums outside the court house, no politicians banging their fists and declaring something will be done. There is nothing…. zip, zilch, nada.
Why is it that? Could it be that we, as a society, just don’t care about women? Surely that can’t be the case? What about Jill Meagher? The media were out in force for her. Thousands of protesters marched through the streets carrying placards. And what about Ms Vukotic who was tragically slain in a Doncaster park? Her murder was deemed worthy of a media scrum.
But why is the untimely demise of these women deserving of so much media outrage, while the murders of so many other women are completely overlooked and ignored? The only discernible difference I can see is that Ms Meagher and Ms Vukotic were a.) murdered by a totally random stranger, not a sexual partner. b.) they were not sex workers, and c.) Ms Meagher worked in the media. While these facts may have made these cases more media noteworthy, they do not make them any more heartbreakingly tragic.
I admit I am no psychologist, but to me it looks like we have two classes of victims. The first being children, (who are clearly innocent by virtue of their age) and women who are unknown to their attackers; and the second being sex workers or women who are beaten and or killed by their intimate partners.
If you fall into the first category the violence visited on you is an outrage, worthy of the harshest punishment and endless sensationalized regurgitation in the 24 hour news cycle. If you fall into the second category your fate is greeted by the media, the government and the judiciary (who are the only ones who have the power to actually do something tangible about Australia’s domestic violence problem) with a collective yawn. It’s a curious divide.
I remember how shocked I was when several years back a friend of my mother’s was nearly beaten to death by the man she was dating. In an alcohol fueled rage he repeatedly rammed her head into the wooden arm rest of a Jacobean couch until he had smashed her skull in several places. She sustained permanent brain damage; and he, in spite of being charged with attempted murder and found guilty, was given an 18 months sentence, wholly suspended. He didn’t serve a single day in jail over the attack.
There was some kind of glib summing up by the judge about volatile relationships, too much alcohol and things getting “a bit out of hand”, and how as they were no longer together she was highly unlikely to suffer a repeat attack. Sending him to jail would apparently cause him to lose his job and his stymie his ability to pay child support so there was “nothing to be gained by a custodial sentence”.
We were all totally gob smacked; this man had almost beaten her to death and left her with permanent brain damage and he barely got a slap on the wrist!
Admittedly this was several years ago, but from what I understand this kind of thing is still quite common. Intimate partner violence is systematically trivialized by the police, the courts, and the government; and it is largely ignored by both the minister for women and the media.
Curious. If women are beaten or murdered by strangers it is an outrage, but if the the attack is perpetrated by their sexual partners it seems we really don’t give a damn.
The burning question is why? Any thoughts anyone?