Recently I had the pleasure of assisting several QLD based Journalism and Law students, who got in contact with me in relation to some assignments they were doing on the topic of Domestic Violence in Australia. It was such an honour to be asked to comment on the issue and I’d especially like to thank Aleesha Buckby for giving me the chance to contribute to her assignment.
I’d like to share below some of my answers to Aleesha’s questions; in particular, my thoughts on the link between pornography and domestic violence, the need for more male shelters, why family violence can be considered a form of terrorism, and what our Government needs to do to fully address the issue.
In your eyes, how serious is the issue of domestic violence in Queensland?
I believe as a state, Queensland has an extremely shameful level of domestic violence; on average there are 180 incidents of domestic violence recorded every day in our state. Between March 14th and April 16th, 6 women were murdered in Queensland alone from male perpetrators of domestic or family violence. It is suspected that another two Queensland women recently murdered were done so by men close to them.
Domestic violence is a very real form of terrorism in our country, and it deserves our full attention. Just like terrorism, domestic violence includes the use of fear, violence and intimidation to control and force a person into submission, and every single week, we see this particular form of terrorism taking the lives of Australians.
You write in a recent blog “In Australia, men are killing women (and sometimes their children) every week, and yet it feels nothing is being done.” In light of this opinion, do you feel like the recommendations outlined in Quentin Bryce’s ‘Not Now, Not Ever’ that the government are currently implementing are inadequate in protecting women from domestic violence?
I believe that our Governments are beginning to implement some really important policies, programs and laws that will hopefully make a difference in the future, but unfortunately it will be years before we see the benefits of these; including many of the policies listed in the ‘Not Now Not Ever’ report. For example, the Respectful Relationship programs are a fantastic and much needed initiative, that will hopefully help to positively change the attitudes of our youth, but it will be a long time before we see the benefits.
Recently, it was announced that Queensland will now prosecute offences of non-fatal strangulation under an entirely new law, bringing maximum sentences of up to seven years. This is a fantastic change which has been welcomed by many, many survivors.
That said, I can see why some might see it as ridiculous – and I guess in some ways it is – because we have to ask the question: ‘Why has strangulation – a common method of abuse used to murder – not been taken seriously up to this point in time when prosecuting offenders? Why has it not carried the weight of a serious sentence?’ However, it is a step forward.
The domestic violence memorial you unveiled recently was to honour survivors, as well as those who had lost their lives. In your eyes, what should the government do to ensure that domestic violence comes to an end in Queensland?
There are so many things I feel need to be addressed…
Recently, I was reading an article about about how distressing it is for women when their abusive ex-partners are given custody access to their children. I believe that when the courts/police are informed of abuse, the perpetrator (either mother or father) should be required to undergo a mandatory and comprehensive behavioural change program BEFORE access is even considered. I also strongly believe that where serious violence has been committed against a partner – especially life threatening – the abusive mother or father should immediately have all custody access stripped from them.
When somebody makes a decision to attempt to murder their partner, they no longer deserve access to their child. Having the same DNA as another person, does not automatically entitle you to be in that person’s live – especially when that person is a child in need of safety and a role model they can trust.
Children need to be protected, and far too often I read of cases where an abusive parent is allowed to continue a cycle of abuse against their former partner, by having access to the child and using them as a pawn. A high profile example, was that of Rosie Batty. The law should never have given Luke’s father access to him.
I’ve also had women share with me their fears that their ex-partners will one day commit the ultimate act of control and punishment against them, by harming their child while in their custody. One woman in particular said: “I just hope he harms me instead of my child [if it gets too that point].” This is a fear no person should carry for themselves or their child. This is an ultimate act of selflessness that no mother should have to plan.
The Victorian Government has just committed half a billion dollars over the next two years to tackle family violence; a campaign that will see hundreds of millions of dollars allocated to building new housing and crisis refuges while supporting existing services, counselors, prevention programs, support for children, and specialist Aboriginal services. I believe we need to see this implemented in all states.
Funding for crisis centres is crucial. Men also need more options for places they can go. DV is a huge contributor to homelessness, and without places to go, victims will often stay in abusive situations.
There is a great initiative that has been started by a sydney woman, called ‘The National Safehouse Network,’ which aims to provide a network of people who can offer a bed to women and children fleeing domestic violence. I’d love to see something like this implemented around Australia and Queensland, for both men and women. As a community, we need to rally around the vulnerable and help wherever we can. It is only when we unite as a community, that we stand a chance of eradicating injustices.
There are so many things that need to be addressed in the fight against family violence, and what I’m about to say might sound surprising, but I believe pornography is one of the key contributors of violence toward women. We know from research that the easy availability of pornographic content is leading not only to an increase in child on child abuse (including children as young as 4 years old), but it also is a key contributor to unhealthy attitudes toward women. Research shows that children are frequently exposed to pornographic content by their peers, and the average age of first exposure to porn is 11 years old.
Nathan DeGuara, from NSW’s Men’s Referral Service, has revealed that the service regularly receives domestic violence related calls from men that stem from ‘unrealistic sexual expectations’, often created by pornography.
“The biggest common denominator of the increase of intimate partner rape of women between 14 and 80 is the consumption of porn by the offender … We have seen a huge increase in physical injuries, torture, drugging, sharing photos and film without consent and deprivation of liberty.”
– Di McLeod: The Gold Coast Centre against Sexual violence
Furthermore, a 2010 content analysis study of the 50 best-selling adult videos revealed that across all scenes, 94 percent of aggressive acts were committed against women, with 72% of these acts committed by men. Female performers were often portrayed as ‘enjoying’ the aggressive acts.
In 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron launched an ‘opt-in’ system for online pornography, in an attempt to better protect the innocence of children. Essentially, this meant that pornography would be blocked across the UK, and could only be accessed if adults chose to opt-in; therefore helping to prevent children from inadvertently being exposed to unhealthy attitudes they are not cognitively mature enough to understand. I believe our Government should seriously consider implementing a system such as this here in Australia.
Our states also need to seriously think about the attitudes they promote, and this includes better regulation of advertising – especially billboards and moving slogans such as those seen on ‘wicked camper’ vans. When did it become acceptable for society to joke about domestic violence? How do we expect survivors and families of victims to be okay with hate speech such as: “I’ve often tried to drown my troubles, but I can’t convince my wife to go swimming,” screaming at them from the roads.Recently I’ve seen billboards displayed around Brisbane for a particular strip club, promoting the idea that men ‘deserve’ to be served and attended to by naked women. The idea that men deserve and need to be doted on and serviced by naked women, who are being paid to pretend they enjoy these acts (women who are often only there because of financial issues – often resulting from the gender pay gap – and a lack of viable ‘choices’) is a contributor to archaic sexist attitudes about masculinity and the roles of women.
Self regulation is not working! Advertising is an important part of how attitudes are constructed and developed, and our Government is not doing enough.
Queensland, we have to do better.