Recently I heard Phil Cleary speaking on the radio, which reminded me of an interview of his I heard four and a half years ago concerning family violence.
What he said during that interview was so correct, I thought I should, if not expand on it, fully endorse it.
His subject was the Royal Commission into Family Violence, which happened in Melbourne, in 2015. As many will know his sister Vicki 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.
We can argue the point as to whether the term “family violence” does justice to this subject, but I will just call it what it overwhelmingly is: male violence toward other, usually younger men, or predominantly, against women and children.
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 believe his position has not changed, that they are just excuses. He’s 100% right. They are excuses. Excuses for bad behaviour, which feed into all the other excuses weak men use to minimise their culpability.
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 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.
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 has died during the writing of this article.
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’, if you are female. See the truly disturbing statistics here, https://www.whiteribbon.org.au/understand-domestic-violence/facts-violence-women/domestic-violence-statistics/
This is not trivial, an aberration of class attitudes, or rogue men. A 2011 report stated that “Intimate partner violence is a leading contributor to illness, disability and premature death for women aged 18-44.”
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 a 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 ‘discipline’, 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. 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.
Mark Buckley is a Melbourne writer, interested in politics, history, justice and ethics. His work can be found at www.askbucko.com