Blindfolded with a White Ribbon

ms biffoThe 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

15 thoughts on “Blindfolded with a White Ribbon

  • Patrick McCauley says:

    Marriage has become a dangerous place for men in which they open themselves to navigate a sea of legislation and litigation that can result in them losing their home, their children and their sanity. Even the good non violent men will loose their home and their fatherhood if the marriage fails. Marriage reveals a domestic matriarchy in which men are considered dispensable and have only a symbolic role. Serial monogamy seems unable to secure fidelity long enough to make the contract worth the paper it is written on. Marriage – weddings have become an almost entirely feminine frilly thing which enables a tyranny only one in three (nearly one in two) can successfully navigate. Its a bad deal for men and the most dangerous decision that most will ever make. A wize man could advise young men to find another way to live a life than run the gauntlet of marriage and the family. Yet – we in the west cannot reproduce ourselves – Islam outbreeds us eight to one.

    • Jody says:

      I absolutely agree with your sentiments about male ‘disadvantage’ in marriage. My own son is going through a horrendous divorce from a psychotic woman who is constantly bringing him to court (legal aid for her, full payment of fees for him) because she alleges domestic violence threats which are not true. Each time my son has to trot off to court; only last night the police were looking for him again!! It will continue until my son is driven mad or bankrupt – or both.

      I wouldn’t TOUCH marriage if I was a male (I have 3 sons so I know all about that gender imbalance in a matriarchal culture)!!

  • prsmith14@gmail.com says:

    A lovely piece of writing Geoffrey. I admit to seldom watching ABC documentaries and this was no exception. However a couple of points: First, I have experiences in marriage which might lead me to be cynical but I remain upbeat. Marriage is like life in general; s*** happens as Tony might say. Second, men should not hit women. Generally our male genes say so and my dad reinforced the taboo when I was growing up. On the other hand, he never impressed on me that women shouldn’t hit men and neither did my mum. In other words, while I agree with the substance of your article and the well-made points, I don’t mind an emphasis being put on preventing men hitting women. It is part of our culture that women are treated with respect by men. It is who we are as distinct from other inferior cultures. That doesn’t mean of course that abuse of men by women should be ignored. Peter Smith

    • Jody says:

      I agree in principle that men should not hit woman. But what if a woman hasn’t a shred of self-respect and demands equal opportunity to be a bogan, swearing, drinking and fornicating just like the worst men? Being female does not automatically confer dignity or excellence in child-rearing. Self-respect will be garnered for women when they behave as if they HAVE self-respect. Sorry, I just don’t believe in unqualified rights.

      Hitting ANYBODY should be verboten – not just in a relationship.

  • lloveday says:

    Despite much rigorous research, such as that in Australia by Bruce Headley, Dorothy Scott and David de Vaus of the Universities of Melbourne and La Trobe who concluded, that
    (1) Men were just as likely to report being physically assaulted by their partners as women.
    (2) Further, women and men were about equally likely to admit being violent themselves.
    (3) Men and women report experiencing about the same levels of pain and need for medical attention resulting from domestic violence
    DV is invariably reported as exclusively a man-hits-woman problem. It is not.

  • timcg says:

    Rosie Batty and her son were victims of untreated mental illness. Her ex husband was a very , very mentally ill man who should have been in a secure mental health facility for both his safety, his families and quite possibly other members of the community.The progressives have shut almost all of the secure mental health facilities in favour of more open community houses or indeed no actual supported or supervised living arrangements at all.The ex husband was also subject I believe to unenforced arrest warrants and thus free to do harm.
    What Rosie Batty should be campaigning for is appropriate and secure treatment of mentally disturbed people. If her husband had received such treatment then we would be saying Rosie Who and her son would be still playing cricket.

    • Jody says:

      And the elephant in the room is:…..

      Yes, that’s right – the legal system, which refuses to adequately punish/incarcerate offenders!!

      And de-institutionalization of the mentally ill has led to a great many violent deaths, including that Sydney painter and his sister, and many many more which are conveniently airbrushed by the “progressives”. As we speak they’re still spruiking the old nostrums about putting the mentally ill back into the community with support. It appears they have the rights and the rest of us have to bravely deal with the consequences. When is enough deaths enough?

      On the matter of women perpetrating domestic violence; again, conveniently airbrushed because it doesn’t suit a feminist agenda…the woman in Cairns who murdered 7 of her own and 1 other child relative certainly wasn’t a male!! Neither was Kathleen Folbigg who murdered her 4 children. On it goes…

    • lloveday says:

      Interesting opinions on Batty at http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/liberal-mp-graham-watt-remained-seated-during-rosie-batty-standing-ovation/news-story/161086498c0687ca93f38af06fa3c4f7#load-story-comments

      I was struck by this one – I cannot know if it is true as I never watch Q & A, but if it is true (and another backed it), Batty was a disgraceful mother who may well have contributed to the mental illness of her husband.

      “I heard her on Q&A bragging how she would use Luke’s father to do work on her property before allowing him to visit or see his own son.”

  • Geoffrey Luck says:

    Thanks for your kind comments again, Peter. I did not intend that the issue of men hitting women should be up for debate – from the standpoint of a succesful happy marriage of sixty years, I guess I continue to be surprised that it has to be spelt out. My sense of fairness was outraged by the ABC’s treatment of the subject. I saw it as yet another manifestation of the femi-nazi influence on policy, news values, and politics. Perhaps the difficulties of marriage today are a reflection of the commodification and trivialisation of everything. Have a look at the two programmes while they’re still up on iView – I’d be interested in your observations.

  • ian.macdougall says:

    “‘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.”

    I can only understand a parent killing his or her own child as a completely extreme act of revenge against the other parent. But otherwise it is completely beyond my comprehension. But speaking from my own direct experience, my father’s violence against my mother resulted in not only (recoverable) physical injury to her, but also in what I now realise was grievous mental harm to myself as a then primary school aged child. Only now, at the age of 75, do I realise the full extent of its effects on my subsequent life. My mother’s life was also damaged in non-physical ways.

    There is a very good article by Lorana Bartels and Patricia Easteal, both of the University of Canberra at The Conversation.
    They show that “in the vast majority of cases where women kill their partners, there is a history of domestic violence.
    “Isolation as well as often cyclical psychological and physical abuse means leaving home is not only difficult, but can be deadly. Almost half of all spousal homicides committed by men involved killing women who had left them, or were attempting to do so.
    “This can drive desperate women to attack or kill their partner. But when battered women fight back, the law does not always truly take into account the difficulty of their circumstances.
    “In court after a women (sic) kills her partner following domestic violence, a murder conviction or complete acquittal are the two least likely outcomes.”


  • dchawcroft@yahoo.com says:

    This story brings to light something truly awful: the state of ABC reporting. I find it all to be very much lacking. Very, very, very much. I think this is about the worst thing happening in Aus. at the moment.

    About not hitting women. I think this is wrongly stated. It is not ‘don’t hit women’ it is ‘don’t hit those weaker than yourself.’ Man, woman or child.

    I’ve met in my time some women who were definite standover merchants, bullies, who leaned heavily on a belief they were safe from physical reaction because they were women.

    And more than once I’ve told such not to believe I wouldn’t belt them if I had to and it has had the effect, thankfully, of making them back off.

    That’s revelatory. Of exactly what I’m not sure but something to do with shades of significance in this ‘don’t hit women’ thing. It just can’t go down just like that. There’s too much variety in ‘women’ and in circumstance.

    Don’t hit at all is the best thing. And a sensible person never does. And nor do the vilest villains, leaving to their hired help to do it for them.

  • lloveday says:

    I think this 90 second video is a fair depiction of how F-M DV is generally viewed.


    • dchawcroft@yahoo.com says:

      You’re pretty right.

      There’s just so much more to the whole thing than is generally perceived or discussed.

      But to ‘Triage’, sort of, we’ve got to admit that men basing women around is the prime and major threat and needs addressing immediately.

      So we have to allow that. Admit it. Go with it. Don’t fight it on the grounds that there is more. Just deal with it and move on to the ‘more’.

  • dchawcroft@yahoo.com says:

    pretty poor format this for such a high quality magazine… not to be able to edit your posts…

  • lloveday says:

    The different way filicide is treated depending on which parent kills is instructive. When it’s the mother, the typical media response to blame society, but if it’s the father, well he’s a “murderous son-of-a-bitch” (from a David Penberthy article citing Arthur Freeman).

    Most know Freeman threw his daughter off Westgate Bridge, in what might be termed a brain snap; certainly it was not a premeditated murder. I’m not excusing in the slightest way what he did, and if I were running the show, he would be executed after the mother, and, or, her nominee, were allowed to belt living daylights out of him.

    But how many have heard of Gabriela Garcia, who just 6 months earlier, jumped off the same bridge with her son strapped to her chest? That story, when mentioned in the media was generally along the lines of “How did society fail this mother?”, with the Australian reporting the ludicrous quote “It was basically to save him from a bad life and upbringing. She did this not to harm him but to protect him”. Thank God my mother never protected me like that!

    Garcia’s deed was, in my opinion, even more evil than Freeman’s as Garcia methodically planned the death of her little boy, leaving a suicide note that led the coroner to conclude she was motivated by custody proceedings and had decided to kill her son rather than lose custody.

    So why the obsession with Freeman? Because it suits the feminist agenda of excluding fathers from children’s lives on breakdown of the parent’s relationship. But we should not deny hundreds of thousands of children the love, guidance and protection of their fathers because of one father’s actions any more than we should stop sending children to school because of the actions of one rogue teacher.

    Then consider the “woman in Cairns who murdered 7 of her own and 1 other child relative” referred to by Jody above. Just one article in The Weekend Australian on that case contained:

    “good mum”
    “a known victim”.
    “got no help; what’s going on?”
    “good lady”
    “how was she to cope?”
    “where were Queensland family services?”
    “depressed mother had a history of abuse”
    “may never stand trial”.

    I shudder to think what a “bad mum” or a “bad lady” would be capable of. Can you imagine anything remotely similar being written about a man who killed 8 children?

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