So, a trigger warning, this post is going to talk about domestic violence. In fact, the reason for this post is that I’ve been badly triggered by something in the news this last week, involving domestic violence at its most tragic, and I feel like I need to talk about it. It was an event so very horrifying I’m not even going to approach it directly. Instead, I’m going to tell you the tale of two Rosies.
Last year I wrote a brief review on Goodreads of a book called ‘The Rosie Result’ by Graeme Simsion. Let’s just say, I didn’t find it quite as delightful as others did, for personal reasons. Here’s an extract of my review:
“This book has got me in a bit of a funk… because everything works out for the characters in a way that doesn’t happen in real life. The way Don and Hudson use their social circle to help solve their problems makes me feel inadequate for being unable to do that.
Plus knowing that people are going to see the book as a comedy and I don’t think NTs are going to recognise – despite being quite blatantly told in the story – that the comedic aspects of Don are not really funny at all – to him. If anything they’re kind of traumatic, and this is what we have to deal with all the time.
And then he left Allanna with her abuser, which is the one thing that tallies with real life. To which I say f**k that 😦
I don’t want to diss the book or the author – who’s absolutely brilliant imho – just putting out there the way it made me feel.”
The part in bold is the part I’m concerned with in this post. In the story, you see, the protagonist becomes aware that Allanna (the mother of his son’s friend) is being violently abused by her partner. And what does he do about it? Nothing. That’s right, absolutely nothing.
OK yes, he does speak to the woman about it. She makes excuses for her abuser and expresses no desperation to leave the relationship, so… that’s all OK then.
Is it? Really?
The Real Rosie:
Rosie Batty has been an outstanding campaigner against domestic violence, ever since her son became another horrifying statistic. This incredibly brave woman has brought domestic violence to the forefront of public discourse in Australia.
Here is an edited quote from the book “See What You Made Me Do” by Jess Hill:
“For the first time in history we have summoned the courage to confront domestic abuse. This has been a radical shift, and in years to come, 2014 will likely stand as the year the Western world finally started taking men’s violence against women seriously. But nowhere did an entire population wake up to it like Australia did on February 12 that year.
On that day, Australians watched a solitary woman, raw with grief, look downwards and skywards and out across a clutch of reporters who’d barely hoped for a statement. An ordinary woman standing in a middle-class Australian street talking about the public murder of her eleven-year-old son at the hands of his father…
After surviving and leaving Greg’s violence, she had warned for years that he was dangerous, unpredictable, and a risk to her son. In courts and police stations her warnings had been minimized, dismissed, believed, acted on and then lost in the system, just like those of countless victims before her…
‘If anything comes out of this, I want it to be a lesson to everybody,’ said Rosie Batty on the street that day. ‘Family violence happens to everybody, no matter how nice your house is, how intelligent you are. It happens to everyone and anyone.’”
As you can tell from the tone of the book, we thought things were going to change, back then. Certainly they started to change.
In 2015, for example, Rosie Batty was awarded Australian of the Year, and in 2019 she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in recognition of her advocacy for the prevention of family violence. The government department in which I work established a new type of compassionate leave for victims of abuse, and a program of awareness was instigated, linked to the White Ribbon charity, whose purpose was to engage men to make women’s safety a man’s issue too.
Societal change is not easy, is it? It seems like the more the issue was raised, the more backlash it attracted. There was a famous comment from union leader John Setka in June 2019, that Rosie Batty’s campaign had “reduced men’s rights”. It took four months and the revelation of the man’s own verbally abusive behaviour to remove him from his leadership role. There was the recent folding of the White Ribbon charity. And now, six years later in February 2020, the unthinkable has happened again.
Out come all the same comments as though we’ve learned nothing. There’s the labelling of the perpetrator in the press as an ‘evil monster’, without recognition of the capacity for violence within us all. And at the other extreme, there’s the statement by the police that they need to keep an open mind and consider what could have pushed the perpetrator to this extreme – as though there could be any excuse for the murder of women and children? And everyone shakes their heads and wonders how this could possibly have happened.
You know what’s really tough? It’s that the only way to function in society is by trusting in the people around us and especially those in authority. We need to know that they understand the issues and have a plan to address them. To see our political leaders and police so clueless is painful.
It’s not like there aren’t studies. We know the character traits to watch out for: the deep insecurities which lead to possessive or controlling behavior; the manhood ideal that leads to denial of mental issues and the re-packaging of insecurity and fear into anger and rage; the lack of self-awareness or responsibility for their own behavior that sees blame for all woes placed firmly on the victim. We know that the perpetrator can seem perfectly normal, even charming.
If we stop to think about it, we might also recognize that those who abuse others are never going to accept behavioural correction from representatives of the ones they abuse. To be specific, in the case of men who abuse women, the only people with the power to correct the abusive men’s behavior are other men.
We are powerless to address domestic abuse until everyone in society takes a zero tolerance approach to the expression of abusive speech or behaviour. And we desperately need men to take the lead on this, and to accept that domestic violence is, predominantly, a men’s issue.
Not sure if I have any male readers, but I can imagine their hackles rising at this point. Please, guys, this isn’t about man-blaming or gender power-games, this is about needing your full engagement, for all our sakes. Over ninety percent of murder-suicides are committed by men – and only men truly have the power to intervene. Think about it.
Hopefully this link will work – I leave you with this TED talk from Jackson Katz, which says it far better than I ever could.