When it comes to tackling domestic violence, who should the Government be trying to educate? This was the contentious question that arose during Monday night’s episode of Q&A, titled Alcohol, Violence, Sugar and Shakespeare.
In Australia, police attend about 650 family violence matters each day – that’s one case every two minutes. Of the cases reported, the vast majority of perpetrators are men, and their victims are women and children.
After 13 months and 25 days of hearings, the Royal Commission into family violence in Victoria has produced a 1900-page report, making 227 recommendations to the state government. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has said that it is time to “overhaul” the “broken support system from the bottom up”.
Andrews said this would require the formulation of strong policies that will enable the Government to “punish the perpetrators of this violence…listen to the people who survive it and…change the culture that created it.”
However, a question on Q&A from audience member, Margaret McArthur, about whether it is women themselves who need educating, proved divisive among the panellists.
Ms McArthur asked: “With all the opportunities that are afforded young women of today, why are they still making poor relationship choices and having children in abusive relationships? Should women be held more accountable for their choices? And should we be targeting anti-domestic violence campaigns more towards women than men?”
Theodore Dalrymple, the scholar-in-residence at the Centre for Independent Studies was quick to jump in and name “sexual jealousy” as the “main driver” of domestic violence.
Dalrymple, who has, in his professional capacity as a psychiatrist, studied hundreds of domestic violence cases, claimed that sexual violence can be attributed to “the complete breakdown of any kind of accepted arrangements between men and women” and situations where “men derive[d] almost all their self-respect and self-importance from the exclusive sexual possession of a woman, while themselves, being very unfaithful.”
Feminist and author Germaine Greer was “stunned” by Dalrymple’s comments, and went on to say that a socially-embedded hatred of women and a man’s “self-loathing for his own sexuality and sexual desires” was the true root cause of gender violence.
“I probably would have thought that actually what drives it is misogyny, is actual dislike of women and not understanding them,” said Greer.
The Royal Commission into domestic violence has listed gender inequality as the major reason why domestic violence occurs. To Greer, this seemed like “a category mistake”, because “you’re putting the phenomenon as the cause of the phenomenon.”
“It’s not gender inequality that makes a man belt a woman. It’s actually evidence itself of gender inequality,” she said.
Read more at abc.net.au
Watch the full episode of Q&A.
I tend to agree with Germaine’s analysis that misogyny and a lack of respect for women is what fuels domestic violence. However, putting this aside and to whom anti-domestic violence campaigns should be targeted, I’d like to discuss another related issue.
To suggest that a person is ever responsible for the violence inflicted on them by another not only takes the focus away from the perpetrator, it suggests that the victim ‘had it coming’. But why on earth do we think like this?
MP Sharman Stone, who was also a panellist on the Q&A program, discussed the case of a woman whose husband had murdered their two children and shot her, resulting in her losing a leg.
“One of the most commonly asked questions of her from others was: ‘What did you do to him to have stimulated such terrible violence?’ She said she was so shocked she was asked this so often and finally she worked it out: ‘I was just breathing.’”
As humans, we see ourselves as rational beings in a world where actions have predictable consequences and where adults have some control over what happens to them. I believe victim-blaming occurs because we’re used to seeing focus placed on the victim rather than the perpetrator. For example, a news report tells us that a woman was accosted on her way home. Our first thoughts are almost always with the victim: What was she wearing? What time was it? Was she alone?
Victim-blaming leads to the fault being unfairly placed on the individual, who has often simply failed to evade the conflict. It leads to a shift in focus away from the perpetrator, who may avoid culpability because he or she was ‘driven to do it’. Worst of all, victim-blaming leads to a culture of understanding on the part of the perpetrator and an alienation of the victim (who we begin to view as someone whose decisions led them to being victimised rather than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So, at whom should anti-domestic violence campaigning be targeted? Perhaps both men and women in different ways, but certainly at those most likely to perpetrate domestic violence.
What do you think? Have you been following the news surrounding the Royal Commission into Family Violence? What did you think of the comments made about the causes of domestic violence on Q&A? Would you agree with Germaine Greer or Theodore Dalrymple?