I’m sure we all read or heard about the column in the Daily Telegraph last weekend where Miranda Devine solved the problem of Domestic Violence by declaring it to be caused by poverty and not at all related to gender.
The Government’s $100 million Domestic Violence Package.
In an extraordinary attack on the government’s proposed $100 million spend on strategies to combat domestic violence, columnist Miranda Devine has really outdone herself. Devine witheringly observes that the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has joined some sort of feminist cult and that his commands to the nation to respect women won’t go far. Turnbull declared himself a feminist back in the late 1980’s so that is hardly news and I agree with her on this part- commanding others to respect women won’t solve the problem of domestic violence in any communities- be they the remote indigenous communities or public housing that Devine specifically refers to, or any other. As far as the proposed strategies go, it remains to be seen whether or not any of them will have an impact but I, for one, am pleased to see that some action is being taken- it has to start somewhere.
Devine ignores some risk factors to focus on others.
Devine states that it is primarily poverty to blame for domestic violence and then lists mental illness and substance abuse as associated causes. She reiterates dependency on welfare again because, she says, it’s primarily about money; specifically, domestic violence is a “welfare trap”. While things like poverty and substance abuse are certainly factors worthy of discussion around the topic of domestic violence, it’s simply not as cut and dried as that. She also neglects to mention other risk factors, like pregnancy, disability and diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. I can only assume that this is because they don’t fit into her theory. It’s a bit like some of the anti-vaccine crowd who are convinced that the MMR shot causes autism, but when confronted with the fact that unvaccinated people can be autistic too, they shove their fingers in their ears and refuse to listen or acknowledge the facts. Cognitive dissonance is a powerful thing- if poverty was the ultimate cause, as she decisively states, it wouldn’t exist in families that better off. There are, unfortunately, well-off families where substance abuse and mental illness aren’t contributing factors that still experience family violence.
We Must Think of the Men!
Devine claims that the measures proposed by the government, including security measures and alarm buttons for victims, funding for certain legal services, specialised training for front-line workers and more, will “disempower vulnerable men”. Let that sink in for a moment: women and children are being killed and suffering debilitating injuries in increasing numbers but we should be concerned more about men who might be feeling disempowered? In the case of men who are violent and abusive, I should bloody well hope that their power to perpetrate domestic violence is removed. That’s the point! If a man is not violent or abusive, these measures will not affect him. Devine says that government action towards addressing domestic violence has an “underlying narrative about disrespecting men” and that it “demonises men”; it’s actually a sexist attack on men, who thankfully have her to speak up for them.
Women are dying from domestic violence- 2 every single week. 3 women are hospitalised each week with traumatic brain injuries due to domestic violence. Many more are believed to be suffering such injuries and not seeking treatment. But taking action on this means that men will feel “disrespected”.
Honestly, any man who isn’t utterly appalled at the impact domestic violence is having on our society, or who believes that speaking out about it is disrespectful toward him, is part of the problem.
Respect for women?
In another low blow, Devine touches on the story of Rosie Batty, asking why Batty is advocating a stance of domestic violence being a gender issue. She asks how a mentally ill, drug-taking man murdering his son relates to “respecting women”. I don’t know whether it is callousness or ignorance that led to this statement. Perhaps she doesn’t know about the abuse the Rosie also survived? Disrespect is, in my opinion, too small a word to encompass what Rosie Batty has had inflicted on her at the hands of her former partner.
Devine’s column also criticises the government for quoting from a survey that was commissioned by Our Watch, which is a domestic violence lobbying group. Devine seems to take issue with the group being taxpayer funded and chaired by Natasha Stott Despoja, whom she describes as a feminist (as if it’s a filthy word) and says she was “curiously appointed by Abbott as Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls”. (As an aside, what is so curious about appointing a feminist to such a position? It’s one of the few things Abbott did that made any sense to me!) The survey in question had 3000 participants “plus some focus groups”. 49 focus groups, actually. You can read the full report from the survey and focus groups and all their findings here. Devine, funnily , claims that the results of this survey as quoted by The Minister for Women, Michaelia Cash and PM Malcolm Turbull as “gross generalisations with no evidence”. Pot, meet kettle.
Unsuitable women, feckless men.
In a line that fired up survivors and supporters around the country, Devine stated that “unsuitable women” should stop having children to “feckless men” to break the cycle of domestic violence. Feckless literally means lacking initiative or being irresponsible- it does not mean violent. So one can only interpret this to mean that the women in these relationships are the problem- the unsuitable ones. Perhaps if they were more suitable, their feckless partners would not abuse them? No one deserves to be abused. Not physically, emotionally, financially or in any other way. No one is abused for being unsuitable- they are abused because someone else decides that it’s okay to harm them.
— Kon Karapanagiotidis (@Kon__K) September 27, 2015
Domestic Violence rates lower on Sydney’s North Shore?
Devine’s column uses Ku-rin-gai as an example of a more affluent suburb that has a low rate of domestic violence. However, there is a very important word missing from that sentence- reported. It has a low rate of reported domestic violence. Domestic violence is known to be an under-reported crime. We all know that. It’s even more telling when you look at the figure Devine quotes- 66.1 crimes per 100,000. Compare this to the fact that the Daily Telegraph itself ran a story just a few months ago, in April, about how Sydney’s North Shore has the lowest rates of reported domestic violence- yet the only women’s shelter in the region is so busy it is turning women away. In her quest to pin domestic violence on poverty alone, she has missed something pretty important- that having money or living in a “nice” area does not guarantee women a life free from violence at the hands of those closest to them. Miranda Devine is very into the stats when it comes to reported rates of domestic violence in certain towns but ignores the glaringly obvious one- that victims are overwhelmingly female and perpetrators are overwhelmingly male. Why is that not just ignored but actively discarded in favour of income or suburb?
This column has received the widespread criticism that it deserved. Devine hit back, with yet another column criticising feminism (“femi-fascists”?) and reiterating her same tired views, claiming that “the sisterhood” is outraged at her truth-bombs and that activists are “cherry-picking” facts. Ironic, no? She claims attempts have been made to silence her or have her sacked and that she has received torrents of abuse and rebuttals online. I don’t doubt that she has, actually. Her column touched on a lot of raw nerves for a lot of people. I don’t want her fired or silenced, but I do want her educated. Hell, I’d settle for fact-checked. Is there really any value-add to the community at large from pieces like these two? Articles that savage actions to help people, ignore facts and pin blame on victims? Her Daily Telegraph profile lists her as a hard-hitting journalist. Hard-hitting is right- coming down on activists, advocacy groups and survivors is hard indeed. But surely journalism requires more accuracy and less bias?
N.B. Links to Miranda Devine’s columns have been added using www.donotlink.com which means these links will not strengthen the pages’ position in search engines- it’s basically a link without any ‘Google Juice’.
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