I am writing to you with the hope that you will reflect upon the statements you have made since becoming the Australian of the Year and in doing so reconsider your approach to the issue of Family Violence.
You have endured the unimaginable — every parent’s worst nightmare and for that you have my deepest empathy and heartfelt compassion.
However, the suffering and grief you experienced and no doubt continue to experience should never be used as a shield to ward off criticism or questions about the position you have chosen to support. Once anyone chooses to be a public figure and uses their status to promote ideas I find highly dangerous and offensive and which have a direct impact upon the lives of many people then their personal experiences cannot be used to hinder/block or intimidate people from raising legitimate concerns.
You have made some remarkable statements in recent weeks. Some of these statements are even more astounding given they completely contradict things you said immediately after the murder of your son. In the days after your son’s death, you said:
“What triggered this was a case of his dad having mental health issues…”
“He was in a homelessness situation for many years, his life was failing, everything was becoming worse in his life and Luke was the only bright light in his life.”
“No one loved Luke more than his father. No one loved Luke more than me — we both loved him.”
“And the very tragic thing about this is the father’s life was tragic and based on … challenges in his life that we couldn’t help him with and nor could anyone else.
In a recent interview before your address to a cross parliamentary group of MP’s in Canberra you said:
“…things like drugs, alcohol and mental illness could exacerbate violence but they are not an excuse and they are not the reason…”
I would like you to explain the incredible change in your attitude toward mental illness as a contributing factor to the problem of Family Violence in such a short period of time. Could it be due to the fact that you are being coached to say these rather glib, very familiar lines by advisers who have taken you under their wing so to speak?
Given that you now believe that mental illness is no excuse for violence can you please let me know when you will begin your campaign to end the use of post natal depression as a defence (and a remarkably successful one) by women who murder their babies or stress and depression when they kill their children?
Will you also be pushing to have all cases of violent assault and murder which resulted in no jail time for the perpetrators based upon their mental state, immediately overturned and have these people thrown in prison where they belong?
You have begun to use the term gendered violence more frequently in recent interviews and speeches. Recently I read an article in which you said:
“When you are experiencing gendered violence, people often tell you what to do — but the strongest predictor of a woman’s safety is the woman herself.”
I would like you to explain why you call Family Violence a gendered issue? In your position as an authority on the subject, you must be fully aware of the statistics on Family Violence which tells us that around one-third of all victims are male. This is a very large minority.
The evidence in Australia is strong that around one-third of the victims of family violence are male. For instance, during 2010–11 and 2011–12, there were 121 females (62%) and 75 males (38%) killed in domestic homicides according to the latest figures just released by the Australian Institute of Criminology.
Moreover, according to the same AIC source and contrary to what was implied in the Q&A program, the number and percentage of domestic homicides shows a moderate declining trend over the last 10 years. The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Personal Safety Survey 2012 also showed that 33.3%, exactly one in three, of the victims of violence by a current partner within the previous 12 months were male.
How is it possible for a person like you to remain silent about the suffering of one-third of the victims of this societal scourge? I watched you on the ABC program Q&A recently as you listened to a courageous man relate his personal experience of violence at the hands of his female partner. Not only did this poor man have to endure the vicious comments from the women about him calling him a liar but the panel of experts who sat beside you treated this man with the most humiliating contempt whilst you sat there, mute. You did not offer him one word of comfort or consolation. Why is your empathy so gender specific?
Rosie, your co-panelist, Natasha Stott Despoja rammed home the message that Family Violence is gendered violence only seconds after this man spoke of his suffering at the hands of a woman. How can anyone who isn’t driven by ideological hatred speak such transparent lies?
Why have you and Natasha never once referred to the brutal slaying of eight children by a woman in Cairns last year? Why have you not spoken out about the two children murdered by their grandmother in Northern Queensland? Why do you never refer to the fact that neglect of children is overwhelmingly carried out by mothers? I’ve heard people say that these statistics are misleading because it is almost always women who care for the children at home. This is an outrageous argument. Given that people like you never even insinuate that women are capable of harming children why should any child be unsafe in their company?
Neglect was the most commonly reported form of maltreatment in children in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, and the Northern Territory. Evidence also suggests that mothers are more likely than fathers to be held responsible for child neglect. In a large representative study that examined the characteristics of perpetrators in substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect in the United States, neglect was the main type of abuse in 66% of cases involving a female caregiver, compared to 36% of cases involving a male caregiver (US DHHS, 2005)
A literature review by the former NSW Department of Community Services (2005) showed that there was a strong correlation between chronic neglect presentations and parental drug and alcohol use, poverty, domestic violence, mental health problems, and young single mothers. In these cases, the presenting problem for the parent distracts them from providing the necessary care for their child and frequently dominates the case planning and intervention strategies provided by child protection workers (NSW Department of Community Services, 2005).
It seems the Department of Community Services believes mental health problems poverty and drug or alcohol addictions are often the main contributing factor in cases of abuse and neglect.
Will you be writing to the Department and letting them know how disgusted you are that they should let these abusive women off the hook by suggesting there is clear evidence that drug and alcohol abuse or mental illness are predictors of abusive behaviour?
When it comes to the murder and physical abuse of children women carry out a substantial proportion of these murders.
Between July 1997 and June 2008, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology’s National Homicide Monitoring Program, 291 children, in 239 incidents, were victims of filicide. The research showed women were almost as likely as men to commit filicide, with fathers responsible for the deaths of 140 children and women 127 children, over that 11-year period. The remainder were killed by both parents.
127 children were murdered by women (mums) during this eleven year period and 140 by men — more boyfriends and step dads than biological fathers. Yet every campaign on Family Violence repeatedly and deliberately uses the line (mantra) “We must protect our women and children.”
127 children killed by women and yet there is not one reference to women as perpetrators in any government-funded Family Violence campaign. How is it possible that people like you who claim to be a voice for those who are victims of family violence never mention the many children and men who are victims of violent, abusive women? It seems to suggest that your motivations are more ideologically driven than compassionate.
It seems many people in the Family Violence Business believe combining these two very distinct groups (women and children) somehow blinds us to the truth and reinforces the already prevalent (and false) belief that women can only ever be victims of violence in the home, just like their innocent children. Of course this is a fanciful lie.
These statistics are from a handful of years ago. I don’t know the exact figures for child murder over the past five years in Australia. As already mentioned, the most horrific child murders in our history took place last year and the perpetrator was a woman, a mother.
Here are some examples of children murdered by women from the last few months of 2014. Aside from the Cairns massacre:
Two children murdered by their grandmother in Caboolture, North of Brisbane. She attempted to burn alive another two grandchildren.
Newborn baby dumped in a Sydney drain by its mother and left to die. Since this incident the mother has been given permission to name her son.
A mother murdered one of her daughters and permanently maimed the other so badly she will require 24 hour care for the rest of her life. The daughter, according to newspaper reports was ”horrifically injured.” The mother has remained anonymous and had recently been granted access with the backing of the Department of Human Services to the daughter she brutally maimed.
Can you explain to me how your assertion that Family Violence is a gendered (male) issue sits in the light of these disturbing facts? Do you think Stott Despoja’s aggressive, almost angry reiteration of your view on Q and A would bring comfort to the fathers of these dead children?
You claim “gender inequality and men’s sense of entitlement-that a woman is their possession” is a major contributor to Family Violence. What then, Rosie, is the explanation for the women who kill their children with knives, stuff them down drains, burn them alive, strangle, drown or bludgeon their children to death?
Surely you wouldn’t dare to suggest there were mitigating circumstances to explain this horrendous behaviour? I see the issue of mental illness has already been raised with regard to the murderous mother from Cairns. Do you condemn this outrageous excuse making? Surely the same standard should be applied to any case of Family Violence regardless of the perpetrator’s gender?
Again, Tony Abbott, our Prime Minister and the man who presented you with your Australian of the Year award said, in response to the butchering of eight children by a mother:
“We know that sometimes people break. We also know there are difficult circumstances people deal with. This is a social issue as well as a law enforcement issue, but I’ll be there in solidarity with them.”
This sounds dangerously like excuse making, Rosie. It seems our PM is suggesting outside forces were at play. We all know however that Abbott would never utter such words if a father had just sliced up eight of his children. You and the whole industry that supports you would have launched a torrent of white hot abuse in Abbott’s direction condemning his suggestion that the problem was anything other than the masculinity of the perpetrator and his sense of “male entitlement.”
How would you have responded if Tony has said in relation to the loss of your son: “Rosie, sometimes people break — we know there are difficult circumstances people deal with.”
I believe you would have thrown your award back in his face.
But women’s violence and abuse is not confined to attacks on children.
There are many horrific accounts of men being murdered in unimaginable ways by their wives and female partners. Perhaps you are not familiar with the story of Katherine Knight who stabbed and beat many of her male partners before finally killing John Price by stabbing him over 30 times and then expertly skinning him and cooking his head in a pot. A woman in South Australia burned her husband alive when she suspected him of having an affair. Women have hacked off their sleeping husbands’ penises, shot them, stabbed them, beaten them or arranged for someone else to kill them.
A member of my family, Walter Hughes, was kicked to death by a drug addicted woman as he made his way home from the local shops. You may have read about it in one of these stories:
His story is not unique. Others like it are not hard to find. Some random examples:
Please explain to me how these facts sit comfortably with your assertion that Family Violence is a male problem for which all men must be held accountable?
You have spoken out about the fact that you believe a great deal of victim blaming goes on when tragic incidents like the one involving your son take place. In fact just this week you demanded that we stop blaming the victims of domestic violence and the focus should be on “perpetrator accountability.” When are women who kill or abuse held accountable?
I find it incredibly ironic to hear you claim that any woman who chooses to live with or marry a man and then have him father their children is in no way responsible for what flows from that union, yet in the very next breath you hold all men accountable:
Ms Batty called on the Government to dedicate long-term secure funding to fighting family violence and urged the community to “speak up” against sexist attitudes.
“Do not ignore what you see and what you know is wrong,”
“To men, we need you to challenge each other and become part of the solution.”
Men can only be part of the solution if you believe they are part of the problem. Could you seriously look me in the eye and tell me I bear more responsibility for the death of your son than you do? That sounds like a shocking question yet you have no hesitation in applying the broad brush of collective guilt over all men.
I find that highly shocking and offensive.
Aside from the fact that suggestions like “challenging each other” or “having a chat with your mates” is simply meaningless drivel that leaves feminist feeling warm and fuzzy and men feeling “guilty” for crimes of violence simply because they happen to share the gender of the perpetrator, it achieves absolutely nothing.
If you truly believed Family Violence will drastically decrease if men tell their mates not to beat up their wives and girlfriends then it is no surprise that the problem has not been eradicated after forty years of male demonization.
Perhaps we should encourage men to also have a chat with their mates and work colleagues suggesting they should not rob banks, steal cars, drive too fast, swear at the footy, vandalise property, take illegal drugs or drink to excess. We would be living in a veritable utopia in no time! I can’t believe this is the type of advice coming from the mouths of “experts” who sit on advisory councils to direct on the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.
Why have you not asked the women of Australia to have a chat about the apparent propensity of some mothers to murder and abuse their children? What sense of entitlement drives them to commit such violent abuse? Yes, a good chat with the girlfriends over a cuppa or chardy should quickly address that problem. It really is an asinine idea isn’t it, Rosie?
You may well help some women with your role as Australian of the Year and bringing attention to areas you believe will make women safer from violent abuse and that is a good thing. However, you are doing untold damage by helping to promote the evil notion that only one gender is capable of harming their children or partners.
Men who are suffering abuse will already struggle to speak out — anyone who witnessed that brave man on Q and A will realise that there is no empathy and no help available to them. If a man cannot receive a fair hearing and compassion on a program focusing on the problem of Family Violence, then why would he try to tell his mates or the local police? So you are a part of the industry which deliberately silences and ignores male victims. I wonder how many of the men who suicide do so because they are trapped in an abusive relationship?
I will leave you with an analogy which I think perfectly illustrates the sickening bigotry of your current approach to Family Violence.
Imagine you are the parent of a daughter who took her own life. You are in deep shock and grief and desperately searching for some support, comfort and validation. You call suicide help lines and suicide support groups but you are informed that there are no support groups or help lines for female victims of suicide because they only constitute a minority of those who take their own life. Others simply laugh at the idea a female could take her own life or refuse to believe you.
In fact of the approximately 2,500 suicides carried out each year, a little over 1900 of them are carried out by males. There is a bigger gulf between male and female suicides than exists between male and female victims of Family Violence yet no one has ever referred to suicide as a “gendered” problem.
You give up in despair but one night you see the promotion for a television program which will have a panel of experts discussing the societal scourge of suicide. You attend the program as an audience member. You listen to the first 55 minutes of the discussion and you are told repeatedly that suicide is a gendered issue. Men and boys are the sole focus of the conversation. This is clearly just as it should be when you understand that men are over three times as likely as women to take their own lives. We acknowledge that there can be the occasional female death by suicide but we cannot let this in any way undermine or detract from the real focus of our concern–males.
With heart pounding and a sense of trepidation you meekly raise your hand and in a choking voice try to explain the incredible pain you and your family has endured after the loss of your beautiful daughter. You ask why there is no assistance offered to families who have lost a daughter. The panelists nod before aggressively asserting once again that suicide is a gendered issue and we cannot shift from this understanding or be derailed from our focus on boys and men. Rapturous applause and head nodding ensue.
End of discussion.
Many people have labelled you “courageous” for taking the stance you have on Family Violence and for becoming a public figure. You may well be a courageous person but I see nothing brave about preaching a message already supported and applauded by a gullible, deluded public and a deceitful, manipulative government and media. It is people like the man who spoke up about the lack of compassion and recognition for male victims of Family Violence who demonstrate true courage for they are swimming against a tidal wave of hate-filled, bigoted ideology fuelled by the likes of you.