Tag Archives: domestic violence

Don’t blame the victim for society’s failures

2 Apr

New legislation introduced in Victoria makes not reporting child sexual abuse a criminal offence, however, some victim support groups fear women in a domestic violence situation whose children are being sexually abused by the violent partner may be charged and imprisoned if they do not report that abuse.

At first blush the legislation appears to apply primarily to organisations, however support groups are concerned criminal charges could be laid against individuals within the family who have knowledge of the abuse and do not report it.

News Limited journalist Joe Hildebrande today added his opinion to the discussion: “Frankly to say that you’re going to not report a case of child abuse or child sex abuse by your partner because you are scared for your own safety, I’m sorry it’s not an excuse,” he said.

In my own family, my mother took no steps to protect me from sexual abuse by her husband for over five years. She was also violently abused, and the situation was at times so dire we both feared for our lives. I’m fairly certain that my mother’s fear was not just that she would be harmed if she reported her husband to the police, but that he would seriously damage or kill our whole family.

For many years I was unable to understand why my mother did nothing to protect me, and after having my own children, I found it even more difficult to understand. I also understand the state of mind of a woman who is subjected to ongoing physical, psychological, emotional and sexual abuse by her partner, and that one of the consequences of this is an inability to take any positive action at all. Obviously, this state of mind is not easily understood by people who have never experienced it, hence the all too familiar question, why doesn’t she just leave?

Much as I still struggle with having been unprotected by my mother, I can image little worse than her being charged and imprisoned for that failure.  Neither do I regard her fear for her safety, and mine, as an “excuse” for her lack of action.

I am very, very weary of the moral judgements made against women who live with violent partners. The main reason women do not just leave such situations is that there is nowhere safe for them to go, and apprehended violence orders are not worth the paper they are written on. Unless society is willing to provide many, many more safe houses for women and children, and far more support in terms of rehousing, finance and protection, women and children will not “just leave” and cannot “just leave.”

What there is no excuse for is domestic violence and the sexual abuse of children by perpetrators. Victims cannot prevent these crimes. Society can have a far more powerful impact, if there is the political will. Minister for Women, Tony Abbott, has so far had nothing to say on the topic of domestic violence, which is to my mind the most pressingly urgent matter in women’s and children’s affairs.  Some leading feminists are, unfortunately, focused largely on the lack of female CEOs and each to their own, however, when we consider that after some four decades of feminism the domestic violence statistics have not improved one iota, I have to wonder exactly what are women in positions of power and influence actually doing about this?

What I do know is that to blame and punish women such as my mother for not protecting children such as myself is to my mind an admission of defeat, and a victory for every perpetrator. A woman who is already suffering horribly, who is aware that her child or children are suffering horribly and is too afraid for their safety or lives to speak out, is not the problem here. The perpetrator is the problem here, and the society that by its despicable lack of adequate action allows these horrors to continue.

 

Privilege and imagination

17 May

Yesterday the word “privilege” was used a great deal in social media, mostly with regard to this post by Mia Freedman, in which she defends Delta Goodrem against charges of racism following an incident involving a white man dressing up as Seal by painting himself black.

I used the word myself in my last blog, though it isn’t one of my favourites. It has a good deal of currency at the moment, with people requesting other people to first consider their privilege before expressing opinions, making judgements, behaving in certain ways, prescribing and proscribing. It’s not a bad idea, but many of those amongst us who are most privileged find it tedious, silly, and that crowning insult, it’s political correctness, usually “gone mad.”

So if I were to say, as did Mia Freedman, that using blackface in this instance is not racist, not intended to be racist, and people who are offended need to get a sense of humour, I’d do well to consider the privileged position from which I am speaking before I open my mouth. As a middle class white woman who has never experienced racism, I am the least equipped to judge whether or not blackface is a racial insult. If I then tell brown people to get a sense of humour about it, I’m skating on very thin ice indeed.

It seems to me that the easiest way to avoid offence is to first exercise the imagination.  How would I feel…

If, as Clementine Ford acknowledged in her article on violence and sexual violence against women, the situation one is about to discuss is beyond one’s imagining, then one might do well to refrain from expressing opinions about it. I haven’t yet understood how it is possible to hold an informed opinion about something one cannot begin to imagine, or refuses to imagine, beyond the initial opinion that one finds it unimaginable.

Of course it’s possible to observe how awful a situation is, but that is not particularly insightful or helpful. With imagination the complexities and nuances become evident, and in situations as complex as racism, and domestic violence, the devil is in the detail.

For example, as I’ve noted many times, the simplistic gendering of domestic violence by some feminists and governments has done nothing to prevent any of it, and obfuscates the complexities of intimate relationships that turn very bad. I don’t know how it’s in the least helpful to frame this violence and our attempts at management in terms of gender, and until someone writes policy with a bit more imagination and a lot less ideology, nothing is going to improve.

I think that our primary responsibility to others is to use our imaginations about their circumstances. If we (and I mean anyone) are unwilling or unable to do this, the problem is ours, not theirs.

“Examining your privilege” might be better thought of as “using your imagination.” This latter opens up the possibility of stepping into the other’s shoes for a while, and seeing how it feels.  This is probably one of the most powerful expressions of respect one human being can offer to another. It acknowledges our common humanity, and the vulnerability we all share in our embodiment. It is impossible to perform this respectful act without engaging the imagination.

When individuals and groups fail to use their imagination about the circumstances of those who are in some way different from themselves, bad things start to happen, such as excising the entire country from the Migration Act and incarcerating others for indefinite periods in far from acceptable circumstances. If we (and by we I mean everybody) don’t imagine others as human beings with whom we have much in common, and perhaps add, there but for the grace of the gods we might be, then we can’t feel as badly as we should about how we treat them.

If we don’t use our imaginations about another’s suffering, we end up feeling little more than pity, although we might call it compassion and empathy. Without imagination, it is only pity. Pity allows us to distance ourselves from the other, while compassion and empathy demand we walk with her or him, figuratively speaking.

The most compassionate people I’ve known have not suffered in ways I have, yet have never made me feel different, less than them, or pitied. I doubt any one of them ever “examined their privilege.” They are all, however, possessed of powerful imaginations. They have no difficulty putting themselves in another’s place. They may not understand some things, but they accept and respect another’s right to her or his subjective experience. They don’t “take your voice and leave you howling at the moon.”

Imagination. That is all.

Domestic violence: it’s everybody’s problem

31 Jul

Programmes such as last night’s ABC Four Corners may be difficult for many people to watch, even if they haven’t experienced domestic violence. The account of the murders of Andrea Pickett and Saori Jones by their husbands reveals the attitudes of some police to women in mortal danger from their partners. Briefly, neither woman received the protection she begged for and deserved, as a human being in danger of losing her life. Neither woman should have died. Both deaths were preventable, if the authorities had cared enough to attempt prevention.

While both murders occurred in Western Australia, there is no reason to assume this attitude is peculiar to that state.

As a survivor of a violent home, I find programmes on the topic almost impossible to watch. Sometimes I can’t. But as a survivor I know the importance of bearing witness, particularly in the matter of domestic violence, that private violence, the violence that erupts behind closed doors, that violence everybody tries to hide.

There were some very brave people who tried to help Andrea and Saori. Andrea’s family took her and her children into their home, even though it made them targets for her husband’s uncontrollable rage.

A brave and generous couple helped Saori, because the Japanese woman had no family in Australia to whom she could turn. They also put themselves at risk from the possibility of retaliation by her murderous husband.

Andrea had thirteen children. Saori had two, one of whom was ten months old and still breast-feeding when his father killed his mother. In an unbearably ghastly act, the murderer told police he’d put the hungry infant to his dead mother’s breast to feed.

This man is now taking parenting classes in prison so he can claim his children when he’s released, after serving an inexplicably short sentence because the WA DPP decided he would be charged with a lesser offence than that of murder or manslaughter.

He owes this stroke of good fortune to the fact that his wife’s body was so decomposed after he’d kept it in a spare room in the house in which he continued to live with the children, that cause of death was difficult to determine. Even so, another charge could have been brought against him that would have earned him a sentence closer to twenty years.

These are the extreme outcomes of domestic violence, the ones we hear about.

In the four decades since feminists began political action that resulted in funded women’s refuges, there has been no decrease in domestic violence. We have learned how to better take care of the victims and survivors. But we have not learned how to prevent it in the first place. Anymore than we have learned how to prevent child sexual abuse.

Yesterday as I drove into town, I saw a young man and woman in a fight by the side of the road. Traffic was slow. I saw the man spit into her face, then hit her. I saw her run away. That’s all I saw. They were perhaps sixteen, seventeen.

What we need is far more research into violence in intimate relationships, and we need it urgently. What we need is a police force and a judiciary who take domestic violence as seriously as they do an assault by a stranger on the street. What we need are people who will bear witness, to our own experiences and to that of others, especially those who are not alive to tell their stories.

Whatever plans we currently have in place have spectacularly failed, and will continue to fail. How long will it take governments to accept this, and how many more victims of domestic violence have to die, and how many more survivors, including the witnessing children, will have their lives and their potential damaged, sometimes irrevocably?

This is everybody’s problem.

Vale, Andrea and Saori

Gillard government guidelines say women don’t commit domestic violence: in On Line Opinion today.

5 Jul

In On Line Opinion this morning, I press on with my solitary mission to bring some reality into the Gillard government’s National Plan to reduce Violence against women and their children.

It’s a dark and lonely job but someone has to do it.

Every time I take this on, especially on the Drum, I’m called anti feminist (that’s an insult these days?) an apologist for rapists, a”man fondler” who is determined to attack feminism any way I can; of having a prick in my head and various other slings and arrows shot at me by women who call themselves feminists.

Yet I remain strangely unaffected.

Is domestic violence a gender hate crime, and why does it matter?

1 Jul

Domestic violence, intimate partner violence, (IPV) and family violence are defined in Australian federal and state government policy released in 2011 as gender crimes, committed overwhelmingly by men against women and their children.

A gender crime is a category of hate crime.

A hate crime (also known as bias-motivated crimes) occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a particular social group, usually defined by race, religion, class, ethnicity, nationality, disability, age, gender, gender identity, social status or political affiliation. In hate crimes people are attacked because of who they are.

Government policies designed to reduce the incidence of DV and IPV are founded on the feminist analysis of these crimes as gender hate crimes that occur in the overarching context of a patriarchal hegemony constructed of unequal power relations between men and women, and adherence to rigid gender stereotypes that position women and children as the property of men.

The latest 12-year National Plan to Reduce Violence against women and their children, released earlier this year by the Gillard government, does not address female DV, IPV and family violence against women and children. It is based on an ideological perspective that either does not allow that women are violent in families, or claims that if they are, their violence is considerably less than that of men, occurs in the patriarchal context and as a consequence of patriarchal values, and therefore is not as serious or as frequent as DV, IPV and family violence inflicted by men on women and children.

The Plan states that: “the majority of people who experience this kind of violence [DV, IPV and family] are women — in a home, at the hands of men they know.”

The Plan also states that interventions to prevent DV, IPV and family violence “must be undertaken in the context of unequal gendered distribution of power and resources,” and that two of its goals are “controlling macho, aggressive and ultimately violent behaviour,” and “holding men accountable for their behaviours.”

The Plan’s bias is indisputable.

 What the research says

A cursory search of the literature will reveal a plethora of recent international research that challenges the feminist paradigm of DV, IPV and family violence. An Australian example is this 2009 paper by UWS lecturer Michael Woods titled “Domestic Violence in Australia.” Critiquing government “desktop” research on which DV prevention policies are based, Woods notes:

The basic framework propagated by these papers that will direct legislation, policies and services for years to come is a gender paradigm. Yet gender as a central construct in any explanatory framework of DV has been demonstrated comprehensively as inadequate – it does not accord with the evidence from major international and local studies.

Woods concludes:

 Internationally there is a growing recognition that a gendered conceptualisation of DV has passed its use-by date, and that such explanations do not account for the reality of DV research findings. Interventions based on a gendered approach are ineffective.

This last sentence is inarguable. The gender paradigm we have used to understand and address DV for the last forty years has not resulted in any significant decrease in the crime.

This 2007 Canadian study on Perceptions of Motives in IPV (Hamel, Desmarais and Nicholls) concludes: “Results of this study provide empirical support for the existence of a gender bias within the field of domestic violence to minimize intimate partner violence perpetrated by women.”

This US study (Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Volume 2 Issue 3, July 2010) on what researchers termed “Intimate terrorism” by women towards men concluded:

The results of this study indicate that the adherence to the theory that patriarchy is the foundation of IT in Western, developed nations deserves reconsideration. Because IT can be perpetrated by both men and women, against both men and women, it is imperative that researchers, practitioners, and decision/policy-makers reconsider their conception of the causes of both IT and CCV so that all potential victims are addressed and provided with services.

 A 2005 study conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia titled “The gender paradigm in domestic violence research and theory: Part 1—The conflict of theory and data” concludes, among other observations that:  

 One detects a tendency to dismiss male victimization in reports where the female victimization rate is higher. It raises the question as to why this comparison is so often made. If group B is victimized less than Group A, it is nevertheless being victimized and the social mandate should be to reduce victimization of all citizens, not just certain groups. We would not accept this argument for any other pair of groups. Although women may be injured at a higher rate, men are injured as well. The inevitable conclusion is that feminist theory on intimate violence is flawed. It cannot accept the reality of female violence. While male violence is viewed as never justified, female violence is viewed as always justified. The data do not support this double standard.

 Same sex domestic violence and intimate partner violence

The 12-year National Plan is heterosexist in its focus. Based on a gender paradigm in which women are victims and men are perpetrators, it effectually renders same sex DV and IPV invisible. This is because if the Plan were to acknowledge the seriousness and prevalence of same sex violence, its definition of DV as a gender-hate crime perpetrated by men against women would be discredited.

Again, a cursory search of the literature will reveal some significant material on lesbian DV and IPV, though the area is still under-researched.

The following link is to a paper delivered at the Australian and New Zealand Critical Criminology Conference 2010 by researcher Justine Hotten, on the lack of services and research in Australia for lesbians who experience and perpetrate DV and IPV. The author concludes that Australian research inevitably assumes heterosexuality in issues of DV and IPV, due to the use of dominant feminist frameworks for identification of the problem.

This heterosexism is identified as a serious barrier to seeking help with lesbian partner violence, as the prejudice informs service provision.

This research from Murdoch University reports:

Some studies also suggest that the rate of violence is higher in same sex relationships. A 1985 study of 1109 lesbians by Gwat-Yong Lie and Sabrina Gentlewarrier reported that slightly more than half of the respondents indicated that they had been abused by a female partner. Coleman, in a 1990 study of 90 lesbians reported that 46.6% had experienced repeated acts of violence. Finally, Ristock’s study of 113 lesbians reported that 41% said they had been abused in one or more relationships.

The Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearing House offers this UK study on DV in gay and lesbian relationships. It states:

Domestic violence in gay and lesbian relationships, as in heterosexual relationships, ranges from physical or sexual violence to psychological, emotional or economic abuse (Bagshaw et al. 2000). Like domestic violence in heterosexual relationships, domestic violence in gay and lesbian relationships includes: a pattern of behaviour, involving one partner using and maintaining power and control over the other, which causes fear in the other partner (ACON 2004, p. 5).

The report concludes:

Future research could also seek to provide a better understanding of how current approaches to domestic violence marginalise people on the basis of sexual preference, identity, orientation…

Studies such as this one this one by Mark W Lehman (2007) conclude that:

 The vast majority of experts state that same-sex domestic violence occurs to the same extent or more frequently than does opposite-sex domestic violence: on average one in every four couples.

So, is DV a gender hate crime, and why does it matter?

There is a considerable body of evidence on female perpetrated DV and IPV, and enough on DV and IPV in lesbian relationships, to justify questioning the heterosexist assumptions on which the 12-year National Plan is based. Given this evidence, combined with the anecdotal evidence of victims and an increasing unease amongst commentators and researchers, is it legitimate to continue to define DV, IPV and family violence as a gender hate crime, perpetrated overwhelmingly by men against women and children?

The National Plan outlines the Gillard government’s intention to reduce DV, IPV and family violence over the next 12 years. In reality, the Plan will address only male perpetrated violence, because it is based on a feminist framework that identifies DV as a gender hate crime.

In so doing, the Plan will effectively silence the voices of victims of female perpetrators in both heterosexual and same sex relationships.

The Plan continues to use the outdated and increasingly contested framework of the gender hate crime. There is certainly more than enough reason to question the use of this framework as a basis for public policy, not least its ineffectiveness to date.

We urgently need a far more holistic approach to the problems of domestic, intimate partner and family violence, one that demands policy makers incorporate alternative frameworks of perception, of which there are several, into the official definitions and understanding of DV on which policy is based.

DV is problem that dearly costs our society both financially, and in terms of extensive physical, psychological and emotional damage, often extremely long term, to the women, men and children who are its victims.

Is domestic violence a gender hate crime? I would argue that evidence increasingly suggests that it cannot be reduced to this description.

Does this matter? When policy designed to prevent this crime is based on a false ideological premise that cannot help but detrimentally affect services and outcomes, I would suggest the definition matters a great deal, and urgently needs to be reassessed.

 

 

 

Government’s brand new 12 year plan to end domestic violence is already out of date

20 Mar

by Laurent Fintoni via flickr

 

Kate Ellis, Minister for the Status of Women, launched a 12-year national plan last month that is designed to reduce violence against women and children.

The plan is based on research that indicates as many as one in three Australian women will experience physical, sexual and emotional abuse by men during their lifetimes.

The plan expresses the intention to address social norms and practices, rigid beliefs about gender role expectations and cultural values, all of which contribute to a society in which violence against women and children is endemic.

Currently, there are more reported assaults on women by men.

However, what the plan completely neglects to address is that there is also a great deal of anecdotal evidence that women are the primary perpetrators of the emotional abuse of children, with disastrous and long-lasting effects.

Any 12-year national plan to prevent violence against children should include proper and full investigation into this type of child abuse. Why doesn’t this one?

Paucity of empirical research

While there are studies on female violence against male partners, it’s difficult to find current research on the occurrence and effects of maternal emotional abuse on children, and on the adults they become. Research has lagged behind clinical experience, notes the author of this 2007 study and there is a relative paucity of empirical data.

Yet there is a plethora of anecdotal evidence to be found on the long-term effects of maternal emotional abuse on the development of children, and on their adult lives.

There are thousands of personal stories of emotional abuse – maternal bullying, attacks on the young child’s self esteem, the long-term consequences of being raised by a narcissistic mother for whom one is little more than an accessory in public, and an emotional whipping post in private. This clinical term has been colloquially adopted as shorthand for maternal emotional abuse.

There are 10 Google pages dedicated to the term, and a further 10 pages dedicated to maternal emotional abuse.

The term “narcissistic mothers” sits comfortably with increased societal concerns about the “sexualisation” of young children, specifically when young girls are dressed and made up as if they were adult women.

Campaigners such as the Australian Christian Lobby and Melinda Tankard Reist express profound and I believe legitimate concerns about this increasing practise.

However, the elephant in the room is that mothers and female caregivers overwhelmingly purchase and dress young girls in this manner. Reist, the ACL, and many other campaigners apparently find it easier to lay all blame at the door of various media and advertising outlets.

They neglect to mention the responsibility mothers and female caregivers must bear for purchasing these products, and choosing to dress their little girls like adult women.

It’s reasonable to investigate the possibility that such mothers and caregivers are indeed abusively acting out their own narcissistic and unrealised desires through their little girls.

The stories of maternal abuse are out there

The long-term consequences of maternal abuse

Maternal abuse is a broad predictor of adult dysfunction in the areas of relatedness, identity, affect regulation, abandonment concerns, and borderline and anti-social features. Briere and Rickards found that “high paternal support did not appear to reduce the negative effects of maternal abuse”.

On the matter of childhood sexual abuse the authors note: For example, the current results suggest that childhood sexual abuse, although significantly related to impaired self-capacities, is second to the effects of childhood maternal abuse. (emphasis mine.) Such data does not mean that sexual abuse is less than psychologically toxic, but rather that another form of child maltreatment—one less addressed in the literaturemay be even more traumagenic. Additional study is clearly indicated to determine the reasons (whether biological, attachment-related, or sociocultural) for this specific effect.

The area is almost a professional and wider societal no-go zone – so thoroughly has feminism succeeded in creating the belief that the perpetration of intra-familial abuse is a primarily male phenomenon. Yet there are many, many women and men who experientially know this is not so. Why don’t feminists who are in a position to do so, validate this experiential knowledge, and clamour for empirical research?

W Kierski addresses professional reluctance in his paper ‘Female violence: can we therapists face up to it?” This link appears to come and go, but Google “female violence” and you’ll find this paper, and 11 further pages with both scholarly and anecdotal material on the topic.

The reality many feminists resist

Together with society’s reluctance to consider that mothers are anything but good, as well as the difficulties of identifying what can seem, compared to physical injuries, a nebulous concept of emotional maltreatment, this area of abuse receives far less attention than others. It is described by some mental health professionals as the “hidden” form of maltreatment.

Unpopular as this notion might be, it’s my opinion that feminism has created a simplistic but powerful binary narrative in which men are perpetrators and women are victims. This has now hardened into a rigid gender role expectation.

There is very little room in this story for the reality of female violence against male partners, against other women, and against children, unless a woman murders them or otherwise physically abuses them in a manner worthy of media attention. These women are then cast in the role of the extremely bad mother, and frequently subjected to vitriolic public attacks.

Yet victims can also be perpetrators, regardless of their gender. This is the reality many feminists resist, to the detriment of all of us, and in particular, our children.

The halcyon days of brilliant feminist scholarship and subsequent ground breaking cultural change are over. The once inspirational ideology has degenerated into little more than housework and lipstick cat fights.

The first feminist clique to address the issue of maternal emotional abuse, and lobby for urgent and comprehensive research into its occurrences and effects, will receive my support. Feminists have always led the way in addressing domestic violence perpetrated by men – now it’s time  for women to address intimate partner violence and child abuse by women.

This is not something women would accept being addressed by men. It can only be seriously addressed by women ourselves.

What we know so far is that there is very good reason to investigate. If further study bears out the 2007 Briere and Rickards’ data, we are looking at a profoundly significant determiner of adult well being, one at least equal in its probabilities of long-term damage to male perpetrated domestic violence, and the sexual assault of children.

Facing up to and addressing maternal emotional abuse is quite possibly feminism’s next frontier, and if the sisters baulk at it and stay with the trivia, then what is feminism really good for in 2011?

WHAT THE NATIONAL PLAN SAYS

The definition of domestic violence used in the new 12 year National Plan announced by Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis, last month, does not acknowledge any familial abuse other than that perpetrated by men:

Domestic violence refers to acts of violence that occur between people who have, or have had, an intimate relationship. While there is no single definition, the central element of domestic violence is an ongoing pattern of behaviour aimed at controlling a partner through fear, for example by using behaviour which is violent and threatening. In most cases, the violent behaviour is part of a range of tactics to exercise power and control over women and their children, and can be both criminal and non-criminal.

Read: “in most cases the central element of domestic violence is violent male behaviour” towards women and “their children.”

Female violence against intimate male partners, well researched for quite some years now, and alleged by some researchers to be as common as male violence, and often differently expressed, is inexplicably omitted.

Maternal violence of any kind against children is omitted, though paternal or male violent behaviours against “women’s” children are included in the definition.

Further in the document we find this:

It [the Plan] will look at building positive attitudes and beliefs, social norms and ways for organisations to confront controlling, macho, aggressive and ultimately violent behaviour.

Read: “Violent male behaviour, because with “macho” in there, what else could it be?

The vision of the National Plan is that: ‘Australian women and their children live free from violence in safe communities.’

Read: “free from male violence” as female violence is not acknowledged in the definition.

And then: Values and Principles are: Responses to children exposed to violence prioritise the safety and long term well-being of children.

Read: “Responses to children exposed to male violence’, as female violence is not acknowledged in the definition.

And then: Protecting Children: Physical abuse, emotional maltreatment, neglect, sexual abuse and witnessing family violence are now all recognised as forms of child abuse and neglect. In April 2009, COAG endorsed Protecting Children is Everyone’s Business—National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009–2020. This framework is aimed at reducing child abuse and neglect in Australia over time. The National Plan and the National Framework are designed to work in tandem to bring about positive change for women and children experiencing violence.

Read “ experiencing male violence.”

The linking of the two plans suggests the National Framework might also be based on an interpretation of domestic violence as male violence. I haven’t checked. I hope I’m wrong.

And: The primary objective of perpetrator interventions is to ensure the safety of women and their children.

Read: “Male perpetrator interventions”

The examples are numerous. See:

http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/sa/women/progserv/violence/nationalplan/Pages/default.aspx

We need a plan that addresses violence perpetrated on children by both women and men that includes physical abuse, emotional maltreatment, neglect, sexual abuse and witnessing family violence.

We need research into maternal emotional abuse of children. We need research into female intimate violence. We need a plan that acknowledges the realities of domestic violence, not one based entirely on out-dated stereotypes of gendered violence.

After forty years of treating domestic violence as a male only phenomenon, there has been no significant decrease in violence and child abuse statistics. This indicates that there is something we are not investigating, and female violence against intimate partners and children is very likely it.

Debating the religious right

9 Mar

First up, don’t, if you can help it.

by Medusa's Lover via flickr

One might as well get in a fight with a three year old about the existence and purpose of the tooth fairy. Rigidly faith based positions founded on moral absolutes are not debatable This is but one of the things inherently wrong with them.

The female face of the Australian religious right

Reluctant as I am to make any of this about Melinda Tankard Reist, she is undoubtedly the public face of the religious right in their attitudes to female sexuality, and the influences of popular culture on boys and men.

I don’t know of anyone else in this country commenting as loudly and as frequently on this topic, and topics related to it from that perspective. Having positioned herself thus, I have little choice but to acknowledge her primary role.

The religious right believe that to succeed, a society must operate within a framework of common assumptions. Dissent is divisive and must be smothered. It therefore makes sense that censorship through protest is a cornerstone of what some describe as a dominionist sexually and socially ultra conservative theocracy.

Tankard’s Reist’s practice is to resort first to censorship. In this she has adopted the tactics of the American religious right, and Tea Party luminaries such as Sarah Palin herself described as a dominionist, though this is contested.

Research confirming close ties between the Tea Party and the religious right is here

The narratives of propaganda

Religious campaigners are not required to provide any evidence that the object of their disapproval is what they say it is. They simply have to use florid rhetorical propaganda to inflame and frighten enough petitioners so that corporations will be equally frightened, and for the sake of peace and unwanted attention, pull the offending material.

If at all possible, they make at times extremely tenuous links to the welfare of children. The threat of being promoted as acting against the interests of children will cause just about anybody to fall to their knees, begging the Christian conservatives for mercy.

Again, they are not required to provide any evidence for their claims, though they do sometimes offer the opinions of a like-minded individual, preferably one with some experience in a relevant field. For example, this quote from sexual assault counsellor Alison Grundy quoted on MTR’s website:

“Now we have thirty years of research to show that the sexualized and violent messages of popular music, media and video games do shape and provoke male aggressive and sexualized violence. I wonder how long it will be before songs like this are seen as inciting crimes under the criminal code?

Any research that directly links any part of popular culture to the increased abuse of women’s and children’s human rights is important. MTR and her fellow travelers argue that popular culture causes an increase in violence and sexual offenses against women. Research supporting this claim, is, one would imagine, foundational to the religious right argument.

However, the reader isn’t told what the research is, who conducted it, when, and where, and how, and we are not provided with any links. This is not unusual, as those forum commenters who’ve attempted to find links to another survey quoted by Reist in her article New song from Delta’s man (Delta’s man? He has no name?) feeds rape myth, have discovered. Despite many requests, the sources have not been supplied.

On her website, Tankard Reist provides share buttons under the French Vogue photo shoot of sexualized five-year-old girls so that visitors can boost their circulation on the Internet. This on-going exploitation of the little girls is justified as raising awareness.

However, sourced research that supports serious claims against popular culture and female sexuality is entirely absent.

The Australian religious right don’t feel the need to interview males about their reactions to popular music and video clips before agitating for censorship on the grounds that they provoke violence of all kinds. Collecting and collating data, reaching informed conclusions as to the effects these things actually have on the demographic, well, why go to all that trouble when God is in the house telling you everything you need to know?

Fox News by Justin via flickr

The US neo cons, Tea Party supporters and the religious right long since perfected the art of moral panic by rhetorical floridity. They are enabled in their endeavours by such luminaries as Rupert Murdoch, and his Fox News media slaves Bill O’Reilly, the recent Mormon convert Glenn Beck, and Megyn Kelly. Fox News is apparently the trusted news source for a majority of Tea Party followers, more than twice as high as in the general population

It’s all relative, isn’t it?

John Malkovich, in the character of hapless CIA operative Osbourne Cox in the Coen Brothers’ movie Burn after Reading (2008) is confronted about his drinking by an aggrieved co-worker.

“You’re a Mormon,” he snarls back, “everbody’s a f*cking alcoholic to you.”

In the same spirit, (acknowledging the blatant use of stereotypes) when your bottom line for the expression of female sexuality is that it should be confined to the marriage bed, everybody’s sexually licentious. If Victoria’s Secret underwear is pornographic to you, everybody’s a pornographer.

Incidentally, it’s likely that only in a wealthy Western liberal democracy could women’s underwear be co-opted as a symbol of the abuse of women’s human rights. Women in many other countries can’t afford it, are earning five cents a day making it, or are distracted by mass rapes, genital mutilation, hunger, and sexual slavery.

Even in this country we have our distractions. A report on the economics of Domestic violence released by researchers at UNSW on March 7 revealed it costs Australia 13 billion dollars a year. Abuse of children, and sexual assault continue at alarming rates but strangely, the most vocal advocate for women and girls in this country has selected underwear and bad songwriters as her symbols of injustice in her tilt against the abuse of women’s human rights.

To be fair, I notice there is a piece on the website about the bustling streets of Mumbai in honour of International Women’s Day.

Disclosure rocks

Here I need to take a personal moment. Another of the shared religious right/Tea Party/ neo con tactics (taken to new heights by Sarah Palin’s Got you in the cross hairs campaign against Democrats who voted for healthcare reform) is to discredit anyone who disagrees with them by launching a personal attack either on their private life and/or their knowledge base. This tactic is also used by feminists of all persuasions, including Christian.

I’ll disclose my credentials in the area of women’s human rights, in the vain hope of forestalling more “feminist” tirades against my ignorant “anti feminist” bent.

By the way, is anti feminist the same as un Australian, only specially for women?

I’ve just completed a chapter for a forthcoming book on human rights titled Intimate Violence as Human Rights Abuse: Re-Framing Intra-Familial Violence against Women and Children.

I’ve published nationally and internationally on this topic, as well as presenting at conferences around the world. I’ve also written extensively on the failure of prominent male human rights commentators to include intimate violence as human rights abuse in their publications and their thinking.

That’s enough trumpet blowing for one day. May it keep me safe from harm.

Truth claims, damned truth claims and statistics

In psychological terms, the interpretations put on the expressions and representations of female sexuality by many on the religious right are nothing more than their own projections, fed by, among other things, their faith-based beliefs about sexuality. These are then extrapolated into truth claims, and concerted efforts are made to impose them on the rest of humanity.

Truth claims such as these need to be taken out of the sphere of personal projections and religious imaginings, and backed up with hard evidence.

OMG by Skye Nicolas via Wikimedia

If Christian conservatives don’t provide evidence they should be ignored. We should learn from the US experience while we still can, that it’s not good enough for our cultural and social landscape to be determined by people who are offering nothing more than their own projections, based on their relations with imaginary friends.

If they are too lazy to get out and find hard evidence for their claims, there’s no reason why anybody should listen to them. Hard evidence is the first step on the road to addressing the problems.

Let’s trash the songwriter’s partner while we’re at it

Through laborious trawling I discovered innumerable Christian websites that instruct the Christian wife on her manifold responsibilities to her husband. Among them I found this one and a warning, turn off your sound unless you want your senses assailed by the most spectacularly awful piano rendition of Rock of Ages known to humankind, rivaled only by the pianist accompanying Elvis’s cover of Unchained Melody circa 1977. The quote is:

The wife is to reprove her husband privately and lovingly when he is in sin and point him back to the Lord.

As well as following that lead from US religious right, Tankard Reist also seems to be taking a lesson from political dictatorships in the matter of holding responsible the relatives of those who’ve offended you, as well as the original offender.

On her website you’ll find an attack on singer Delta Goodrem, songwriter Brian McFadden’s girlfriend. The Christian right apparently holds Goodrem partially responsible for the offending lyrics in his latest song, because she should have vetoed McFadden’s work. Reist suggests that Goodrem is perhaps inured to violence against women, and therefore didn’t notice it was present in the song.

She then reveals that Goodrem is a spokeswoman for Avon Voices, an organisation that works to raise awareness of violence against women. There’s also a video of Goodrem speaking on behalf of this group.

I cannot find any explanation for this flaming that is not born out of deep and incomprehensible malice. Goodrem bears no responsibility for her partner’s actions. She merely lives with the man against whom the Christian right has taken censorious action.

In what feminist universe is a woman subjected to this kind of malevolent public harassment, solely because another woman doesn’t approve of something her male partner has done?

Answer: in the co-opted feminist universe inhabited by Christian conservatives.

As L. Cohen puts it about another kind of prison:

I don’t believe you’d like it
No, you wouldn’t like it here
There’s not much entertainment
And the judgments are severe…

Becoming woman

8 Mar

by Alex Dram via flickr

 

On International Women’s Day it seems appropriate to reflect on feminism.

I never imagined I would find myself in agreement with anything with that terrifying Janet Albrechtson said, but last night on ABC’s qanda she declared that feminism must be a broad church, the rhetoric of the sixties and seventies means nothing to young women now, and we must move on. Or words to that effect.

She also took Western feminism to task for ignoring all others, and mother of god, I agree with everything she said.

I’ve lately fought off allegations of being anti feminist, a victim blaming apologist for rapists, an exploiter of sexually assaulted women (because I once worked in clinical practice as a psychotherapist) not to mention being a “man fondler,”  a term of abuse I’m not familiar with, but don’t hold back, girls.

All this as a consequence of having had the temerity to suggest women have to take responsibility for our safety and well being, because nobody else is going to do it for us.

Anybody who bases their identity on an ideology is asking for trouble, in my opinion. Having held that opinion for some time now, I wasn’t unduly upset when some women started telling me I was anti feminist, pro male, and had a prick in my head. But what this torrent of female abuse did cause me to do was reflect on what it is women can do to other women in the name of feminism, and what a scary thing that can be.

There is no such animal as  universal feminism. Like it or not, it it’s already a broad church and always has been, even if there’s been a dominating voice from time to time.

Like any ideology, cliques and factions within feminism stake out claims and marginalize those who don’t comply. Feminism is as cruel, prejudiced and contemptuous of difference as any ideology. It always has been.

As ferocious as it can be to men, it is capable of equal ferocity to women who do not comply with the factional rules. That’s the nature of ideology. If you add an imaginary transcendental exteriority, you’ve got religion.

I know young women who are vibrant feminists, contemptuously dismissed by some older women as “fashionistas”  who shouldn’t be referring to themselves as “chicks” and “babes.” “Is the word woman too fat for them?” somebody’s asked. But young feminists have to do it their way. From this fresh perspective and energy, something new will emerge for women, even if as yet it is unformed.

Those of us who are their female mentors need first of all to respect their ascendency. Enough already with the moralistic prescriptives!

Get out of the new way if you can’t lend a hand, for the times they are….

There are young women who want to take responsibility for themselves, they see it as a badge of honour. Not for them the jaded diatribes of victimology.

This morning I heard a story of three generations of women together in a house with a man who was husband, father and grandfather to them. For years it had been his practice to drink, come home, and beat up his wife. On this occasion his forty year old daughter hid away as she always had, When the beating was over, the fourteen year old granddaughter took her grandmother aside and told her she didn’t have to live like this any longer. She took her grandmother to a refuge. They got help for her and eventually a place to live.

The young woman had learned about domestic violence and knew what to do. She’d been educated. She took charge, and her grandmother’s life was changed.

Who cares if she also likes to wear lacy panties and short skirts?

So  I’m giving the finger this International Women’s Day to any woman who tells me or anybody else how to be a proper feminist, after telling us that we’re not.

Rotate, honey. I like me just the way I am.

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