Yesterday’s post on family violence and the middle class drew some criticism, in one instance culminating in me being described as a troll, and my point of view as “stupid, sigh” by the male who didn’t agree with it, or the fact that I wouldn’t back down from it. I find that patronising sigh interesting, given that we were discussing gender imbalance and middle class abuse. I’ve noticed lately on social media that if I politely persist in addressing areas of disagreement, abuse almost inevitably results: apparently there comes a point in discussion with some middle class men where if a woman doesn’t capitulate her position is stupid, sigh. A clever woman knows when to shut her mouth, perhaps?
I’ve used as my source for the argument against using class as a determinant in the family violence debate this government document titled Domestic, family and sexual violence in Australia: an overview of the issues, compiled in October 2014.
In Australia, domestic, family and sexual violence is found across all cultures, ages and socio-economic groups, but the majority of those who experience these forms of violence are women. However, it is not possible to measure the true extent of the problem as most incidents of domestic, family and sexual violence go unreported.
As discussed earlier, domestic, family and sexual violence occurs across all ages, cultures and socio-economic groups. However, research shows that some women are at greater risk of experiencing these forms of violence than others. For example, exposure to child abuse or violence as a child, alcohol or drug dependency issues, financial or personal stress and lack of social support are all strong correlates of violence against women. Some women are also more vulnerable to violence, or less able to leave violent relationships, based on factors such as age, Indigenous status, location, disability, ethnicity, and English language ability.
None of these risk factors are peculiar to any particular class, yet it’s far from unusual for such risk factors to be presumed to be indicators of class.
The face of Australian family violence for the last twelve months was Rosie Batty, whose son, Luke, was horribly and publicly murdered by his father. Ms Batty is a middle class woman. Indeed, a woman who was unable to perform the middle class expectations of that role would never have been appointed in the first place. I don’t recall Ms Batty framing family violence as a class issue: far from it, it seems to me she at all times focused on violence against women and children, regardless of class.
I suspect that a focus on class in the family violence debate draws attention away from the far more threatening perspective of family violence as an issue of gender inequality. Far easier for the middle classes, males in particular, to distance themselves from gender inequality if its most violent manifestation is said to occur in demographics other than their own.
As long as family violence is associated with the shame and othering of what is perceived as *welfare class* behaviour, middle class women and children will continue to remain largely silent on what happens to them in their homes.
I also do not and will not accept the stigmatisation of low-income, poor and Indigenous people in the matter of family violence as a class issue.
As a woman explained to me today, her middle class status changed overnight when she reported some twenty-five years of family violence to police. The consequences of reporting saw her lose that status, and become a member of the *underclass.* How would I be represented in the statistics, she asks. How indeed.
Women and children who leave violent relationships frequently suffer financially and socially, as well as running a high risk of further injury and even death at the hands of the perpetrator.
Assistance, protection, legal help and sanctuary should be available for every woman and child who is a victim of family violence, regardless of class and any other consideration. When services are being increasingly withdrawn by the LNP government, either directly or through reduced funding to the states, it seems rather ludicrous to be quarrelling about the class to which victims belong.
I don’t buy the argument that establishing the class of victims allows policy makers to best direct funding. As the cited overview states, those who experience family violence are predominantly women, and it is impossible to measure the true extent of the problem as most incidents go unreported. Were adequate services available, women would be enabled to report. We might then see what place class has in family violence.
What is indisputable is that it is women who are most urgently in need of assistance, and that the problem is at its source one of gender inequality and not class, though class certainly has an effect on reporting, and perception.