Tag Archives: refuges

The most disrespectful question: why doesn’t she just leave?

22 Apr

Why doesn't she just leave?

 

The question “Why doesn’t she just leave” continues to be asked of and about women who live or have lived with domestic violence.

Aside from practical considerations such as ever-decreasing government funding to frontline refuge and legal aid services that make it difficult for a woman to find somewhere to go and access the trained assistance she needs.  Apart from the acknowledged fact that attempting to leave is the most dangerous time for women and children, as her desperate assertion of independence can incite a perpetrator to even greater brutality as he attempts to maintain control of her.

Aside from those considerations, there are the well-documented complexities of human reactions frequently demonstrated in situations when violence is inflicted by those upon whom we are in some way dependent. Even a rudimentary understanding of these complexities will expose the question “Why doesn’t she just leave” as the statement of monumental ignorance and cruel disdain it actually is. A question that reveals far more about the questioner than it ever can about the questioned.

What it reveals about the questioner is that they are ill-informed, simplistic in their thinking, lazy,and lacking the ability to imaginatively transpose themselves into the shoes of another. They are also likely living comparatively safe lives, and haven’t been unduly challenged. They are disturbed by domestic violence and wish it would just go away, or that the victims would just leave and then it would all go away and most importantly, cease disturbing them. It’s a question always asked with an undertone of exasperation and an overtone of blame: why can’t you take responsibility for yourself? What’s wrong with you?

It is an accusatory question that blames the victim.

In short, the question is utterly disrespectful.

It’s likely difficult or impossible to prove this theory, but I’ve been thinking for some time now that lack of concern for violence against women by governments (amply demonstrated in reduced funding, lack of refugees, denied access to legal assistance and the rest, in spite of many grand words about “respect”) is underpinned by the question “Why doesn’t she just leave?” In other words, violence against women continues with little and indeed lessening government alarm, because women are judged as not having the sense or the willpower to leave situations that are patently bad for themselves and their children, so why, if they won’t help themselves, should governments and taxpayers bother?

Do governments also secretly ask “Why doesn’t she just leave?”

People who ask this question have the emotional intelligence of a turnip. I’d like to know, though I probably never will, just how deeply this attitude is entrenched in politicians who make decisions about combating intimate violence against women. Do they secretly believe all a woman needs is to have the guts to walk away, to somewhere, into the sunset perhaps? And does this explain the lack of interest in assisting her?

There is no sensible explanation for the general lack of political will to do far more about intimate violence than has yet been done. The options for women attempting to leave violent partners are decreasing. Police have fewer refuges to which they can take victims. Specialist domestic violence services have been subsumed under the umbrella of homelessness. And the numbers of dead and injured women and children keep rising.

When someone asks “Why doesn’t she just leave” maybe it would be interesting to respond “Why are you asking that question?”

Women enduring domestic violence and its aftermath ought not to be subjected to such questioning, overt or covert and I suspect the question, and the attitude that makes it possible for such a question to even be asked, is somewhere close to the heart of an explanation of why governments will not act in ways commensurate with a crisis that, like it or not, affects everyone, even the complacent, in some detrimental way.

 

 

Advertisements

Minister for Women, you are CRAP at your job.

12 Sep

Domestic Violence is terrorism

In what other portfolio would a minister who remains consistently silent about his responsibilities to the huge demographic covered by that portfolio, even in the face of a staggering number of the cohort dying, be permitted to retain his job? Yet Tony Abbott continues to claim for himself the title “Minister for Women.”

Has there ever been a greater political insult to Australian women than this? He’s having a laugh. He always was.

In spite of an enormous recent increase in media and public attention directed towards intimate and family violence, the Abbott federal and the Baird state LNP governments have cut funding to specialist women’s services since Abbott won government in 2013.

These cuts have resulted in women’s refuges in NSW urban and regional areas being re-situated under the umbrella of homelessness services, thus denying the specific difficulties faced by women who are not primarily homeless, rather who are fleeing their homes because those homes are inhabited by a violent partner.

Many refuges are now run by faith-based organisations. Experience in addressing intimate and family violence is not a prerequisite for winning a contract, indeed the criteria for determining the awarding of contracts don’t even mention domestic violence concerns.

This Women’s Agenda headline would seem premature: Our Watch Awards celebrate the power of journalism in ending male violence against women. Neither journalism nor anything else has ended male violence against women, and while media attention to the appalling statistics and the stories behind them is absolutely necessary, the power of journalism alone to end violence against women and children is yet to be demonstrated. There has to be action with the talk, and I mean direct action against perpetrators, such as immediate custodial sentences when an AVO is breached, for a start.

As long as we have privileged and ignorant male politicians redesigning frontline domestic violence services in ways that can only make the plight of women and children fleeing violence worse, we will not end that violence, indeed we will only make it easier for perpetrators, as women’s options are eroded. Already, the legal aid situation is so dire a perpetrator can access free advice and representation, but the woman he assaulted may not be so lucky.

The toll of one man’s violence against his partner is inestimable. It has long-term effects on children, immediate family members, extended family members, neighbours, workmates, and when perpetrated in public, as have murders and attacks in the last week in Queensland, has traumatising effects on every witness, and every member of the public who attempts to intervene.

Then there’s the cumulative toll domestic violence takes on services such as police, paramedics, hospital staff, counsellors, and those who provide legal aid services. In terms of its capacity for widespread and generational damage, intimate and family violence is a catastrophic event far exceeding any terrorist threat we face.

Yet the Minister for Women’s only intervention is to cut funding to frontline services when they ought to be urgently increased, and by tenfold.

As a salve and to appear as if he’s interested, Abbott promised an awareness campaign. However, he’s failed to address where women and children will go for assistance and shelter after our collective awareness is raised. We don’t need another government awareness campaign when services are inadequate, or don’t exist. We need the services. Abbott’s promised awareness campaign, in conjunction with service cuts, is one of the most cynical moves this government has made. That is saying much.

Tony Abbott is a crap Minister for Women. Probably the most crap Minister for Women in the world. The sooner he takes his sorry arse out of that portfolio and appoints someone who gives a damn, the better. With Abbott at the top, violence against women and children is never going to decrease in this country, and with his funding cuts he’s making it easier for perpetrators to be left on the loose and unaccountable.

Someone once said you can judge the state of a country by the way it allows animals to be treated. I think you can judge the state of a country by the way its government allows women and children to be treated. And by any measure, this government’s attitude to violence against women and children is absolute crap.

 

 

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.

%d bloggers like this: