Blink and you might have missed it but our new Prime Minister said something deeply shocking this week.
“Women must be respected,” Malcolm Turnbull proclaimed, while announcing $100 million in funding to tackle violence against women. “Disrespecting women is unacceptable.”
I know, right…? How embarrassing.
We live in a country where the Prime Minister blatantly demonises men and wastes public money on policy gimmicks for the girls. A country where there is bipartisan support from the Opposition, who have also quenched their thirst on the feminist koolaid.
Or so says Miranda Devine and The Daily Telegraph.
In her column today, Devine slammed the Government’s family violence initiatives and laid blame for violence against women squarely at the feet of women themselves. It’s only ‘unsuitable women’ (AKA poor ones) who get abused by their partners, she argues. Unsuitable women who have kids with “a string of feckless men” because they want to get their grubby, broken hands on more welfare money.
Think that’s an exaggeration of Devine’s argument? I sincerely wish that were the case.
You can read her column in full, here.
Now, indignant cries of ‘not all men are violent!’ and ‘what about violence against men?’ are commonplace on the pages of our daily tabloid newspapers. Any feminist who has ever opened their mouth or put finger to keyboard on the issue of violence against women, does so in full knowledge that this sort of vitriol will come back at them.
Of course not all men are violent, feminists respond in exasperation. And of course all victims of violence deserve support, treatment and care, we calmly explain. But eliminating gender from our analysis of family violence would leave us with zero hope of ever actually addressing the problem. Because prevention requires us to understand why the perpetrators of family violence are almost always male and why so many women are at risk of becoming — or already are — victims.
And today, Devine took the debate one step further. She argued that the cause of violence against women isn’t gender but poverty and suggested women are somehow responsible for their own abuse.
Devine claims that it’s only poor women, women without education or jobs, women who have children to multiple fathers, women in remote indigenous communities, who are the ones that get abused.
This is entirely incorrect.
Poverty, while often associated with acts of domestic violence, is not the causative factor. Data from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics shows that posh suburbs like Manly and Mosman in Sydney are domestic violence hotspots. Higher-income suburbs like Surry Hills and Randwick also have an increased incidence of domestic violence, while lower-income suburbs like Rouse Hill and Kellyville are lower.
In Sydney’s wealthy Eastern suburbs, a recent pilot found that eight women are referred to family violence support services, every single day. At least two of those women are considered to be at risk of being murdered by their partners. Every single day women and their children are running in fear from some of the wealthiest, beach-side mansions in the country.
Claiming that only a certain category of women (‘unsuitable’ ones) are the victims of family violence and that abuse is somehow their own fault, is reprehensible. It implies that if you enjoy the privileges of of having wealth, having access to higher education, or being white, then DV won’t effect you. This dismissal of violence against women as a ‘poor person’s problem’ will only increase stigmatisation of low-income victims and make higher-income victims less likely to report incidents to police.
The result? The sense of isolation and shame that women who are subject to violence already feel, is compounded.
Claim like Devine’s – “If you want to break the cycle of violence, end the welfare incentive for unsuitable women to keep having children to a string of feckless men” – suggests that women are responsible for their own abuse. That somehow the decisions they make about who they have relationships with, the children they bear and the Government support they rely on is the reason violence is committed against them. And that is appalling.
The Daily Telegraph is a hugely influential platform in Australian public debate. Anyone who writes for it holds a powerful megaphone in their hands. And today the message that is being shouted loud and clear at victims of domestic violence is this:
You chose the wrong bloke.
You had kids with the wrong bloke.
You stayed with the wrong bloke.
This is All. Your. Fault.
This is the message that has kept women quiet about the violent acts committed against them for decades. This is the misplaced blame that has prevented women from asking for help. This is the judgement that has stopped women from leaving. This is the fear that killed 66 women this year already.
This is the message to women — and men — that we’re printing in our most widely read newspapers.
And that’s what is really embarrassing.
If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.
‘Unsuitable women’ is trending on Twitter today. Here are some responses to Devine’s extraordinary column.