reality tv

Ben Cousins is on Dancing with the Stars. Let's not forget where he was four years ago.

This post deals discusses violence against women. 

"Ben Cousins will be swapping his footy boots for Cuban heels on the new season of Dancing With the Stars."

That’s how Channel 7 announced its first celebrity recruit for the hugely popular reality television show, where unlikely stars turn their hands (feet?) to ballroom dancing.  

Cousins was described as a 'former AFL player and Seven News Perth sports presenter'. While he is indeed both things, he’s also a convicted stalker. The media often forget to mention this.   

Cousins was jailed for seven months for stalking his former partner, Maylea Tinecheff - the mother of his children. A Violence Protection Order was in place at the time. 

Watch a snippet of Ben Cousins: Coming Clean. Post continues after the video.

Video via Channel Seven.

During the trial, Tinecheff told the court Cousins was abusive to their children when under the influence of drugs. She said she was scared when she realised Cousins knew where they lived, after they'd secretly relocated. For good reason. 

The court heard Cousins allegedly told Tinecheff he would bury her car "where she would survive for a couple of days, then he would bring the kids to play so she would hear them but would not be able to get to them".


He was also accused of threatening to kill her. 

“I’m going to kill you. Take your life, your freedom and the things you love the most,” the court heard he had allegedly said. He was also accused of   holding a screwdriver while sitting inside a car with Tinecheff, and saying "I can't wait to use it."

Despite a restraining order, the court heard Cousins tried to contact his ex partner 542 times, and sent more than 2000 prior to the order. Cousins has been convicted of breaching 22 Violence Restraining Orders, among other offences.  

Last year, Australia got very excited about Cousins' return to the good life, in light of his eagerly anticipated appearance at the Brownlow Medal and his appointment as Seven News Perth’s new sports presenter. 

Media reports rarely mentioned his criminal history in relation to his ex-partner, instead focusing on the redemption story around his drug addiction and other poor behaviour choices, such as dangerous traffic offences - that's if they got into the detail at all, most simply referred to him as having been 'troubled'.  

Despite his stalking conviction, which saw him serve almost a year in jail, society and the media continue to celebrate the newly clean-cut Cousins, choosing instead, to focus on his 'life turnaround'. Much more palatable. 


When I wrote about the public response to Cousins' Brownlow attendance and new job, I was asked multiple times if I 'believed in second chances'. Did I not believe someone who once had a drug addiction could turn their life around?

What a way to (deliberately) miss the point. The point being, there's more to this story that drug addiction. That’s not to say he doesn’t deserve a second chance, although let’s face it, Cousins has had multiple chances over the years, with career opportunities repeatedly thrown at him, regardless of his behaviour. 

But there's a difference between a second chance, and being elevated above others; essentially hero-worshipping men who’ve engaged in violence against women. It's a dangerous game, and one that's frequently played, especially when it comes to sports stars. 

"I have followed the media coverage and repeatedly wondered about the one-sided focus on Ben Cousins as a celebrated athlete who's returning to Australia's TV screens," says Professor Silke Meyer, Adjunct Professor at Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre.

"I think the biggest issue here is that it completely erases the experiences of his ex-partner and children."

But Professor Meyer says she’s not entirely surprised. 

"Australia, community and media wise, seem comfortable celebrating male athletes for their performance 'on the field' regardless of the harm they cause to women and often equally their children 'off the field'."


This, she says, is a serious problem for two key reasons:

Firstly, it sends a message to other athletes that if you're famous enough, you can get away with inappropriate and harmful behaviours, including violence against women (and children), and secondly, it sends a message to young men that it's ok to use violence against women and girls if you are a celebrity, while telling women and girls that their experiences don't really matter if the perpetrator is a 'respected member of the community'.

That’s not to say that men, or athletes, who use violence against women can't 'recover' - but they need to show some accountability and recognition of the harm they've caused, says Professor Meyer. 

"It's not enough to disappear from the bad news stories for a while and then come back with a newer, cleaner image," she says. 

"Men who use violence need to acknowledge the harm they've done and engage in behaviour change. It's hard work. It's uncomfortable. But it's necessary if we believe that domestic, family and sexual violence is unacceptable.

"We can't celebrate a 'comeback' simply by sidelining and silencing women and children's experiences of violence."

If this has raised 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.

Feature image: Getty.