There’s been a lot of buzz recently about the newly crafted “coward punch” laws introduced to the New South Wales Parliament and is being considered by other state governments across the country.
The bill came into effect as a result of the death of Daniel Christie (18) on January 11, and Thomas Kelly (also 18) in 2012. In supporting the bill, opposition leader John Robertson said, “We will support the Government’s one punch laws. The Government had to be dragged kicking and screaming to do something about alcohol-fuelled violence.”
No matter that the incidence of alcohol-fuelled violence is at its lowest level in a decade, our legislators have responded with speed and high moral bearing in response to the public outcry. And rightly so, in my opinion. Whether the legislation will prevent another attack or stop a mother having to bury her child after a moment’s madness is doubtful, but I applaud the motivation. It’s what our elected representatives should be doing: everything in their power to stop the violence. Then it’s up to us. Personal responsibility and all that.
During the debate about the legislation, I gave serious thought to the ramifications of changing or strengthening law to protect an innocent victim. In most cases, this is someone who is in the wrong place at the wrong time. But what about the perpetrator? Then it dawned on me. A coward by definition is a person who lacks courage in facing danger or difficulty. What about the violence perpetrated by some men against women. What do we call that? What do we call the man who strikes a woman?
When I was growing up on the outskirts of Brisbane in the 70s, Australia was a different place. I’m not definitive about the term’s origins, but I’m fairly certain there was a singlet given the nickname “the wife beater”. We didn’t invent the name, in fact the internet says it may have come from Marlon Brando’s character in A Streetcar Named Desire. He was violent and wore a white singlet. “Wife beater”.
Regardless, the name seemed to stick in Australia. Can you imagine how anyone could call an item of clothing a ‘wife beater’ and think it was funny? Like I said, they were different times, although there are still parts of Australia where the term ‘wife beater’ is accepted Aussie slang. More importantly, this is a country where violence against women seems accepted.
Is there anything funny about that?
If you Google ‘domestic violence against women’, the Australian government has some interesting information available online. Interesting and disturbing. Under a subsection, it lists the “at risk” groups as “younger women”, “indigenous women”, “women living in rural and remote areas”, “women with a disability”, and “women from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds”.
There are subsections? What?
The statistics are damning. In this peace-loving island paradise of ours, 36 per cent of all homicides take place domestically, three quarters perpetrated by a man. ABS data indicates one in three Australian women having experienced physical or sexual violence at some time in their lives.