The Australian public have worked hard to make domestic violence a nationally-recognised issue. And now….? This.
Trigger warning: This post discusses domestic violence and may be triggering to some readers.
The hour has arrived: domestic violence is finally in the political spotlight.
For the first time ever, Australians are having a national conversation about this vital issue.
For victims and their advocates, it is an exciting time, and there is a real sense that if the energy around that conversation can just be harnessed correctly, it could be the game-changer that literally saves women and children’s lives.
So why, at this crucial moment – when we are on the cusp of something huge – has The Age published an article, which claims victims of domestic violence bear fifty percent of the responsibility for the choices and actions of their perpetrators?
And why, when we have such an important opportunity at our fingertips, have those editors squandered valuable column space on outdated, unsubstantiated, and frankly dangerous assertions, which if uncritically accepted, could massively set back the community’s understanding of domestic violence and jeopardize the headway being made in regards to perpetrator responsibility?
In case you missed it, today Dr Sallee McLaren penned an outrageous opinion article claiming that domestic violence victims (including, presumably, the ones who are murdered each and every week) contribute “50:50” to the situation, and are equally responsible for violence that occurs. Her reason? Because female victims don’t try hard enough to “command enough authority to stop [violence] in its tracks.”
McLaren’s logic is as problematic as it is simple: if victims nipped inappropriate behaviour in the bud when they first saw it, then violence wouldn’t happen. Presto! All male violence would magically disappear.
But because domestic violence does continue to happen, then according to McLaren, it must be because women are failing in their responsibility to educate, train, and coach the men around them. See? It’s simple right?
Here is McLaren in her own words:
Early on in the relationship [a male perpetrator] becomes aggravated for some reason and raises his voice at her. She tolerates it, lets it go by, thinks to herself “he’s not too angry – no need to rock the boat”.
At that stage he is at 4/10 in his level of anger. By not objecting she has just trained him that 4/10 is acceptable. So he continues to regularly reach that level.
Then a few weeks or months later something more aggravating happens and he yells at her and swears “you bitch”. He is now at 6/10 in his level of anger. She tolerates it, lets it go by, thinks to herself “that’s not much worse than before – no point in just aggravating him more”.
By not objecting, she has just taught him that 6/10 is doable and calling her a “bitch” is OK. Eventually he escalates further and she fails to object, teaching him at each stage that his level of anger is tolerable and has no consequences.
Before you know it, he has reached 9/10 and he is smacking her head into the wall and calling her a “fucking c—“. [Thus, the woman has] contributed 50 per cent to how this domestic violence situation came to be.”
Actually, no. Not even close.
Not even a little bit.
The woman has not contributed fifty percent to that situation. And any man who smacks a woman’s head into a wall and calls her a “fucking c—‘’ needs to take full – 100 percent – responsibility for his actions.
You know, what he doesn’t need? A reputable broadsheet that tells him that his victim is equally to blame for the violence because she failed to parent him out of his bad ways.
But even if we ignore the fact that it’s morally repugnant to blame a victim for the violence they experience (and that to do so only further enables and excuses that violence, by shielding the perpetrator from responsibility), McLaren’s argument falls apart the moment you extend it to its logical conclusion: children.