opinion

This empty chair is a tiny window into the reality of thousands of Australian women's lives.

A tired young mother with two crying preschoolers.

A young dad who doesn’t want to get up from his computer to help out.

An argument.

For many of us, this domestic scene is depressingly ordinary. Familiar, even.

Also familiar is this vision. Fortnite on a screen, a cartoonish avatar wielding an almighty weapon. The head of the player visible in a tiny box, bottom left. A screen like this is being beamed into approximately 125 million homes across the world right now.

The clues that this scene is about to turn terribly dark come first from the language. This Dad, frustrated at being interrupted mid-binge, is swearing at his partner. He wants her to Fuck Off. He wants her to Leave Him Alone. He wants her to Just Go.

She won’t. She wants him to get up from his desk. To put down his gaming console. He does.

Then the sound of slap. A scream.

The next words make it blisteringly clear this is not the first time this has happened: “Don’t hit me in the face, don’t you dare touch my face,” the woman cries.

We shouldn’t be watching this.

We really shouldn’t. But more than five million people have clicked on the video on Twitter alone since it was posted on Sunday. We can’t look away.

"More than five million people have clicked on the video on Twitter alone since it was posted on Sunday. We can't look away." Image: Twitter.

Perhaps it's good that we didn't. Other gamers who were watching the assault alerted the police, and the young father in this video has been arrested, charged and served with an AVO against the mother of his children.

He's 26, it turns out. He's a rising IT star, a model employee for an Australian telco who also makes money playing video games on Twitch, where this video was seen. One of his former employers describes him as a "hard-working family man".

He looks like a guy you know. Like a guy I know. Like some guy you work with.

"Fuck off, dog," that guy says to his partner, the woman who wants him to get off the computer. "You don't pay the bills."

Twitchers can make money playing Fortnite on the platform. The woman he's allegedly beating is pregnant. A third mouth to feed is on the way.

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"Daddy," screams a little girl's voice, as the man gets up from his chair for a third time, seemingly to deliver the longest beating. "Dadddddddyyyy!"

"In a minute," he says, in a reasonable tone, using his daughter's name, sitting back down as the sobs of a woman and her children fill the space.

On the screen, the man's avatar does a happy dance.

We shouldn't be watching this.

Should we?

According to the Full Stop Foundation, intimate partner violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and ill-health in Australian women aged 15-44. This is what that sounds like. Warning: this video contains themes of domestic violence and sexual assault and may be triggering to some readers.

Video by Full Stop Foundation

The tiny window at the bottom left of that video game screen gave us a glimpse into the homes of thousands of Australian women.

We might all be familiar with the horrifying statistic that one woman a week is killed by an intimate partner in our Lucky Country. That in 2018 that number hasn't shrunk, it has risen.

But that bleak figure is not the full story. Nor are the numbers the Australian Bureau Of Statistics offer, that a staggering 29,117 incidents of domestic violence assaults were reported to New South Wales police between October 2017 and September 2018.

That's more than 2,400 assaults every month in ONE Australian state.

And even that number is not the full story, of course. Incidents like the one caught just off-camera in that western Sydney living room are unlikely to be reported unless a bystander, neighbour or witness steps in. Credible studies suggest that as few as one per cent of domestic assaults are reported.

Think about that number blossoming into the enormous, ugly bruise it is on our privileged, wealthy nation.

Think about that number as you look at that little window.

Because if that scene stopped being ordinary the moment the cries rang out, you are lucky.

What happens in that window is happening in homes all over Australia. It's just that no-one is live streaming when the "ordinary" guy snaps.

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.

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