Mr Watt sat silently as his colleagues applauded the family violence campaigner.
A Victorian Liberal MP who remained seated during a standing ovation for Rosie Batty has defended his actions.
38-year old Graham Watt was in a special joint sitting of parliament with his colleagues when he failed to stand to applaud Australian of the Year Rosie Batty yesterday.
Ms Batty, whose son Luke was killed by his father Greg Anderson likened the domestic violence to family terrorism in her speech.
As she finished every member of the chamber got to their feet except Mr Watt who remained in his seat.
After the event Mr Watt released a statement, saying that: “For very personal and private reasons I chose not to stand”.
“Family violence is an issue of incredible sensitivity to me and my family and at some point I will be making a public contribution about the indiscriminate nature of family violence,” he said.
“I am very passionate about dealing with the scourge of family violence and supporting all those who are victims of it, male and female.”
The Victorian Oppositon Leader Matthew Guy has defended his actions, saying that they did not reflect a lack of support to combat family violence.
“I think it’s fair to say that he has his own experiences and perspectives that are deeply personal and would be difficult for most of us to comprehend or to have understood because we haven’t been through them,” Mr Guy told 774 ABC Melbourne.
“Graham is utterly against family violence in any form and I think some of the emotion of yesterday totally overwhelmed him, I think that’s the only way I could put it.”
Unfortunately, Mr Watts actions have been used by groups who say they are committed to “ending the gendered discussion of family violence” interpreting his refusal to applaud as an alliance with their cause.
One writing on his Facebook page:“About time someone spoke up and stood for both sides of Domestic violence, it is NOT simply a gender issue and compassion needs to be shown for men and women.”
Another: “Thank you for your incredible courage, Graham. You will cop abuse and be branded as a hater of women, but that is what happens to people who dare to question the narrative on domestic violence. Rest assured there are thousands of people silently cheering you. I wish they had the guts to applaud you in public.”
Others launching personal attacks and criticism of Rosie Batty on Watt’s Facebook page.
Watch Mr Watts say seated in this video here…
The Burwood MP and young father has previously spoken of how one of his family members had been a victim of abuse. He has not mentioned who it was, but has in the past been open about his upbringing in a public housing area as one of 11 children.
“In my case, I did not know for a very long time that it was happening to a member of my family,” he said. “Others in my family did, and they did nothing about it.”
“I went for 10 years without speaking to a member of my family because of their attitudes and inaction in this regard.”
The Age reports that in March he made a point of highlighting that both men and women are victims of violence.
“Violence is never acceptable in any form, whether it be male against female, female against male, male against male or brother against sister. It does not matter who it is.”
His refusal to stand for Rosie Batty has been seized by groups keen to promote the (widely refuted and disproven) statistic that one in three men are the victims of family violence.
However they have not publicised the fact that during the special joint sitting of parliament Mr Watt also refused to stand for Rodney Vlais from No To Violence and the Men’s Referral Service but yet did stand and applaud Kristy McKellar, who spoke about the four-years of violence her husband unleashed on her including the fact her husband told her he would “hunt her down and kill her”.
Many have criticized the MP for his bizarre display which some labelled as “offensive” and disgusting.
If the stance taken by Graham Watts is going to be used to try and “change the narrative” what needs to be re-iterated is the overwhelming statistics that cannot be disputed about family violence.
And while it is widely acknowledged that all victims of violence deserve support, treatment, respect and help it’s undeniable that the perpetrators of family violence are almost always male and the victims predominantly female.
What we know is that 84 women have been killed by men this year alone.
While there is no doubt that men are a victim of family violence too, but as the series Hitting Home over the past few days has shown us experts, people at the front line, and police all agree that ‘domestic abuse’ is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women.
As Social Services Minister Christian Porter said on Q&A on Wednesday night:
“This is, very sadly – and something we just have to be blunt and honest and open about or we’ll never break the cycle – this a problem perpetrated by men against women … almost exclusively.”
Until Mr Watts makes his “public contribution about the indiscriminate nature of family violence” the seizure of his actions by groups keen to promote an inaccurate message is not just unjust but potentially dangerous for victims of family violence who find it tough enough to speak out.
For domestic violence support 24/7, call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).