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Geoff Hunt's wife was not the "witch" who drove him to murder.

Trigger warning: the following post deals with graphic domestic violence and suicide and may be distressing for some readers.

You can read more about the Coroner’s findings into this case here.

Last September, news broke that Lockhart man Geoff Hunt had murdered his wife Kim and their three children – Fletcher, 10, Mia, 8, and Phoebe, 6 – before taking his own life at their rural property near Wagga Wagga in New South Wales.

According to the timeline put together by detectives, Geoff Hunt murdered Kim first before turning the gun on his children, murdering them one by one, execution style, as they lay in their beds.

The Hunt family: Kim, Pheobe, Geoff, Mia and Fletcher.

His own body was found in a muddy dam on the property and a suicide note (since verified by a handwriting expert as belonging to Geoff Hunt) was found on the dining room table.

Yet despite the horrific crimes he committed, when news of the mass murder first broke, Geoff Hunt was repeatedly eulogised as a “great guy”, “super super patient”, “you couldn’t get a better bloke”, “a pillar of society”, “the most gentle considerate bloke”.

As I wrote at the time:

If a man walked into a classroom, pulled out a gun and shot three children and a teacher, before turning the gun on himself, we’d call it a massacre, and we’d call him a vicious murderer.

Yet when a man walks into his own home and shoots his three children and his wife before turning the gun on himself, he’s remembered in the press as a loving family man who was under some strain.

This week, the inquest into the murders was held. Here is how Geoff and Kim Hunt have each been characterised in the press:

He has been described as “a lovely guy”, “hard working, quiet, easy going, warm and loving”.

She has been described as “angry, frustrated and unable to control her moods”.

He “loved his family and never raised his voice”.

She had “lost her filter and she was capable of exploding with rage”.

He “helped her learn to walk and talk again”. She criticized him and called him “lazy”.

He “prepared the family’s meal, made the school lunches and watched Home and Away with the children”. She would “snap at her young children” and resented being left with them while he played golf.

He gave “his parents $1million a year”. She “had the shits” about it and “ranted that one of Mr Hunt’s brothers and his wife had stolen money from the family trust to build a new house”.

He “loved his family” and would do anything to help her. She “wasn’t the woman he married” and “told a relative she was not in love with or attracted to her husband.”

He murdered the family “out of love for his children” and because he wanted to “spare them pain”.

She wanted to die anyway and often “wished she were dead”.

The implication could not be clearer: he was a “great bloke”. She was a woman with a disability who “ranted” a lot. He might have pulled the trigger. But she was the witch that drove him to it.

Such is the reaction when white, middle class men murder their wives.

The Hunt family.

And along with this sympathetic treatment of Geoff, journalists have uncritically repeated the line that he felt “he had no other options”.

Repeated it as though divorce was not an option. As though separation was not an option. As though all people who suicide also feel the need to murder four family members first. As though there aren’t tens of thousands of people in Australia also enduring similar “strains” (and far worse) who find ways to go on which don’t involve murdering their families.

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Few media outlets have sought to explore why it is that the overwhelming majority of family annihilators (meaning people who murder both spouse and children) are male.

In fact 95% of family annihilators are male. According to Professor Wilson, an internationally renowned expert who has studied family annihilators for three decades, “the clearest unifying factor is that this is overwhelmingly a male crime.”

Studying 71 family annihilation cases (the largest study ever), Wilson’s research debunks many myths and refutes the idea that the murderers are frustrated men with a long life history of failure. Many had been highly successful in their careers, 71% were employed with occupations ranging from surgeons and marketing executives to postmen, police and lorry drivers.

After studying the motivations of all the men, Wilson and his team identified four types of killer, but what all the murderers shared in common was a “particular view of their masculinity” and ideas about gender roles and a man’s place within the family unit:

“In all of these cases masculinity and perceptions of power sets the background for the crimes. The family role of the father is central to their ideas of masculinity and the murders represent a last ditch attempt to perform a masculine role.”

Coverage of the inquest

Interestingly, the four profiles include: The Self-righteous killer (who locates the blame for his crime on the victim and for whom breadwinner status is central), The Disappointed Killer (who believes his family has let him down or undermined his vision of the ideal family), The Anomic killer (who sees the family as the result of his economic success, allowing him to display his achievements and becomes enraged when he sees the family no longer serving that function) and The Paranoid killer (who perceives some external threat to the family).

Professor Wilson noted that all of these types involved men “who had invested too heavily in a very stereotypical conception of what it means to be a husband a father within an institution called the family.”

He found The Self Righteous killer were often “histrionic and dramatic” and “chose significant dates – such as Father’s Day- to commit their crimes”. (Geoff Hunt murdered his family two days after Father’s Day and his suicide notes was left atop a Father’sDay present given by one of his children).

“To begin solving this problem the role of gender must be recognised, acknowledging that it is mainly men who will resort to this type of violence” said Wilson.

Yet the issue of masculinity has not even entered the discussion. Nor has there been any discussion of why women with disabilities are at more risk of experiencing intimate partner violence, or why some people are so eager to defend, excuse and minimise the actions of men who murder their wives (especially if they are white, middle class ‘blokes’ who conform to conventional ideas about masculinity).

Indeed, according to domestic violence advocates working in the region, some people are so determined to protect and defend men who murder their wives, that “talk at the pub” has been that Kim Hunt must have murdered the children, and Geoff was merely avenging their deaths, like some dark hero or white knight.

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Such is the extent of the victim blaming. It must be notes that there is zero evidence to support this theory of the crime, the police have outright rejected it, and the letter Geoff Hunt wrote in his own hand writing said “I’m sorry, it’s all my fault. Totally mine.”

Watch a report on the inquest. (Post continues after video.)

So far, everything else has been blamed: Kim Hunt’s car accident; her personality; the possible impact of “frost” on crops; non-existent financial troubles; even children at their son’s school have been pointed at for teasing Fletcher and saying “Geoff Hunt is a c***” after he allegedly cheated while umpiring a sports game on the weekend before his death.

All of these have been bandied around as reasons why he “snapped” and yet according to Wilson’s research – which is highly regarded as the most up to date research – the idea that family annihilators simply “snap” is a myth. The same research also demonstrates that it’s a myth that family annihilators murder their families out of “altruistic” reasons such as a desire to spare them future pain.

Yet both these excuses were trotted out in the inquest, even though they have roundly debunked and discredited by those at the cutting edge of the research world.

The Hunt family funeral.

Most disturbing of all though has been the vilification of Kim Hunt. As though the fact that she was no longer attracted to a man and “had the shits”” that he gave away a million dollars meant that she deserved to die.

It’s as though we have already forgotten Rosie Batty’s words, after her own son was murdered:

I want to tell people that family violence happens to [anybody], no matter how nice your house is, no matter how intelligent you are. When you’re involved with family violence, friends, family judge you. The decisions you should make. The decisions you don’t make. You’re the victim, but you become the person that people condemn.

And while Rosie Batty is here to fend off her detractors, Kim Hunt is not. But imagine if she were.

Imagine if Kim Hunt hadn’t died but had been surviving in a comatose state in hospital. Imagine if she woke up now and could read what people had said about her: that she lacked empathy and love; that she was difficult to live with; that Geoff probably murdered her children and shot her “out of love”; that she wanted to die anyway; that she probably shot the children herself; that she was not the woman he married; that she had no filter; that she was an invalid; that he was not really the one to blame.

Imagine the incredible isolation, despair and betrayal she would feel. And now ask yourself, if it’s not ok to say these things about a living woman, why on earth is it acceptable to say them about a woman who has been murdered?

But Geoff Hunt acknowledged where the blame truly lay: “It’s all my fault. Totally mine.”

And we shouldn’t forget that.

Do you think the coverage of the Hunt family inquest is unfair?

If you are experiencing issues relating to family and domestic violence please call: 1800 RESPECT.

If you need immediate support, please call Lifeline: 13 11 14

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