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"Domestic violence occurs in every class, culture and community."

As prominent Australia fashion designer/model Jodhi Meares goes through a very public fight with her fiance, we’re reminded that domestic abuse can happen in any postcode.

Trigger warning: This post deals with domestic violence and may be triggering for some readers.

Every time a celebrity is attacked by their partner or in their home, it proves that domestic violence can happen to anyone, anywhere, any time.

Jodhi Meares’ fiance, Jon Stevens, will appear in court today following a violent incident at their home in Point Piper on Monday evening. He has been charged with assault and police are applying for an interim AVO against him to protect Meares. Meares says there is no history of violence in their relationship.

This incident is obviously painful for the people directly and intimately involved. But it’s also a painful reminder to the community that domestic and intimate partner violence occurs in every class, culture, and community and that the privileges of fame and fortune do not inoculate against gender-based violence.

Meares.

As Australian of the Year Rosie Batty so aptly says, “Family violence happens to everybody. No matter how nice your house is, how intelligent you are. It can happen to anyone, and everyone.”

And yet, people hold onto the false belief that domestic violence is primarily born out of poverty and lack of education. They imagine it as an issue that plagues the lower and working classes, but is atypical and unusual in upper middle class homes.

Emotional abuse. This is how it happens.

Imagining it this way makes people feel safer at night to believe that their homes, and the homes of their friends, neighbours, colleagues and relatives, are protected. It’s the most convenient way to frame a complex, frightening issue.

And most of all, they imagine it, because as a community, we still fundamentally misunderstand what causes gender-based violence in the first place.

Jodhi Meares and Jon Stevens in Hawaii last month. Via Instagram

It’s woefully unhelpful to frame the perpetrators of abuse as lower-class, uneducated, and possibly dealing with drug or addiction. It’s equally unhelpful to imagine victims as unintelligent, uneducated or un-resourceful.

I’ve known feminist women with PhDs who have experienced relationship abuse.

I’ve known professional, high achieving women who sit on boards and run meetings, who go home to husbands who check their email, phone, and kilometres on their car, before bursting into jealous, accusatory rages.

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I’ve also known teen girls who attend the most exclusive private schools on Sydney’s North Shore, who are dating boys from equally prestigious private schools in the area, who are told by their boyfriends what to wear, which other boys they are ‘allowed’ to speak to, and what they need to do sexually if they expect to stay in the relationship.

We are kidding ourselves if we think that these kinds of things don’t happen in leafy green suburbs.

When we fail to acknowledge that intimate partner and family violence can happen in any home – regardless of income, education or social clout – not only do we conceal the violence occurring in suburbs like Point Piper, but in doing so, we continue to stigmatise the issue.

On one level this makes it harder for victims to speak out and access support. It also makes it more difficult for friends and family to identify and respond to disclosures of control and abuse, especially if they do not already realise that these things can happen to anyone.

The pair in the US last year.

This is why it’s important that when a celebrity case like this hits the headlines, the media resist the urge to treat it as an anomalous, curious sensation.

Because we know all too many famous women who have experienced intimate partner violence and the experience is neither sensational nor curious to them.

We’ve heard the stories of Madonna, Nigella Lawson, Rachael Taylor, Rhianna – and many, many others.

We’ve also heard copious amounts about Chris Brown and other African American musicians and athletes who have been charged with assault against their partners. But we shouldn’t forget the likes of extremely privileged, Caucasian stars such as Matthew Newtown, Sean Penn, Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, Christian Slater or Edward Furlong – all of whom have faced domestic violence related charges.

And if you’re still not convinced that even the most erudite, charming, and seemingly refined men can be guilty of atrocious views on domestic violence, let’s all remember Sean Connery’s views on the subject:

True, this quote comes from 1965. But this is how he backed it up to Barbara Walters two decades later:

It’s time we change the conversation. And that we realise that this sort of violence can happen anywhere, to anyone.

If you find yourself in a situation similar to this phone 1800RESPECT or go to the website for support and detailed information about domestic violence. The website has a specific information on applying for domestic violence orders in every state and territory. On that website, you’ll also find information on safety planning – but it’s important to remember, if you, a child or anyone else is in immediate danger, call 000 immediately.

Tags: celebrity , women
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