opinion

The depressingly familiar justification for the Fortnite gamer's horrific actions has begun.

Warning: This story contains graphic footage of violence and won’t be suitable for all readers.

The world watched in horror as a man appeared to brutally beat his partner via a video game stream over the weekend.

“Leave me alone,” the 26-year-old is first heard shouting at the mother of his children, before momentarily leaving his Fortnite session as the alleged beating began.

As the video progresses, the man, who has since been arrested and charged with an apprehended violence order, is heard shouting at his pleading partner – his aggression building.

“F**k off. I will be out soon, you dog. You don’t pay the f**king bills,” he yells, cocking his arm as he flings his chair back to approach her a third time.

A slap. A thud. A woman wailing, children crying.

“He just hit me in the face,” the unseen woman, who is pregnant, screams to the recording camera.

The footage is harrowing, distressing, sickening – so much so, viewers of the live stream called Sydney police for the man to be arrested.

“This is a woman in danger, a woman who needs to be taken as far away from that situation as possible” is where most minds automatically go when viewing the footage.

At least where you’d hope most minds would go.

But in the cold light of day, as we’ve seen too many times before, the narrative has already begun to shift.

A flood of social media users have jumped to the man’s defence; suggesting that we don’t know the “whole story”, that the woman is partly at fault.

“But we don’t know what happened before the video,” many questioned.

“But he has every right to defend himself,” was a stance others took, as one YouTuber claimed the woman had thrown a cardboard box at the man’s head before the argument broke out.

And the most skin-crawling view? She deserved it.

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“It’s not unreasonable to think she tried to slap him and he stopped her and slapped her back,” a Reddit user similarly theorised. “At least you can kind of understand if it was a kneejerk reaction.”

“She kept instigating, started throwing shit. A slap on the face isn’t exactly a beating,” another said.

The comments, tweets and opinions circulating the internet are almost as disturbing as the footage itself.

They all have one thing in common: they exist as an attempt to define what makes the “perfect victim” of domestic violence.

It’s certainly not the first time this has happened. And sadly, won’t be the last. We’ve seen this story play out too many times before.

Domestic violence is an epidemic in Australia. Impact for Women have recorded the number women murdered as a result of domestic violence this year is currently at 75.

75 “perfect victims” – women no one will question, because there is no doubt they weren’t in the wrong.

Yet when it comes to victims of domestic abuse who have survived situations like the one allegedly seen in Sunday night’s footage, we hear the same thing…

“But why didn’t she just leave him if things were so bad?”

“How could she let him treat her like that?”

Even: “They’re both as bad as each other.”

The finger is too often pointed the wrong way – as though the “perfect victim” must have either left already or be submissive; cowering in a corner, helpless and doomed.

What these people don’t understand is domestic violence victims themselves have “buts”:

“But I yelled too.”

“But I hit him back.”

“But I should have left the first time.”

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This, in so many situations, is what stops women from telling their friends and families, from going to police, and even from admitting to themselves they’re in an abusive relationship.

And yet, even when we see what appears to be domestic abuse presented to us on our screens, doubt exists in the minds of the public.

Last night, the mother of the young woman involved told 9News she was relieved the video of her daughter’s “mentally and physically abusive” partner led to his arrest.

The young woman herself, who did not want to be identified, claimed the man became violent three years into their relationship.

“It’s not the first time he has hit her. We reported it [to police] before but he’s gotten away with it,” the mother told 9News.

“He’s highly-manipulative… a really good actor.”

The man has since made his own statement, too:

“It’s a one-off thing,” he told The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday.

“You’re all judging the video, you don’t see what happens, you haven’t read the police report, you don’t actually know what happened off camera,” he added.

In truth, we don’t know what happened off camera.

We don’t know whether this woman has ever packed bags for herself and her two young daughters, vowing to leave in the morning.

We don’t know whether she’s cried herself silently to sleep before.

And we don’t know whether her 26-year-old husband has said it’s her fault he beats her. Or has promised it won’t happen again.

We may never know. All we know is the sound of her terrified children, her desperate pleas and her echoing sobs.

And we know, ultimately, that no pattern can be found in the stories of any domestic violence victim. So why are we still searching for one?

If this story had been different – if the stream didn’t exist, the man hadn’t been arrested, and the argument had escalated to an even greater tragedy, would the rhetoric be the same?

No – we might just have our 76th “perfect victim”.

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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