opinion

The real low point of Pauline Hanson's speech didn't make the headlines.

I have never suffered physical violence in any form. I have never been in an abusive relationship. I have lived a very fortunate life so far.

I will never know what it’s like to have to choose between staying with a violent spouse, or  forcing my children into a precarious and unknown situation. In my time at Mamamia, I have read numerous stories from victims of domestic violence that have shaken me to my core. And after reading the transcript of Pauline Hanson‘s maiden speech, my thoughts immediately went to them.

LISTEN: The Mamamia Out Loud team decide it’s time to talk about Pauline. (Post continues…)

Pauline Hanson’s speech in the senate this week was always going to be watched closely by the public. We wanted to hear what outrageous utterances she had up her sleeve and how many people she was going to offend along the way. True to her word, she invoked her maiden speech two decades earlier and re-branded it. The new threat now is Islam. “Now we are in danger of being swamped by Muslims, who bear a culture and ideology that is incompatible with our own,” she declared.

Her disdain for Muslims is well documented. It wasn’t surprising, right? We all knew it was coming. First the Asians, now the Muslims.

It wasn’t the “Muslims” diatribe I took the most offence to. Buried near the end, was a reference to family court decisions.

“Children are used as pawns in custody battles where women make frivolous claims and believe they have the sole right to the children.”  Wait. Did Hanson just dismiss women’s motivations in getting custody of the children as “frivolous”? It gets worse. She goes on to say that the rates of domestic violence and murder were due to “sheer frustration” as a result of the broken system.

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According to Pauline, the new threat is Islam. (Image: Channel 9/A Current Affair)

Hanson then implored the parents of Australia, some of them involved in very real and dangerous situations, literally situations of life or death.... to just "put your differences aside" and make "peace."

Rosie Batty slammed Hanson's portrayal of the situation. Australia's most prominent domestic violence campaigner told AAP: "People are not murdering because of the family law system. That idea is just another example of our victim-blaming mentality."

"If Australia is being swamped by anything it's family violence. That's the real threat. One in four children are traumatised from being exposed to family violence and that's the emergency" Batty explained.

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Hanson's poor explanation of the high rates of suicide in Australia are not just irresponsible, it shows a shocking lack of understanding of the insidious and real threat of domestic violence in this country.  It's a straw man argument.

I keep thinking about our contributors who have written about their real experiences of trying to escape the clutches of a violent spouse, and I wondered how they received Hanson's "advice" to stay and "make peace." One DV campaigner once told me that the most dangerous period in an abusive relationship is the weeks immediately following a break up - when a spouse decides to leave her abusive partner. Sometimes it results in stalking, death threats, more severe beatings, and in some instances... murder. It's no wonder that many women end up staying in these abusive relationships. The stakes are just too high.

pauline hanson
Hanson's poor explanation as to the high rates of suicide in Australia are beyond irresponsible. (Image: Getty)

Is it right to deny a child a life free from exposure to family violence? Is it worth the pain of explaining to your child that men shouldn't treat women this way, when you are in a situation that shows the exact opposite? One of our contributors wrote that she was compelled to leave after her son said to her "leave Mum, or he will kill you."

It is not a frivolous thing to take full custody of your child under those circumstances. It is not frivolous to cut off contact to the abusive parent. It is not frivolous to take your matter to court. In some cases, it's the only way a victim will be heard justly, and under the full protection of the law.

Boiling these experiences down to "family breakdowns" is hugely damaging. Hanson posits "I ask all parents: is it worth the pain and anguish to deny your child the love they so deserve from both parents?" Some children don't deserve both parents. They deserve love, and a life free from fear, and violence.

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