Will serial wife bashers stop if they know they will face a state-sanctioned ‘flogging’ with a cat o’ nine tails?
Call wife bashing ‘domestic violence’ if you must. But isn’t it time to call a spade a spade? Wife bashing is wife bashing and not some other kind of lesser, more acceptable or understandable, act.
Labels Are Misleading
Labelling wife bashing as ‘domestic violence’ has no doubt developed partly because of society’s sensitivity to calling it what it is – an assault or aggravated assault.
But it is disgracefully misleading to refer to violent assaults, not infrequently leading to death, as ‘domestic’. That is, something private or trivial. Anomalously, when such violence does result in death no one would dream of ascribing any other label to the crime other than murder.
What Happens Behind Closed Doors
Historically, what happened inside the home was treated as beyond the reach of society or the law, unless a spouse or child was very seriously harmed. In those circumstances, society complained and the authorities were forced to intervene.
Not so long ago men were ‘entitled’ as head of the household to mete out physical chastisement on their wives and children. However, much has changed in society over the past century to limit the force or punishment that had previously been inflicted with impunity on a spouse or child.
Notwithstanding this shift in community attitudes and legislation making this sort of violence a criminal offence, it is clear that physical violence in the Australian home continues unabated.
Australians Love To Win
Indeed, the level of violence in the home appears to be increasing, as does the number of deaths of women in relationships with violent men.
Sadly, children are now too often counted in such casualty lists. This year alone, one in six people have experienced violence from a current or former partner and 63 women have been killed.
Indigenous women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of family violence. Of course, these statistics don’t even scratch the surface of the tens of thousands of incidents of violence that go unreported.
Growing Community Concern Sparking Government Response
The issue has increasingly become one of major community concern. Some light can now be seen at the end of a still very long, dark tunnel as federal and state and territory governments respond with much political expression of concern. A significant amount of money has been allocated by the federal government to ameliorating the impacts of violence in the home.
The multi-million dollar safety package announced recently by the Prime Minister provides money for all Australian jurisdictions to improve frontline services, new technologies to keep women safe and a training package for frontline workers.
A complete focus on responding to the outcome of violence is, however, too limited a response. The Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, has said that while most Australian men respect women, there needs to be a “cultural shift”.
Disrespect of women doesn’t always end up in violence against women, but all violence against women begins with disrespect of women.” Malcolm Turnbull
If Culture Is The Disease, What Is The Magic Bullet?
So, the culture is said to be currently one in which most Australian men respect women, but that there needs to be a cultural shift, presumably to respect women and not assault them. I agree entirely that there needs to be a culture change with regard to domestic violence in Australia – but precisely what is the achievable cultural destination? While violence in the home will never cease, a significant reduction is certainly possible.
Maybe it does on a case by case basis when an individual offender appears in court or by family and friends who know of it, but not otherwise. This limited societal expression of disapproval carries no weight with men prone to be violent with women.
Isn’t it time then for society to more actively and effectively show its disrespect for men who commit this sort of violence?
There needs to be a serious bi-partisan political advertising campaign about this community issue, driven with the full support of the public. The Prime Minister has talked about urgent action being necessary and “elevating this issue to the national consciousness”.
‘Be A Man’ Positive Campaigning By Public Figures
In this vein, how effective would it be if respected, influential and popular male sports or TV personalities regularly spoke out against domestic violence.
The delivery of a message of this kind, particularly by respected Australian male role models may begin to push the culture change message through. Offenders would risk abject ostracism by their mates, being refused entry to the pub or club or being chucked out of the footie team. This would go a long way to showing such men the folly of their shameful and criminal behaviour towards women.
The Courts and the media could also play a larger role in sentencing and publishing strategies. How about some public humiliation sentencing? If the relevant Crimes Acts were appropriately amended, more severe jail terms or even corporal punishment would help.
Maybe there’s something in the ‘eye for an eye’ philosophy. Not many men like the indignity and humiliation of being belted with a cane, not to mention their abhorrence of physical pain that they so happily dish out to women.
Significant community support, ongoing focused governmental action and concerted, synchronised campaigns by all Australian governments will be needed to ensure such men are effectively deterred, by the threat of real societal condemnation, from assaulting their spouses, partners or children.