Kudos to Rosie Batty - Australian of the Year....Food for Thought and Change in Domestic and Family Violence Matters
Posted: 26th February 2015
Posted in: News
Posted by: Dean Evans, Partner
Rosie Batty’s Speaks on ABC TV’s Q and A….Her Words Should Stir Both Food for Thought and Change
When you hear Rosie Batty speak, you wonder how she can be so strong. After all, she has lost her only child.
But then she triggers a thought process which brings anger that someone who once professed love and devotion and with whom children were borne, can think it appropriate to mete out secret criminal behaviour as if it was a right to do so.
We’re talking about domestic violence….that which happens mostly behind closed doors, in secret from the friends, work colleagues, fellow students and family members who would no doubt try and help if they knew. But would they? Do they?
In an age of people “not wanting to get involved” (an answer we often get when canvassing who might have witnessed acts of violence or difficult behaviour between spouses) and where people are scared of being involved for fear of being targeted themselves, can we reasonably expect help or support for victims of domestic violence unless there is a societal change?
In addition, as family lawyers, we deal with matters from time to time where many incidents are either invented or exaggerated in order to achieve orchestrated outcomes in Court.
Telling the difference between the real events and invented or exaggerated episodes, is very difficult.
The answer, it seems to us, lies in community attitudes and must involve a multi-level change in approach so as the whole of society effects change.
During Rosie Batty’s appearance on Q and A, she made these poignant remarks:-
“I live in a nice house, I am an independent, single woman, I’m a professional, I’m educated — if it can happen to me, it can happen to everybody.”
“[despite the] shame lying squarely with the perpetrator … you can’t always trust the response [you get] from the people you turn to help you. And that needs to change.”
When it is said that community attitudes have to change, what does that mean?
Well, from our perspective, it must involve a wide, informative but generic approach on many levels, all designed to educate, communicate and make plain (explicitly and on every level capable of being implied) that domestic violence is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
We advocate that society should:-
- Educate children early about what is and is not acceptable – tied to education about bullying;
- Educate the community about the fallout from experiencing domestic violence – Often a potential perpetrator might think again if educated about the mental health impacts upon children who witness or experience domestic violence;
- Ask society to frown on domestic violence and implement a wider “are you ok” or “is everything ok” strategy designed to engender community connectedness and support networks;
- Fund resources for programs for either at-risk or identifiable victims or perpetrators to assist in understanding what is and what is not acceptable; and
- Establish a better system of handling domestic violence – as lawyers, we dread the inconsistent approach taken at all levels to domestic violence.
In the shoes of both lawyers (involved in representation for cases involving domestic violence) and victims of domestic violence, you shouldn’t be worrying about whether a police officer will take a complaint seriously or what the neighbours will think or which Judge will be handling the list on the day you choose to stand up and try and deal with the domestic violence issues you or your client are facing.
Unfortunately, the harm is often immediate, yet the prevention of it by the systems in play, rest entirely on whether the risk of harm can be proven to a degree which satisfies the police and Judges.
An overhaul is required and that overhaul needs to involve education at a significant level, toughening of penalties for domestic violence – so as proven issues result in real penalties. Consistency and understanding in policing and judicial responses is also a reasonable expectation if not essential.
In closing, we would encourage any reader to seek out psychological or social science data so as to have a read about how seriously children are affected by witnessing or being victims of domestic violence. If more people did this, there would be less tolerance and the incidence of violence would diminish amongst a community set up for nurturing kids and which is outraged when this doesn’t happen.
For a start, an essential read is “Behind Closed Doors” published by Unicef: http://www.unicef.org/protection/files/BehindClosedDoors.pdf