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Data shows that domestic violence is a gender issue

August 23 2016 By Mary Barry, CEO, Our Watch

In her lengthy article in the most recent Weekend Australian, Bettina Arndt directly criticised Our Watch, and other organisations which, like us, are working to respond to and prevent violence against women. (“Always beating up on men”, 20/8).

I’m unclear on how exactly Arndt thinks we are profiting directly from taking this gendered approach, as her extremely critical article proves just what a hard sell this is for us. For many others like her, the fact that sexism and misogyny are the drivers of this violence is a bitter pill to swallow.

It’s offensive to imply that those struggling to keep women’s refuges open, in spite of the high demand, are financially benefitting from some sort of myth that women aren’t really the victims.

It’s baffling as to why Arndt so consistently and vehemently resists a growing movement for gender equality and respect, one that is strongly supported by many men.

Particularly problematic is her dismissal of our prevention approach (which is based on solid local and international research) as “teaching misogynist men (and boys) to behave themselves”, and not just because it dismisses violence as ‘misbehaviour’.

Rather than spending time refuting Arndt’s highly selective use of statistics, I will reiterate the extensive research underpinning Australia’s first framework to prevent violence against women, Change the story. This is all referenced on our website, which we directed Ardnt to when she contacted us some months ago.

Official police and court data, and the ABS Personal Safety Survey, show domestic violence is a gendered issue, in terms of frequency, how it’s perpetrated, the ongoing effects and the likelihood of victimisation.

This is not to say our analysis is simplistic, let alone that we are ‘always beating up on men’ (and what an offensive metaphor that is in a debate about violence).

Our Watch has always acknowledged violence to be a complex phenomenon with no single cause. Arndt is wrong in saying we ignore other contributing factors – Change the story acknowledges a wide range of these, and includes strategies to address them.

While it seems obvious, we of course state strongly that violence is always unacceptable, regardless of gender. Nowhere do we say women are never violent, or that men are never victims of domestic violence, and we accept that violence can and does occur within a range of different relationships – all our material acknowledges this.

But the facts remain: in Australia one woman is murdered almost every week by a male partner or ex-partner, and ‘domestic’ or ‘family’ violence is the single largest driver of homelessness for women. And 95% of all victims of violence, whether women or men, experience violence from a male perpetrator. The fact that so much of the problem we face is violence perpetrated by men against women may be an inconvenient and uncomfortable truth for Arndt, but it is one that will continue to inform the work we do.

This letter was originally published in The Australian on Tuesday 23 August 2016.

Read more facts and figures on violence against women and their children in Australia.

Media contact

For enquiries or further information: 
Our Watch: Joanna Cooney, 0423 049 322, joanna.cooney@ourwatch.org.au 

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:

“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.”

Access guides for reporting about violence against women and their children.

About Our Watch 

Our Watch’s (previously the Foundation to Prevent Violence against Women and their Children) purpose is to raise awareness and engage the community in action to prevent violence against women and their children.
 
Our Watch was conceived of and brought into existence in 2013 by the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of Victoria. The Northern Territory, South Australian, Tasmanian, Queensland and Australian Capital Territory governments have also since become members of the organisation.
 
Our Watch’s work derives from the government’s commitment to the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010 – 2022 and gives expression to many of the activities in the Second Action Plan 2013–2016 – Moving Ahead.