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There is nothing sensational about violence against women and their children

July 11 2018 By Arman Abrahimzadeh, Our Watch Ambassador

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of my father being violent.

Our Watch Ambassador Arman Abrahimzadeh Image

I can still vividly recall the time he threw my mother into a window and when he threatened to kill the family by burning down our house while we were still inside.  

The memories are forever seared into my past – psychological scars that will never fade.   

Every day my father made sure my mother, Zahra and my two sisters, Atena and Anita and I knew that he was the head of our household and that if we disobeyed his authority, there would be grave consequences.  

After years of threats, my mother finally wore the brunt of his rage when he brutally stabbed her to death in front of 300 people at the Adelaide Convention Centre. 

The planned attack was so heinous that it understandably attracted media interest right across the country.  

Overnight and underprepared, my sisters and I were thrust into the spotlight as a very raw and tragic illustration of men’s violence against women. 

Given the intense scrutiny, my sisters and I grappled with the public interest while trying to process our grief.  

For the media it felt like it was just another court case, another crime, but losing our mother and father in one fell swoop – that was our reality. 

What added insult to injury was some of lack lustre media reporting that followed.  

Because my family migrated to Australia from Iran, some publications falsely described my father as a religious leader. Some speculated that my parent’s marriage must have been arranged. 

Worst of all was when a newspaper used the sensationalist headline: ‘Murder on the dance floor’ which is also the name of an upbeat pop song to accompany our story.  

As survivors of violence and intense anguish, how our mother’s case was reported on profoundly affected us.  

Instead of broadcasting a fair and balanced account of the murder, the reams of coverage perpetuated untruths and offered blatant excuses for my father’s actions.  

There are so many myths being peddled about the prevalence and cause of violence against women that it almost limits conscious thought.  

As a society we need to unpack our attitudes and behaviours so we can work on tackling gender inequality and the drivers of violence against women which has political, social, cultural and economic origins. 

By adopting language that trivialises the stories of victims of violence against women, the media and subsequent public commentary is failing to confront gender disparity, opting instead to feed it. 

Our mother’s death was not something that should have been dramatised in order to sell papers, my father’s violence was not the result of a religious or cultural value and it certainly wasn’t because he had a ‘brain snap’.  

My mother’s death was a result of the deeply entrenched gender unequal society in which we existed, where my mother, sisters and I were my father’s possessions. 

For the most part, the media reflect what society thinks, and thus can play an influential role in shaping the attitudes and beliefs around the issue of violence against women for the better.  

That is why it is so important to reward and recognise the incredible contribution journalists who continue to shed light on this sad and often hidden atrocity have made.  

To those in the media who have responsibly reported on male violence, I strongly encourage you to enter the Our Watch media awards.  

Having lived through the worst of it, I also want to personally thank those who have created exemplary journalism and highlighted the social context in which violence occurs. 

Growing up, I thought family violence was just a fact of life, but I know that it doesn’t have to be that way.