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New report shows men don’t ‘just snap’

June 8, 2018 / Patty Kinnersly, Our Watch CEO

In the hectic news cycle of recent days there was a story that passed many people by. For the first time, new research provided a detailed picture of the story behind the statistics on domestic violence.

A man standing in darkness with the right side of his body facing the camera. We can see part of his face in the minimal light.

There are many myths and misunderstandings about violence against women and their children, and the often-repeated idea of an average bloke who snaps and turns violent out of the blue is one of them.

New research, by the Domestic and Family Violence Death Review Network, provided a detailed examination of 152 intimate partner murders. This report tells us the powerful story behind these figures. Information was collected from the Coroner’s Courts, police investigations, court proceedings and inquest findings.

The network’s research showed that men commit more than 80 per cent of murders in couples with a history of domestic violence. The overwhelming majority of those men had a history of abusing the women they ultimately killed.

Distressingly, more than one-third of the murders were committed by men occurred after the relationship had ended and nearly a quarter of the women killed had Domestic Violence Orders against their killer at the time of the murder.

What this tells us is that men who commit this violence do not ‘just snap’, they are not otherwise good blokes faced with too much to bear. More than likely, when a woman is killed by her partner she has suffered a long history of abuse at his hands. And yes, the warning signs were there, if we wanted to see them.

At Our Watch, everything we do and say is based on the best national and international research about violence against women and their children. We know unequivocally from this research that gender plays a huge role.

When a man kills his partner, the primary issue is not gun control, family circumstances, stress or disadvantage, it is violence against a woman, and gender inequality is the key driver of this kind of violence.

There is an urgent need to challenge any comments that normalise or excuse male violence, for example media reports that suggest circumstances somehow explain or even excuse the perpetrator’s actions.

In Our Watch’s work with the media, we are working with journalists and news rooms to improve reporting on this difficult and often distressing topic. One clear strategy for those reporting on family violence is to broaden the number of voices. In addition to law and order officials and neighbours or others who knew the perpetrator, we encourage journalists to seek quotes from family violence experts or survivor advocates.

It’s important too, for the media to play its role in raising awareness of the shocking extent of family violence.

We know, tragically, that one woman in Australia is murdered by her current or former partner each week and 657 family violence incidents are dealt with every day by police. We also know that family violence is prevalent in all socio-demographic groups.

Violence against women and children is a crisis in Australia, but we can work together to stop it before it starts. Our Watch is a primary prevention organisation dedicated to preventing this violence by addressing its key driver: gender inequality.

Addressing gender inequality will take generations, and that is why we are working in schools, sporting clubs, workplaces, newsrooms and with young people online to change the attitudes and beliefs that disrespect and devalue women.

It took hundreds, if not thousands of hours of painstaking work by police and researchers to compile the information in the new family violence death review report. It is not easy information to seek out, or to talk about, but we must gather it and talk about it, if we are to put our best efforts into creating a future where women can live without fear of violence.