Rosie Batty has it wrong. There is no doubt she has endured terrible tragedy and been the victim not only of domestic violence but of a failed system. She’s a strong and resilient woman. However, this doesn’t mean she’s right.
Domestic violence isn’t a women’s issue, it’s a mental health issue. Now this may seem obvious to most but to some this has seemingly gone over their heads. Furthermore, while women are primarily the victims of domestic violence, it’s overwhelmingly a men’s issue, a drug and alcohol issue and a community issue, not a women’s issue.
And no amount of refuge funding, crisis accommodation or advertising dollars is going to change that.
The nuclear family, our society’s lynchpin for family relationships is a breeding ground for all types of dysfunctional behaviour. While those more well-off in society may find the nuclear family tenable, those locked away in three bedroom brick veneer in the ‘risk area’ fringes of our cities and regional centres are doing it tough. Without extended family help, financial security and a supportive community, these couples exist in a cauldron few cope well with. The pressure to pay the mortgage – often a pressure falling on the man, is a pressure that is often too much to bear. It didn’t work in the 1950’s and it doesn’t work now.
Men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women. In regional and fringe areas, this figure is greater. While women obviously feel the pressure that nuclear family isolation provides, women are more likely to have a social group for sharing and working things out. Men on the other hand are more likely to take refuge in alcohol or other substances in order to quell their depression – a depression they are unlikely to admit to. The crystal meth epidemic has taken hold in Australia. Add this to the availability of alcohol and we have a mental health crisis, a crisis with domestic violence as just one of the by-products.
Rosie Batty’s focus on the court and refuge system is missing the point completely. Yes, there needs to be consistency in the law and support for victims. Yes, the $400,000 per year to keep an asylum seeker is silly when we have problems on the home front. Yes, saving the lives of woman and children is important.
Yet so is the overall improvement of services that support men as well as women. As a society we must address the problem at its root cause, not simply provide a band-aid after the cut is made. For then the damage is done and can’t be reversed.
In a civilized society, we’ll stop it happening in the first place.