SUMMERS OF DISCONTENT

Anne Summers, best-selling author, journalist and thought-leader”, is unhappy with the domestic violence segment on the most recent Q&A:

It was dispiriting, to put it mildly, to hear the views on domestic violence expressed by audience and panel members on the ABC’s Q&A program on Monday night.

The questions, and many of the responses, exhibited such woeful, and possibly wilful, ignorance about the crime of domestic violence that I found myself wondering if we were witnessing a backlash.

“Thought-leader” Summers has nothing deep to say so she goes off on a tangent:

It was if Rosie Batty had never happened.

For all of 2015, while she was our Australian of the Year, we were regularly exposed to Batty on our television screens. Here was a woman who, to quote the writer Helen Garner, had “the authority of the brutally bereaved” and we listened to her with reverence and, I’d hoped, empathy. Certainly, reporting of DV increased that year, put down by police to “the Batty factor”.

Family violence was everywhere, Batty told us, including in “nice houses” like hers. It was caused by a lack of respect in relationships and the way to end it was to insist on equality between the sexes in every area of life and work.

Batty’s house may have been “nice” but the household was chaotic. Her on-again, off-again partner Greg Anderson behaved erratically, was prone to violence (assaulting her repeatedly, first in 2004) and often homeless. Batty asked Anderson to absent himself from her life, which he did, and was out of her life for eight years until Batty sought him out to rekindle their relationship, eventually allowing him to impregnate her.

Back to Summers, who plays the misogyny trump card rather than produce, you know, real evidence:

Elizabeth Broderick who was Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner for eight years until September 2015 powerfully reinforced Batty’s words: “Men’s violence against women in Australia is both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality.”

Yet, here was the Q&A crowd peddling ill informed and potentially dangerous notions: blaming alcohol, blaming poverty, blaming women. In short, blaming everyone and everything apart from the actual perpetrators of the violence that has already seen 23 women die in Australia so far this year.

Sometimes women must shoulder some of the blame for their predicament, as should Rosie Batty. Meanwhile, the sole panel member qualified to speak on domestic violence, has no idea what he’s taking about:

“It’s not ‘jealousy’,” she told me, singling out Theodore Dalrymple’s simplistic “main driver” of DV.

Dalrymple was first to speak to this question:

Should women be held more accountable for their choices and should we be targeting anti-domestic violence campaigns more towards women than men? For example, educating them on the consequences of poor relationship choices and educating them on the options available if they need to get out of an abusive relationship?

His response went well beyond mere “jealousy”:

Well, it’s a… That’s a very interesting question. As it happens, I examined about 400 women, ah… who had suffered violence from their sexual partner every year for about 15 years and so I’m familiar with the problem. Um… Unfortunately, it’s a…it’s a very complex one, but if I…if I said that in my view the main driver of the – certainly the domestic violence that I saw – was actually jealousy. That was the most powerful, um…factor before there was violence. Now again, in my view, the sexual jealousy increased enormously and one of the reasons it increased enormously was the complete breakdown of any kind of arrangements, accepted arrangements between men and women. And the men, many of the men in my… I worked in a poor area. Um, many of the men derived almost all their self-respect and self-importance, actually, from the exclusive sexual possession of a woman, while themselves being very unfaithful. And many of the women, for example, who were very badly abused, ah… believed the most astonishing things, in my view. For example, the man would claim that he couldn’t help himself, and the woman would accept that he couldn’t help himself and would regard the violence as a form of epilepsy. It just comes over him and the woman would say, “His eyes go and then he hits me or strangles me.” One said, “But not all the time, Doctor.” He didn’t strangle her all the time. Um… And then I would just ask a very simple question. Would he come and do it now in front of me? And oddly enough, that would change her whole outlook on the situation. It seemed a very simple thing to say, but she’d never thought of it. So, of course, there is… There’s something very odd going on, but I think the fundamental problem that I saw, certainly in my experience, which was fairly extensive, I must have seen thousands of cases, was extreme jealousy.

The indignant Summers rambles on, having a dig at Germaine Greer, eventually dropping a colossal clanger:

Even police are sometimes sceptical of DV claims unless there is blood or broken bones yet as Rosie Batty told us time and again last year, she herself was never struck.

Batty is known to make contradictory claims; no matter what she said, she was “struck”:

On May 16, 2012, Anderson assaulted Rosie Batty by grabbing her by the hair, pushing her to the ground and kicking her before threatening her with a glass vase.

Summers regretfully concludes:

How I wish she had been on that Q&A panel on Monday.

I too wish she had been there: nothing’s more entertaining than a deep-thinking lefty making a fool of herself – Greer gave it a go but actually made sense at times, at one point agreeing with Dalrymple.

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