Recently you may have seen that Mark Latham decided to write down his opinion on Rosie Batty, domestic violence and how things just aren’t like they used to be. And the editors at the Financial Review, in their wisdom, decided yet again, to publish his writings. If you haven’t read it, and feel you must, click here.
I wasn’t going to write a post about his nonsensical ramblings, but I’m furious. Furious that someone who apparently has the capacity to access the statistics and to talk to the relevant people can write such ill-informed, disrespectful and damaging twaddle. If you don’t want to read it, fair enough. The gist of it, from my reading, was this: he started off questioning how Rosie Batty is grieving her child, reminiscing for the days when the ‘working class’ would keep their grief private (I am not joking, he used those terms). He then moved on to having a go at her for speaking at events, like business functions, and for having an agency who arranged her bookings for these events. He bemoaned the way we turn grief into celebrity these days. He had a go at several writers for airing their issues in public, and made light of one man’s discussion on alcoholism, by stating that his writing made him feel like drinking. Hilarious. The ultimate point of his piece then seemed to come through, where he attempts to argue that the issue of domestic violence is a fiction made up by left feminists, and it only really affects indigenous and “other underclass communities” anyway. Yes, he refers to indigenous people as “underclass” and apparently anyone else who experiences domestic violence is also a part of the “underclass”. Wait, what? What year are we in?
So here are some of the things that sprang to mind upon reading this. Mainly, why the hell is the Financial Review still publishing this drivel? But also; who is Mark Latham to dictate how a person grieves? Who is he to tell Rosie Batty that she isn’t grieving her murdered child in the correct fashion? How are we at a point, as a community, where it’s ok for someone to so publicly shake their head and ‘tsk tsk’ at a woman who is working through a grief that will be life long, life changing and very nearly soul destroying? Rosie Batty must every day deal with the violent loss of her son, and every day she manages to get up and step into the world with the purpose of helping others and preventing more family violence. Oh yes, truly worthy of dressing down.
To the comments on her being represented by an agency, and horror of horrors, being paid for her work: This is coming from a man who works within an industry where people regularly use agencies to manage their speaking appearances, his ‘dismay’ is questionable. He is pedalling smoke and mirrors. Having an agency representing her merely means she has someone sorting out her speaking appearances, whilst she gets on with the actual work. You know, the important work, of speaking, educating and raising awareness of an epidemic of violence that in the majority, impacts on women. Women like you, me, your sister, cousin, girlfriend, colleague, boss, mother.
To his claim that the idea that women from all socio-economic communities are at risk from domestic violence being a “Big Lie” of the feminist left. Well, one can only imagine he hasn’t actually read anything about domestic violence in Australia. He follows this up with this zinger. That domestic violence is concentrated in indigenous and “other underclass communities”. Putting aside the charming, retro use of the word “underclass”, so what? Just because there is a higher prevalence in indigenous communities means we shouldn’t speak about it? Shouldn’t do anything to address it? The truth is, the numbers are so high that it means it is prevalent across all communities. Low, middle and high socio-economic.
His assertions that Rosie Batty is putting women at risk is not only insulting, but also flies in the face of all that is known by those who have actually studied, worked, researched or experienced family violence. You know, the ACTUAL experts. Being an ‘almost’ important person, does not make you an expert.
Being a white, privileged, “well educated”, well paid male does not give you the right to belittle the indigenous, the working class or to dismiss the ongoing horrific experience of thousands of women. An experience forced upon them by men.
Feeling miffed because a “working class” (I shit you not, he referenced ‘working class’) woman isn’t sitting at home hiding her grief does not give you the right to belittle her, nor does it make you an expert on family violence.
I’ve worked with it, I’ve sent it. I personally know women who are well educated, well employed, highly regarded, white and other, who have experienced varying degrees of violence against them. By well educated, well employed, well regarded white men. Because they are women. Don’t be fooled by his apparently racist, sexist dismissive ramblings. This issue is huge, it is relevant and his scared, pitiful whining against the “left wing feminists” ie women who don’t conduct themselves in a golden age, 1950’s fashion, speak more of his fearful close mindedness, than anything actually resembling fact.
Well Mark Latham, here’s my opinion. We are not in the 1950’s anymore. We are no longer shackled by old fashioned views on grief, violence, abuse and the role of women. Men and women today are able to talk about the terrible things that can happen in our society because as we evolve as a society we recognise that education is important. Education where we tell young men and women that violence of any kind is not acceptable. We do not hide at home in our grief anymore, unless that is what we want to do. Indigenous people and women ARE NOT underclass. Violence against women DOES happen across all parts of our society and WE ALL need to do more about it. Rosie Batty suffered an unthinkable loss, and has somehow managed to focus her life so that to help others. To speak up, to make others aware and to educate our society on the violence that is harming women and children daily. For that, we should be gathering around Rosie, lending her our strength and asking what can we do? We should be standing with her. I know I am.
By the end of February this year, 14 women had been murdered in “domestic violence incidents”. There have been more since. That’s two a week. It’s also a number that has doubled for the same time last year. It’s an atrocious number. But it’s also not just a number. They are women. Mothers, daughters, sisters. Humans.
On February 26 I was honoured to be able to take part in The Nappy Collective‘s Blogger #DVForum. A number of bloggers were invited to participate, with the view to developing connections and conversations aimed at challenging “misinformed view points” (Rosie Batty). The forum was MC’d by Giaan Rooney, who did a fabulous job, and the discussion panel was Rosie Batty (Australian of the Year), Sandra Jacobs (The Nappy Collective) and Detective Superintendent, Rod Jouning (Head of Sexual and Family Violence Unit, Victoria Police). Richenda Vermeulen (nTegrity) then guided the blogger conversation.
We listened to these amazing speakers, and I’m pretty sure that we were all at times horrified, moved, amazed and fired up. As some of you know, prior to having children I worked for over a decade in Child Protection and with at risk children and families. The stories of domestic violence were not new to me. The climbing numbers outrage me. The continued victim blaming dismays me.
The question of a ’cause’ of domestic violence was raised. And Rosie Batty, and Det Supt Rod Jouning were both crystal clear in their responses. This is a gender issue. As Rosie Batty said, domestic violence is a choice. It is about power and control. Det Supt Jouning described it as men having a sense of entitlement to control women. “We have an ingrained culture of victim shaming. The responsibility is on us to change”.
It was acknowledged that people often, don’t know how to help. That those who have not experienced domestic violence do not know where to begin to help someone in this situation. Rosie talked about this, and about her experience. “One of the most disappointing responses is judging the victim” ie why doesn’t she leave? She spoke about how the well meaning advice from friends left her feeling judged and critiqued. Because it was all simple, straightforward advice. That doesn’t help someone who is in survival mode. Someone who is at greatest risk of harm when they decide to leave. Her advice – guide the woman to a Domestic Violence crisis line. They provide perfect advice, they understand the situation and are focused on safety. They do not judge. Rosie talked about us needing to believe women. To have compassion, to support and to empower women. That “we need to demand change. Let’s get feisty about it!”
Also present was Fiona McCormack, CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria. She was very clear also, about this being a gender issue. About the excuses that are made when men choose violence against their partners and children. That they ‘feel powerless’. This only serves to boost their sense of entitlement. She spoke about us needing to challenge sexism, and to have “zero tolerance to the reasons men choose violence”. To demand change.
There were several things I took away from this forum, but the main point I wanted to highlight today was the need to demand change. From our political leaders, from perpetrators and from the social norms that support, if not encourage, some men in their choice to use violence. With thanks to The Nappy Collective and ntegr!ty, there is now a bloggers collective, that I am proud to be part of, with a structured plan to take this conversation further. So stay tuned! This is an issue that I feel very passionate about. I am amazed I have an opportunity to be part of this collective, and a movement to change.
If you would like to do some more reading, check out the posts from some of the other bloggers who attended the forum: A Blog of Her Own, Seeing the Lighter Side of Parenting, Engaging Women, and The Mother Load are a few who have already started the conversation.
If you would like to join this conversation please do so! Let’s keep the conversation respectful and mindful that everyone has different experiences.
If you feel you need assistance in relation to any of the issues talked about here, please, contact any of the following:
Safe Steps: www.safesteps.org.au Manage crisis response and refers to state-wide refuges. 1800 015 188 (Toll free)
Domestic Violence Victoria www.dvvic.org.au
For immediate assistance contact 000