Inanity on domestic violence

Okay, okay, my least-popular subject, I know…

As part of my work for my current client I’m looking at social support-services in general throughout the state. And one of the more obvious glaring holes is that of domestic-violence support services for men.

There are services for women – the state-funded domestic-violence line proudly states on its brochure that it has “all-female staff”. There’s also a state-funded service for gays and lesbians. But nothing – nothing – for straight men.

Well, fair enough, you might say – aren’t men the vast majority of perpetrators? Pretty much the only perpetrators, in fact? I’d agree, that’s certainly the impression you’d get if you read the standard info on the issues. But the moment you look a little deeper, some worrying points start to emerge.

In the State policy on DV, the sole ‘proof’ provided that men are the majority/’only’ perpetrators is the relative count of AVOs (apprehended violence orders). The policy document – written for the state by the state-funded Violence Against Women group, by the way, with apparently no other input or cross-checks at all – does grudgingly admit that “some men do take out AVOs against women” (the only reference in the entire policy-document that there might just possibly be a rare occurrence of violence by women). But no-one seems to have noticed that as a result of exactly this kind of gendered policy, there are massive free support-services for women to take out AVOs – the many state-funded ‘Women’s Legal Resource Centres’, and automatic creation of AVOs by police pretty much at any woman’s request, on the same policies – whilst men have no such support: and AVOs ain’t cheap. So here we’re using an outcome of an already skewed policy to ‘prove’ that the input is skewed – a classic circular-proof.

It gets worse. A few years back I did a detailed analysis of a press-release for ‘National Stop Violence Against Women Day’, put out by the (Australian) Office for the Status of Women (OSW). A colleague did the simple, obvious thing: he asked OSW for their sources – and we checked. Not one of their figures matched up with the sources they gave: for example, in their supposed ‘facts’ from the Census, they’d classed all men in homeless shelters as female victims of domestic violence.

Another example: the most-quoted study in Australia, Routley & Sherrard’s “Domestic Violence: patterns and indicators in Victoria”, states clearly that the female:male ratio of victims of domestic violence is 5:1. (In other words, 16% male: considerably higher than the 0% allowed for in the this State’s policy.) The study’s based on hospital data: and it’s true the data themselves are pretty solid, and nominally gender-neutral. What’s not solid is the analysis: every mistake – and there are plenty of them, in methodology and arithmetic, as that same analysis shows – skews the apparent results towards women. The actual ratios, from their actual data, are as follows: positively identified as DV: 280:85 (c.3.2:1) female:male; probable DV: 267:c.300 (1:1.2) female:male; injury and context suggestive of DV: 261:767 (1:2.9) female:male. Yup, that’s right, more men than women – a lot more. So where the heck did that 5:1 ratio come from? Their exact quote, I kid you not: “the results were not what we expected”, so they simply divided the female figure by five. They invented a 5:1 ratio from out of thin air, then published as fact that that’s what they’d found. And that, folks, was one of the best studies we found, in the sense of methodologically-defensible: most didn’t even get past the first hurdle of circular-reasoning…

So here we are, with a State policy based on ‘facts’ that are just plain false, and that – and again I kid you not – asserts that any man who “presents as the victim” in requesting help from the DV Helpline is, by definition, the sole perpetrator, because he has asked for help – and is to be passed on to police for an automatic AVO to taken against them. In other words, direct to a criminal record – no check; no court-case; no nothing – for having asked someone for help. An interestingly bleak twist on gender-equality…

Don’t quite know what to do about this: I’ve already been told that I’ll lose my job if I bring it up outside of my own workgroup. Everyone running scared. Absolutely inane; absolutely insane.

Not funny. Not funny at all.

1 Comment on “Inanity on domestic violence

  1. startling results but I think it’s expected that men, young boys can “take it” as a toughening experience, but in actual fact it has consequences, so it appears a bit of an endless cycle it is about the numbers or the impact or the type of violence? Mothers and spouses may be repeating the violence for many reasons, so it’s got to stop somewhere doesn’t it? I think everyone is responsible..
    Anyway, I am off sick with a bronchial infection, I hope you are coming to the contractor drinks on the Thursday, you can meet everyone then!
    It’s always great reading your blog, thanks Tom!

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