In December 2015 the Institute of Family Studies released the report, “Children’s exposure to domestic and family violence: Key issues and responses”. Institute director Anne Hollonds indicated that domestic and family violence had been the “hot topic” of 2015, yet the experiences of children had received inadequate attention. Hollonds said research showed that there was an overlap between domestic violence and child abuse leading to “cumulative harm” to children.
Australian Institute of Family Studies
director Anne Hollonds.
“Children’s exposure to domestic violence affects children’s physical and mental wellbeing, cognitive development and academic success, and is the leading cause of homelessness for children,” she said.
The report suggests that schools implement a program of “primary prevention” that would teach children “gender equitable attitudes” and equip children with “critical skills to challenge violence-supportive attitudes”, and with the skills to form healthy and respectful relationships in adulthood. It identifies a need to further develop school-based domestic and family violence programs for younger children.
School programs can serve several functions, including awareness-raising about domestic and family violence, promotion of respectful relationships, challenging “gender stereotypes” and fostering non-violent conflict resolution, as well as providing support for children who may be experiencing domestic and family violence.
In November 2015 the organisation Our Watch claimed Australia has a world-first framework for a consistent and integrated national approach to prevent violence against women and their children when Our Watch chairwoman Natasha Stott Despoja launched the publication, “Change the story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia”.
This publication locates the underlying cause or necessary conditions for violence against women to be in the social context of gender inequality. This includes social norms such as the belief that women are best suited to care for children, practices such as differences in childrearing practices for boys and girls, and structures such as pay differences between men and women. Such norms, practices and structures encourage women and men, girls and boys to adopt distinct gender identities and stereotyped gender roles within a gender hierarchy that historically positions men as superior to women, and masculine roles and identities as superior to feminine ones.
The publication states that rigid constructions of, and a strong belief in, gendered personal identities or what it means to be “masculine” or “feminine” are also key drivers of violence against women. People who see men and women as having specific and distinct characteristics are more likely to condone, tolerate or excuse such violence.
The publication suggests actions to prevent violence against women, including promoting women’s independence and decision making, challenging gender stereotypes and roles and strengthening positive, equal and respective relationships. It highlights that the domestic and family violence national plan commits governments to incorporating respectful relationships education into the national curriculum.
The “Children’ rights report 2015”, presented to Attorney-General George Brandis in October 2015 by National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell includes a chapter on the impact of family and domestic violence on children.
The commissioner welcomed the Council of Australian Governments’ agreement to fund a national campaign to reduce violence against women and their children, including the joint announcement by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Senator Michaelia Cash, Rosie Batty and Ken Lay on September 24, 2015, that respectful relationships programs would be introduced into schools across Australia from Kindergarten to Year 10 no later than 2017.
Activists gain traction
In the second part of this series, the issues with current portrayals of domestic and family violence and potential flaws in the responses were considered. The issues included that excessive family violence order (FVO) applications and unnecessary police involvement might be putting at risk those women and children who really needed protection from physical harm, and that FVOs had become such a routine aspect of post-separation conflict that children were suffering as a consequence.
Why, then, have feminist activists taken such a narrow position on the problem and are advocating for potentially flawed solutions – which government, community leaders and society seem to accept willingly and with few or no questions asked? There are probably many reasons, but the explanation begins with understanding why society is so dismissive of violence by women – including violence by women against children – compared with its absolute condemnation of violence by men.
Regular News Weekly contributor Stephen Baskerville points to one potential reason in his book, Taken into Custody, where he refers to how a psychiatrist with a specialty in family counseling explained the exalted position the concept “mother” holds in our culture. The psychologist suggested that acknowledging violence by women would be like admitting, on a subconscious level, that our own mothers committed violence. This is an uncomfortable feeling and our culture avoids this feeling by discounting violence by women, particularly violence by women against children.
The concept “father”, however, enjoys no such exalted position. It seems to be quite the opposite. In fact, it seems that men are being scapegoated over domestic and family violence; which connects with another possible reason for society being so dismissive of violence by women.
Scape and other goats
Scapegoating works by way of what psychiatrists call “projection”. Women with feminist views dominate the advocacy groups that drive the domestic and family violence claims against men. Common feminist standpoints include abortion on demand (violence to the unborn), indifference to natural marriage, and much more.
These feminist positions result in conflict with the world. Since feminists must deny that their own standpoint is bad, they must perceive others as bad (that is, women are not bad; it is the men that are bad). The domestic and family violence angle is an excellent forum for feminist projection – men are bad and marriage is bad as it oppresses women.
How is it that government accepts the narrow view of domestic and family violence that feminist activists push and that that view is the dominant one in society? This narrow view of domestic violence is probably being inculcated in society by a calculated process of psychological manipulation involving “saturation”. The public is saturated through the media and government-sponsored inquiries and programs with the portrayal of domestic violence solely as the coercive control type that involves a perpetrator and a victim.
The psychological manipulation also seems to include a method known as an “availability cascade”. This involves promoting public discourse of this narrow perception of domestic and family violence in such a manner that it results in a self-reinforcing process of collective belief formation of this one perception. This “availability cascade” process has two complementary mechanisms: “information cascades” that involve uninformed people basing their own beliefs on the apparent belief of others; and “reputational cascades”, in which earning social approval or avoiding social disapproval affects how personal opinions are expressed or withheld.
These features are likely to be forming the positions of politicians and community leaders who believe that to maintain or enhance their positions they must join in the “outrage” on domestic and family violence. Maybe Mr Turnbull’s first policy announcement as Prime Minister, a $100 million domestic and family violence package is a good example of this manipulation. Mr Turnbull said violence against women was “one of the great shames of Australia” and “a national disgrace”.
Perhaps the shame and disgrace is the domestic and family violence activism by feminists who are more motivated by feminist ideology than by any desire to protect women and children who really need safeguarding from physical harm. There is an urgent need to stop the current government approach to domestic and family violence. The approach results from looking at the issue through an adversarial ideology that creates conflict, sets men and women against each other and undermines the very concept of family.
Balanced research methods must be applied to understanding the root causes of the problem so that any response can be designed to tackle those causes, rather than applying the current one-size-fits-all approach.