Public money wasted on domestic violence organisations

For years now, all the key players in our well-orchestrated domestic violence sector have been singing from the same page, happily accepting government money to promote the idea that domestic violence is all about dangerous men terrorizing their partners. Malcolm Turnbull is on record boasting that the government is spending “hundreds of millions” of dollars on domestic violence – a tribute to the grip this powerful lobby group has on this country.

But now a few cracks are appearing. Recently an extraordinary article was published in The Daily Telegraph, written by Nina Funnell who has built her career on being a domestic violence “survivor.”

In her article entitled: “Why you should never give a cent to White Ribbon,” Funnell took issue with the suggestion that Eddie McGuire should be required to donate $50,000 to White Ribbon as penance for his remarks about Caroline Wilson. Funnell said that she and many other survivors won’t give a cent to White Ribbon which is just a “fundraising club that made some blokes and a whole lot of politicians feel good.”

It’s just a redemption industry, suggests Funnell. “The reality is that much of White Ribbon’s $3.7 million revenue is spent on self-congratulatory feel-good talk-fests and various other empty virtue signalling initiatives.”

Very little of the White Ribbon’s “sorry money” is spent on services like domestic violence shelters says Funnell who has served on the boards of organizations supporting the shelters.

Given that such shelters continue to cry poor, it’s about time someone asked where all Turnbull’s hundreds of millions are going. The answer is not just White Ribbon but the multitude of government-funded domestic violence organizations like OurWatch, DV Connect, ANROWS, Domestic Violence Victoria. The list is endless. What started out as a sensible campaign to raise money for an important cause – providing support for battered women – has morphed into a huge propaganda industry determined to promote a simplistic male-blaming perspective on this complex social issue.

Support for the shelters gets remarkably little attention from the powerful female bureaucrats running these thriving organizations which downplay statistics demonstrating women’s role in family violence and promote the myth that the only way to tackle domestic violence is through teaching misogynist men (and boys) to behave themselves. Never mind that this flies in the face of the huge body of research showing most family violence involves aggression from both partners and that sexist attitudes are not a major risk factor for DV in Western countries like Australia.

The femocrats face a herculean task denying the reality we see all about us about the real issues which underpin domestic violence in this country – including alcohol, mental illness and poverty. “Violence against women does not discriminate, regardless of ethnicity, social status and geography,” pronounced Natasha Stott Despoja, Chair of OurWatch, a lobby group receiving up to two million annually in government grants.

Oh yes it does, Natasha. Just look at the neat little map produced by the NSW Bureau of Crimes Statistics showing prevalence of DV offences across the state. The rate of domestic violence offences in Dubbo and Bourke is 60 times higher than Sydney’s North Shore or Eastern suburbs. (

DV Assault Rates - 2015
DV Assault Rates – 2015

The lobby groups keep themselves busy preparing fudged statistics and cherry-picked research findings to counter evidence produced by the few brave experts who still dare speak out about the damage being caused by this narrow perspective. Like Professor Jim Ogloff, a world-renowned researcher on violence who’s now in charge of research at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health. Ogloff warned the Victorian Royal Commission that the message being conveyed to the public is too simplistic, that it is misleading to suggest DV is caused by patriarchal attitudes, that at least a third of family violence cases involve violent women, that the literature on family violence shows high levels of violence in both male and female partners and that the message should be that all violence in relationships is unacceptable, irrespective of gender.

Ogloff explained that the Victorian family violence sector feared that recognising other potential causes of violence could “cause a shift in funding away from programmes directed at gender inequity,” but he stressed it was wrong to focus exclusively on one aspect of abuse “when family violence involves a complex array of behaviours.” Ogloff’s sensible words were drowned out by the flood of propaganda from the industry and naturally sank without a trace in the final report.

There’s been an amusing post-script to the Nina Funnell article with CEO of White Ribbon Libby Davies leaping into print to say White Ribbon is more than a feel-good boys’ club. On the contrary White Ribbon is in the business of prevention, of “stopping violence before it occurs,” said Davies. And she spelt that out very clearly: “Our remit is to stop the violence at the source and the source is men.” That led to a fiery exchange with Tom Elliot on 3AW where he called her out on her “shameless, offensive lie” that the problem is all men.

That’s not the only lie, of course. White Ribbon is notorious for fudging statistics. I wrote last year about the blatant misrepresentation of research by the group’s head of research and policy Michael Flood, in particular the claim that 1 per cent of boys thought it was ok to hit a girl. In fact that is the proportion who believe it is a big deal when a girl hits a guy – almost all young men say males hitting females is unacceptable, as Flood later acknowledged.

Nina Funnell’s objection to White Ribbon is that it does nothing to help survivors and allows dangerous men to make amends and excuse their own behavior. The real concern should be that so many good men have been hoodwinked into supporting a male-bashing organization which shows no interest in addressing the real causes of this worrying social issue.

Source: Article first published in The Australian on July 9, 2016.

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