I am about to tiptoe through a minefield.
Rosie Batty has just been named Australian of the Year. Rosie Batty lost her only son when her ex-husband battered him to death at a local cricket ground. Since then, she has become a champion for thousands of victims, demanding systemic changes, political leadership and reforms to the courts system.
It is always difficult to criticise or attack anyone who has endured unimaginable grief, but being grief stricken gives no-one the right to misinform or behave in a bigoted manner, however unintentional.
Sadly, even in the midst of her grief, Rosie cannot find any compassion for male victims of domestic violence. Rosie continually calls for more to be done to protect “women and children” The unspoken and very clear inference is that it is men and only men from whom women and children require protection.
Even after a spate of horrific child murders at the hands of mothers and a grandmother in the past few weeks here in Australia, Batty has never once referred to these shocking acts or suggested perhaps children require protection from their mothers too.
In a recent interview, Ms Batty said in particular, she wanted more men to talk about family violence and confront violent behaviour when they see it. She also trotted out the one in three women will experience violence at the hand of someone they know line, as though we are talking about violence at a level she has experienced. This is deceitful, manipulative behaviour and should be called out.
Batty has received angry mail from some people suggesting she should carry some of the blame for what happened to her son, given she chose the man who perpetrated the crime as her partner, conceived a child with him and allowed him to see their son despite his violent tendencies which she openly concedes she was aware of-Anderson had a history of abusing her and threatening to kill her. She also believed he suffered from paranoia. These criticisms of Batty have been widely condemned as outrageous examples of victim blaming, yet Batty is happy to apportion responsibility for the murder of her son to others.
Having never been in Batty’s position I would never presume to point a finger of blame at her because of the violent actions of her partner, but if a questioning finger is going to be pointed anywhere (other than directly at the person who committed the crime), surely it should be directed at Batty before she blames men like me who never knew her partner or had any connection to her family. I just happen to share the gender of the perpetrator and that seems to be a good enough reason for Batty to hold me responsible in some way for what happened to her son.
Clearly the policing of dangerous, violent partners needs to be changed in order to prevent more tragedies and I have no qualms about Batty’s criticisms of the failure of the courts and police to give adequate protection. But she doesn’t stop there. It is Batty who points her finger at “men” and demands they do something to end this kind of violence.
I would suggest if Ms Batty is going to tell me to confront violent behaviour when I see it then she best follow her own advice. I have never chosen a violent, abusive person as my partner and then had a child with that partner. I have never been physically abused and threatened by my partner and continued my relationship.
Ms Batty called on the Government to dedicate long-term secure funding to fighting family violence and urged the community to “speak up” against sexist attitudes.
“Do not ignore what you see and what you know is wrong,” she said.
“To men, we need you to challenge each other and become part of the solution.
Batty wants me and my mates to talk about family violence and confront violent behaviour when we see it. I have to tell Ms Batty that I have never had to talk to a mate about Family Violence other than to express our sadness or horror over the deaths of innocent children or people at the hands of family members.
On receiving her award, Batty also said:
She wanted more men to talk about family violence and confront violent behaviour when they saw it.
She recited statistics she wanted every Australian to know: One in three women experiences violence at the hand of someone they know. On average, one woman is killed every week by an intimate partner. One in four children has been exposed to domestic violence.
“I keep repeating those statistics because we all should know them and they’re indisputable.
She said Australia needed cultural change to tackle domestic violence.
“Where does violence come from? It comes from gender and inequality,” she said.
“It comes from men feeling a sense of entitlement toward their children and partners.
“Even though women are violent as well, the statistics are clear, it is very much a male issue.”
These words seem to come straight from the feminist handbook and are a world away from the comments Batty made only hours after her son’s murder:
“What triggered this was a case of his dad having mental health issues,” she said today.
“He was in a homelessness situation for many years, his life was failing, everything was becoming worse in his life and Luke was the only bright light in his life.
“No one loved Luke more than his father. No one loved Luke more than me — we both loved him.”
“And the very tragic thing about this is the father’s life was tragic and based on … challenges in his life that we couldn’t help him with and nor could anyone else.
It seems Rosie has had a “makeover” and is singing a different song under the guidance of her supporters and new-found friends in the domestic violence industry. No more references to Greg Anderson’s mental demons, tragic life or deep love for his son. Now it’s all a result of Anderson’s gender.
I think telling men to have conversations about violence is as likely to end incidents like the one which killed Luke Batty as women chatting about violence would have prevented the murder of eight children in Cairns at the hands of their mother.
I’d like to ask Batty a question. If she believes sexist attitudes lead to men murdering their sons, what is the reason for mothers murdering their children?
These crimes were committed by individuals. These individuals were troubled, depressed, sick people. At the time of the murder of Luke, his father was homeless and living in his car. She mentions his paranoid behaviour. The man was clearly mentally unstable yet Batty continues to push the notion that men like her ex partner are to be found in homes all over the country and that such horrific incidents:
“can happen to anyone, no matter their circumstance or history”
Is it any wonder she has become the poster girl for the domestic violence industry? Having endured the loss of her son , Batty is very unlikely to be publically criticised by anyone who values their reputation or career. Here in Australia, Rosie Batty’s face has featured on the front page of our newspapers on a number of occasions and she is continually referred to as a hero and courageous. Rosie may well be courageous but I see nothing brave about placing even partial blame or responsibility upon the entire male gender, for a crime committed by a man she chose to father her child.
I also find it quite disturbing when a person who claims to be a passionate advocate for victims of domestic violence refuses to ever mention a group of people who suffer the same pain as the women and children she constantly refers to and equally disturbing that she focuses all of her energy upon only one kind of perpetrator.
As I mentioned earlier, there has been a shocking spate of domestic violence incidents committed by women in recent months here in Australia.
The murder of eight children in Cairns is just one of those incidents. I had a friend ask why that massacre has gone completely under the radar in our media. There have been no feature length articles dissecting this tragedy, weeks after the event. No handwringing or discussions about murderous mothers or changing laws. Nothing-just silence.
After the initial coverage the only reference to this horrendous butchery was a quote from our Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who attended the funeral of the deceased children.
“We know that sometimes people break. We also know there are difficult circumstances people deal with. This is a social issue as well as a law enforcement issue, but I’ll be there in solidarity with them.”
Imagine our Prime Minister telling Rosie Batty as he presented her with the Australian of the Year Award:
“Rosie, sometimes people break – the death of your son, Luke is a social issue as well as a law enforcement issue.”
Aside from the Cairns massacre:
- Two children murdered by their grandmother in Caboolture, North of Brisbane and she attempted to burn alive another two grandchildren.
- Newborn baby dumped in a Sydney drain by its mother and left to die. Since this incident the mother has been given permission to name her son.
- A mother murdered one of her daughters and permanently maimed the other so badly she will require 24 hour care for the rest of her life. The daughter, according to newspaper reports was :”horrifically injured.” The mother has remained anonymous and had recently been granted access with the backing of the Department of Human Services to the daughter she brutally maimed.
Again there has been no attempt by any journalist or politician to look at these facts and conclude that the safety of our children is in any way endangered by mothers or that the invisibility of women as perpetrators of domestic violence in official campaigns is a scandal and an outrage.
Compare the cloak of silence placed over the butchery of eight children by their mother with the media circus around two incidents involving fathers a few years ago. When a father, Arthur Freeman threw his daughter from the West Gate Bridge it became the focus of frenzied media attention and the murder was dissected, analysed and reviewed in forensic detail for weeks on end. A quick google shows that five years after the tragedy articles were still being written about this incident.
The same almost obsessive coverage has been applied to the murder of three boys by their father, Robert Farquharson. This crime has also been written about extensively in the media as well as having had a book written about it by Australian author, Helen Garner, titled, This House of Grief.
Just as the death of Rosie Batty’s son has led to outcry and anger about our court system and inability of the police to stop violent men, these two incidents led to copious amounts of print devoted to blow by blow accounts of the crimes, the personalities of the perpetrators and the sheeting home of collective responsibility to all men.
Less than twelve months earlier, a mother, Gabriella Garcia, leapt off the same bridge with her son tied to her body because of her fears about a looming custody dispute. This murder/suicide was almost entirely ignored by the media. To this day, if you google Arthur Freeman’s name, countless links open up and all of them denounce this man as monster.
The only article of any depth I found on the Garcia murder/suicide begins with this line.
Gabriella Garcia adored her 22-month-old son Oliver. According to Pedro Soto, her close friend and the last person to see her alive, all the Melbourne mother wanted to do was to protect him.
So why did she strap him into a Baby Bjorn carrier, cover his eyes with a bandage, use a milk crate to climb over the fence on Melbourne’s Westgate Bridge and jump to their deaths?
“It was basically to save him from a bad life and upbringing. She did this not to harm him but to protect him, in a backwards way. I don’t know how to describe it,” Soto says in the first public explanation of why Garcia, a 35-year-old mother from Melbourne’s western suburbs, chose to kill herself and her son, on a freezing winter’s morning, just over a year ago.
At first glance, Garcia’s story and Oliver’s death is the tragic result of desperate fears over a looming custody dispute.
Garcia’s family was devastated by her suicide. Her sister Monica set up a shrine near the lonely spot where Garcia was found under the bridge, writing a letter saying “we will never forget you both. We will always love you. We understand your pain and hope you have found peace and happiness now.”
The only reference to the murderer’s former partner’s family comes near the end of the article.
Members of the Allen family were angry. At the height of the public outpouring of sympathy for Darcey Freeman, the three-year-old girl allegedly thrown to her death off the bridge by her father, who is now facing a murder charge, Oliver’s aunt Anita Allen wrote a pointed letter to the Herald Sun newspaper.
“When my little nephew died at the hands of his mother, it went almost unnoticed,” she wrote. “Because she committed suicide, there was little the media could say.
And because it was a closed coronial investigation, there is little my family know about this tragedy other than our own loss, disbelief and grief. How could she?
“It seems that my nephew’s life became invisible because his mother killed herself in the process. Under any other circumstances, the anger, the disbelief and horror that I feel each day at what happened would be shared by many.”
Nothing has changed. The murder of Rosie Batty’s boy is a call to arms-more must be done to protect women and children-men must have conversations and stand up when they see violent men.
When Tony Abbott first heard the breaking news of the Cairns massacre of eight children he referred to it as an unspeakable crime. Perhaps this was before all the facts had come out-you know, Tony may have assumed a man had done the killing. I have already quoted the comments he made at the funeral of the dead children. Why the different tone, why the understanding that:
Sometimes people break.
I think it may have been when Tony realized the killer was a mum.