Violence against women crosses all class, cultural divides

THE LIST of women murdered or seriously injured by partners - former and current - continues to grow in Australia so it was a relief to hear our new prime minister announce initiatives to address the problem last week.

Violence, whether domestic and/or alcohol- or drug-related, has long been a part of the Australian culture.

I used to think it stemmed from our Anglo-Saxon forebears, but studying the awful figures it becomes clear that the problem transcends all ethnicities and socio-economic groups.

One thing is clear; while women and kids are not the only victims, the vast majority of perpetrators are men. And before all the decent blokes out there take umbrage (and all of you must be sick of the constant barrage of anti-male sentiment every one of these tragic cases unleashes) I acknowledge the majority of men are not prone to killing or maiming their womenfolk.

Socio-economic factors do seem to play a large part although, once again, it's not a hard and fast rule.

My best friend suffered a childhood filled with drunken violence at the hands of her father, a highly educated and quite wealthy lawyer. Back then there weren't as many options for women and her mother stayed in the home with four kids because she had no choice.

Eventually they fled and she worked as a dressmaker to support her children. But poverty seems to frequently spark violence, and the number of women injured or killed who have children by multiple partners gives pause for thought.

When I moved to a very small farming community a few years ago I was truly distressed while talking to some of the older women who were neighbours and, later, friends, to hear how many of them were past victims.

Their husbands, now slow and seemingly gentle old blokes with rheumy eyes and swollen ankles, beat them as a matter of course when they were younger and stronger. I had trouble being in the same room with those men after I knew.

While Mr Turnbull's call to action last week was a welcome and overdue move, I don't know that his analysis of it being a lack of respect is correct.

We live in a society where violence toward women is entertainment; television programs such as Law and Order SVU has violent rape as its weekly theme. The 1950's sitcom The Honeymooners frequently had the lead character, Ralph Kramden, threatening to send his wife Alice "to the moon" (accompanied by balled fists in case the audience didn't know he meant punching her).

Shelters are not the solution although they are a very necessary band-aid; the problem needs to be analysed at a grass roots' level to find out what exactly makes men snap and kill or beat their families.



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