A Line in the Sand: Family violence shouldn't be a taboo issue

A VICTORIAN coroner yesterday released an excerpt of a note left by a man who killed his three children before turning a gun on himself.

Her reason for doing so was to highlight an issue that is too often taboo, and that is the issue of family violence.

Before Rajesh Osborne shot his children, aged 12, nine and seven, in the head with a sawn-off rifle, he penned a note to his former partner.

It read: “Please let his find my (former partner) ...You twisted your story to take revenge on me. You know how wrong your motives are. To get things go in your favour I can’t believe you will go so low’’.

“How many times you have dug a hole for me and my kids, only this time you have dug it so deep that I cannot come out of it. Don’t ever do this to anyone. You will live to see another daylight with your twisted mind...”

Coroner Judge Jennifer Coate noted that while what happened was “mercifully rare, the sentiment expressed by Osborne was not’’.

“This note bears the hallmarks of the family violence perpetrator who fails or refuses or is unable to take responsibility for his actions and indeed blames his horrendous final acts of violence against his children and himself on someone else for causing or provoking his actions,” she said.

According to the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria, such behaviour or pointing the blame at others is a common trait in many perpetrators.

The centre says an abusive person may:

- tell you to mind your own business;

- deny the abuse, or say, “how can you think I could do something like that?”;

- make it seem like it’s “not that bad”, or that it only happened once;

- make it seem like it’s the other person’s fault, or that it’s her behaviour that’s the problem, not theirs; or

- say that they couldn’t help themselves, they were drunk, just “snapped”, or “lost control”.

The centre’s website states that it is common for a person who is being abusive to deny or minimise the abuse and people who seem “respectable” and “normal” can still be abusive in the privacy of their own home.

“Don’t get involved in excusing the abuse. People who are abusive can sound very persuasive when they try to deny, minimise or justify their behaviour, as they often make these excuses to themselves to feel better about what they are doing.’’

The fact is, perpetrators of family violence make a choice. Just as Osborne did when he took the lives of his innocent, defenceless children. No one else did it. It was his choice.

But all too often we hear of high-profile stories such as that of Matthew Newton, who claims mental illness is the reason behind his violent behaviour.

Again, his female victims were weaker than he. As were his alleged male victims.

He never picks a fight with someone stronger than himself – so he makes choices.

Men who are only violent behind closed doors, or towards people weaker than them, have a sense of entitlement. They have never been told no.

The White Ribbon association, which works with men to promote the prevention of violence against women, has a list of myths about family violence.

One of the top 10 myths is that violent people are mentally ill or have psychopathic personalities, but according to White Ribbon, clinical studies do not support this view.

The website states: “Most abusers would appear to be respectable men who are very much in control’’.

The website also points out that abuse comes in many forms, including, but not limited to:

- physical abuse;

- emotional abuse;

- sexual abuse;

- verbal abuse;

- social abuse;

- spiritual abuse; and

- economic abuse.

Too often, people living through the hell of an abusive partner are too scared to speak out. They blame themselves and look for ways to pacify their partner, at all costs.

But the truth is, very few perpetrators are the same in public as they are in the privacy of their own homes, which is why when someone takes the risk of speaking out it is important that you listen, believe and respect what they are telling you.

And it is never someone else’s fault when a person makes the choice to be violent.

- For mental health help or information visit beyondblue.org.au

Nicole Ferrie is the Bendigo Advertiser's deputy editor.

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