The steady stream of family violence offenders hauled before the courts is a constant reminder that many men still fail to grasp its seriousness.
That fact was in evidence in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court yesterday, where a Bendigo man described an incident in which he pulled a woman by the hair, threatened her with a hammer and punched a hole in a wall, as a “storm in a teacup”.
One can only imagine how terrified the woman would have been throughout the encounter, and this flippant characterisation demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the nature of family violence.
As one survivor of psychological abuse in the home testified to the Royal Commission: “I have never had visible bruises, yet the terror and alarm I experienced was no different to a victim with visible bruising.”
It was the man’s lack of understanding of the consequences of his actions that prompted magistrate John Murphy to make the suggestion that he and others read the commission’s report, released this week.
“It’s the same old story of the victim being forced to leave the home because of a man’s actions,” he said.
“I would say 99 per cent of this kind of violence that comes before me is perpetrated by men. I could give each of them a copy of the royal commission – they all need to read it.”
Other testimonies before the commission shed further light on what constitutes family violence and how insidious its effects can be.
“I didn’t think I was in domestic violence,” one survivor said.
“I didn’t feel I was entitled to it because he did not bash me. I thought there were women out there who needed help more. It’s the perception of domestic violence, it’s the image of a woman beaten bloody. So I didn’t feel like I deserved the help.”
But perhaps more important than the lack of understanding manifest in the offender’s words is the lack of empathy.
Testimonies like those contained in the Royal Commission’s report do not make for easy reading.
But for many men – and it is mostly men, as Mr Murphy noted – perhaps they could provide an insight into the experiences of victims that prompts them to change their behaviour.
To read the report visit www.rcfv.com.au/Report-Recommendations
JASON WALLS, journalist