Thursday, August 16, 2007

"Leading cause of death and disability"

To: The Hon. Rob Hulls
State of Victoria

From: Geoff Holland

Dear Mr Hulls,
You were quoted in The Age, 13 Aug 2007 "Vic govt plan to address family violence" as saying:
"Family violence affects one in five Victorian women and is the leading contributor to death, disability and illness in women under 45"

According to Greg Andresen, whose letter was published in response to your article:

"The top five causes of death and disability for females aged 15 to 44 are in fact anxiety and depression, migraine, type 2 diabetes, asthma and schizophrenia. These are the latest (2003) figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, as published on their website."

So, is Greg Andresen incorrect ? What are the sources of your data ? Have you been misled ?
I hope this misunderstanding can be clarified.

I am part of the Dads' Movement - that is, part of a network of online forums throughout Australia. Your response may prevent tens of thousands of Dads from believing that you are untruthful.

The Dads' Movement takes the issue of Domestic Violence very seriously. It is a shame we are never invited to have an input into campaigns to reduce Domestic Violence. One would think this would be an obvious first step.

I look forward to your response.

Geoff Holland
Equal Parenting Movement

The article refered to:

Vic govt plan to address family violence

August 13, 2007 - 8:54AM

New laws to stamp out domestic violence will allow authorities to remove offenders from the family home and make it easier for victims to stay, the Victorian government says.

Attorney-General Rob Hulls unveiled the proposed Family Violence Act, saying it would help address the "epidemic of family violence" in Victoria.

The new laws, which the state government wants to have in place within six months, would widen the definition of family violence to include psychological and economic abuse, Mr Hulls said.

"Family violence affects one in five Victorian women and is the leading contributor to death, disability and illness in women under 45," Mr Hulls said.

"For too long the judicial system has not adequately supported women who have had the courage to report family violence.

"In the past, family violence has been seen as a domestic matter. It's not. It's a crime."
Under the act, the perpetrator of the violence would be required to leave the family home, allowing the victims to stay, Mr Hulls said.

"These changes will help ensure that victims of violence are not further distressed by being forced from their homes, often uprooting their children from their friends and schools," he said.

The new laws would also bar alleged offenders without a lawyer from cross-examining victims in court.

The act would also protect older Victorians from being abused by unpaid or informal carers, Mr Hulls said.

The proposal comes almost five years after the government asked the Victorian Law Reform Commission to review laws and procedures related to family violence, and 17 months after the commission's final report was tabled in state parliament.

The Family Violence Act was expected to be introduced into parliament before the end of the year.


Even the Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Study 2005 show that about 30% of domestic violence is perpetrated by women. For those who think that women cannot hit hard, these instances include murder (as do instances of domestic violence of men against women).

The message in any domestic violence campaign is that only men are the perpretrators and women are always the victim. The above article reinforces this. When men have the courage to speak out about domestic violence against them, they are often ridiculed (much more so than women). For this reason many men do not come forward.

Why would you want to bar the accused from the right to cross-examine the alleged victim ? The victim can have adquate support and protection. This is a fundamental legal right that is being withdrawn.

It is my understanding that a partner can be removed from the home merely on allegations made by the other partner but where there is no physical evidence. I wonder if the police would remove a mother based on unproven allegations put forward by the father.

The government response is an expedient one. It offers punishment, and will inevitably include cases where the punished are innocent. It does not seek to treat the root of the problems.

Where there are cases of domestic violence between partners (as there are many other forms of domestic violence), these partners should be interviewed by trained (and impartial) psychologists / relationship counsellor. For example, one partner can be taken to a large comfortable Family Relationships van outside the house and interviewed at length, looking not only at the incident but also at the circumstances and behaviour that led to the incident. Then the other partner would be interviewed.

Plain-clothed police officers trained in forensics could examine the house for evidence to verify claims by both partners as to the details of the violent incident.

Where there are children in the home, a social worker should be available to help the parents supervise the children during the interview period (eg eating their dinner, doing their homework, getting ready for bed, etc).

In circumstances where the conflict has been de-escalated and both partners and the psychologist feel there is minimal danger of further violence in the short term, the couple should be allowed to remain together. Where one partner feels threatened, the alleged perpetrator could be removed if there is evidence to support the claim.

If there is no evidence, but at least one of the partners wishes not to remain with the other, one of the partners would be transfered to comfortable temporary accommodation while further interviews are conducted with both partners. The parent who is chosen to go to temporary accommodation is decided by a random selection generator. Sons would stay with the father, daughters would stay with the mother.

In cases that were not considered too serious, the court case could be held in an informal setting, with a plain-clothes judge, as well as the psychologist and the plain-clothes police officers who attended the original incident, but without the legal representation of solicitors and barristers. Partners who were found guilty of perpetrating violence would be assigned Community Service and also requested to attend course in Anger Management and Conflict Resolution etc. One would expect that in many cases, both partners would be found to have contributed to the violence, and so both would be expected to do Community Service (possibly for different periods of time depending on the severity of their actions) and attend courses. They may also have to pay fines.

For serious cases, the case would go to a formal court and those convicted of serious domestic violence would be required to go to jail. The law should be applied evenly to men and women.

The State is being expedient by introducing a system where it appears virtually no questions are asked. The male is taken away on the assumption that he is the perpetrator, and if not, well the couple is separated so it should prevent further violence (and who cares if the male is guilty or not anyway).

But this will only aggravate and amplify tensions, not resolve them or change behaviour. It will lead to more men being locked up in jail at great cost to the State. On the otherhand, Community Service and fines can contribute to the costs of assigning a psychologist / relationship counsellor and social worker to each case.

If Domestic Violence has a major impact on the economy (as the 2004 Access Economics report "The Cost of Domestic Violence" suggests, investing money in treating root causes would seem like the more prudent option - not merely implementing a harsh and scattergun penalty system which is unlikely to be a successful deterrent, and more likely to worsen the situation.

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