Why Male Victims of Domestic Violence Need Recognition and Support

If you listened to last night's budget or you looked through the budget papers you might have noticed the considerable attention paid towards women, including many hundreds of millions of dollars allocated towards assisting female victims of domestic violence.

However, what was overlooked was another aspect of domestic violence playing out in Australia. One which, like those who suffer from it, rarely gets the same sort of attention, violence against men.

I felt compelled to address this issue and help bring some facts to light because so often male victims are not only ignored but they are not given vital information about services and aid that they can access for help.

My words were as follows.

The inquest into the terrible death of Hannah Clarke and her children at the hands of her ex-husband is a daily reminder of the epidemic of domestic violence and the need to protect women and children.

That horrendous crime is embedded in our memories and hopefully crystallises action to safeguard families against all domestic violence of that nature.

But what about the other aspect of domestic violence playing out in Australia which rarely gets the same sort of attention?

This is a difficult story to relate in this chamber, but it must be told.

On the 10th of March this year, a woman is alleged to have broken into the home of her ex-partner in Logan, Queensland, doused the man in petrol and set him alight.

It’s difficult to imagine a more horrific death, but it could have been much worse.

His current partner and his children were also in the house at the time, and it’s believed he fought to protect their lives when the attack took place.

I want to acknowledge the bravery of Stanley Obi, another victim of the epidemic of domestic violence in Australia.

This incident is not the first of its kind.

In 2019 a Geelong woman doused her husband in petrol and set him alight—she was later convicted of manslaughter.

In 2018 a Southport woman killed her partner with a shotgun.

In June last year, a Brisbane woman is alleged to have murdered her ex-husband because she no longer wanted to pay child support.

And in 2014, in a case which truly horrified Australia, a Cairns woman killed eight children, all but one of them her own.

The atrocities I’ve listed here all have one thing in common—they were committed by women, not men.

The tragic death of Stanley Obi this month must serve as a wake-up call.

Only a year ago the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs handed down the report on its inquiry into family, domestic and sexual violence.

This committee finally recognised the truth about domestic violence: women can be perpetrators and men can be victims.

The report made a number of recommendations that are worth repeating:

• the next National Plan to reduce violence must be more inclusive of all victims, and should be named the National Plan to Reduce Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence;
• the Australian Government should commission research into the prevalence of family, domestic and sexual violence against men, and its impact on male survivors; and
• the Department of Social Services should review the adequacy of advice and referral services for men as survivors of family, domestic and sexual violence.

As we’ve seen in tonight’s Budget, however, a record $1.3 billion has been committed to end violence against women and children—but not men—and the new National Plan is not inclusive of men.

If Stanley Obi’s tragic death does not underline the need to recognise both genders are victims of domestic violence, what will?

The solution in this respect is quite simple.

Take gender out of the equation, because the violence is being committed by both men and women.

Men deserve as much support as victims and survivors as women and children, but they do not receive it because the support is not there.

Or if it is, it’s not advertised.

Women are told they can receive assistance of up to $5000 to relocate and escape an abusive partner.

Men are eligible too, but they’re not told.

Domestic violence support is too focused on women and children as the sole victims and men as the sole perpetrators.

Evidence presented to the joint Select Committee on Australia’s Family Law System shows this bias also extends to family courts, although women also presented evidence of the reverse.

It’s one of the reasons why I’ve been working hard to reform family law and Australia’s broken child support system.

We must have a new National Plan to reduce violence which recognises that anyone, male or female, can be a victim.

There must be funding to support male survivors, and research into the prevalence of domestic violence against them.

And it must be addressed in the courts, ensuring that men get an equally fair hearing in these cases.

For many decades now women have successfully challenged society to recognise their agency and independence.

It was a long time coming, and social equality between the sexes is still a work in progress.

But it goes both ways, and our policies must reflect that too.

We will not end domestic violence until we recognise and acknowledge all of its victims.

We will not end domestic violence unless we as parliamentarians—and the media—portray men as victims too.

And we will not end domestic violence unless we properly define it.

Advocates for victims tend to conflate intimidation or financial control as ‘violence’ but that is simply not the same as a physical assault and it should not be treated the same.

I call on this government, and whoever forms government after this election, to do more for the male victims and survivors of domestic violence by acknowledging the facts and implementing the recommendations of the inquiry completed last year.

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