DV in the Daily Telegraph: one step forward, two steps back

By Loni Cooper
Thu 4 August 14:35 AEST
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This article contains reference to domestic violence.

Most days, it feels like the Australian media is making significant progress in its reporting of violence against women. More and more, journalists and commentators seem to understand the impact their words have on community attitudes towards domestic violence. On most days, it feels like they want to help stop it.

Reading the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, it felt like one of those days. Yesterday, it really didn’t.

On Tuesday, the Tele website published an article by Jane Gilmore, titled 'The irrefutable facts of domestic violence in Australia'. It began: 

There’s a persistent view, particularly among men who feel under attack by feminists, that anyone who talks about gendered violence is demonising men. And that in doing so, not only are they are factually incorrect, they’re also deliberately ignoring male victims.

Gilmore used data from the NSW Coroners Court, collected over 12 years, to demonstrate that there is an ‘unarguable picture of gendered violence’ in relation to domestic violence homicides in that state.

Of all domestic homicides:

- 41 per cent of the victims are men

- 78 per cent of the offenders are men

Intimate partner homicides:

- 22 per cent of victims were men

- 81 per cent of offenders were men

- In all but three cases where men were killed by women, police identified him as the domestic violence abuser.

Where police and court investigation found a history of domestic violence in the relationship prior to the murder:

- 96 per cent of the victims were women, all killed by male abusers

- 4 per cent of the victims were men, all killed by male abusers

There was not one single case in the whole 12 years where a man was killed by a woman who had been abusing him.

The article used statistical evidence to challenge a number of myths that persist around domestic violence, and argued that we should acknowledge its gendered nature “because we need to understand why it’s happening to have any hope of changing it.”

Gilmore is a long- time advocate for changing the way we discuss violence against women, and I wasn’t surprised that she’d written this piece. I was, however, pleased to see it published by the Daily Telegraph. It seemed significant that a mainstream widely-read tabloid was hosting this content, rather than a women's website.  

But yesterday, just twelve hours after Gilmore’s article was published, the Tele followed up with this opinion piece by freelancer Corrine Barraclough - ‘Feminism or victimism? Bashing men is not the answer’ – and undid all of Jane Gilmore’s good work.  

Barraclough jumped straight in to attack the ‘wailing feminists’ who she claimed are trying to perpetuate gendered violence for their own financial gain. Oh, and to deprive men of their human rights, too.

A GREEDY empire has been built on enforcing the fictitious notion that men are evil perpetrators and women are innocent victims. It’s lazy, immoral, incorrect and unacceptable.

Some victims are victims entirely by circumstance — wrong time, awful ending.

However, damaging third-wave feminism has now saddled Australian society with the prevalence of victim mentality. This weak culture of blame has stripped men of their human rights and disempowered women...

Why does this laborious, twisted notion persist? Money. Feminism is the scrounger that can’t get its thieving hands on precious power and delicious dollars fast enough.

Aside from the ridiculous suggestion that workers in the domestic violence sector (which has been notoriously under-funded for decades and has only received a significant boost in Victoria) are in it for the cash, Barraclough’s piece contains multiple assumptions that are just plain wrong. The sector simply doesn’t promote ‘victimhood’, for example. In fact, it has consistently argued for survivors to make their own decisions regarding their safety, and promotes their agency and resourcefulness. Her argument is poorly supported, quoting just one source (a controversial figure who is in long-standing disagreement with feminists about the nature of domestic violence) and Barraclough admits in the piece she doesn’t want to ‘scrap over statistics’.

Barraclough sums up like this:

Outside fierce feminist fantasyland most women don’t want to embrace this sickly obsession with “victimhood”. It’s as far from empowering as male-perpetrated DV is from fact. Feminists: Get back to work, you bludgers. Swap blame for solutions, victimhood has lined your pockets long enough.

I would suggest that it’s Corrine Barraclough who needs to get back to work, and do some research. She could read Jane Gilmore’s article for starters, or even just the statistics she cites. There is solid evidence that violence in Australia has a distinctly gendered component, and acknowledging that isn’t ‘bashing men’, or a feminist consipiracy. Rather, it’s a crucial part of raising awareness and understanding of how and why violence occurs, and eventually ending it. And that’s something the Tele’s editors might want to consider before opting to publish inaccurate and inflammatory opinion pieces about domestic violence.