In New Zealand recently, a judge ruled that relationship difficulties and alcohol abuse provided a context for the brutal physical violence committed by a father against his 9 month old baby. The judge’s comment was “that does not excuse your behaviour, but it provides context for it.”
This baby boy was so severely injured that his tongue was torn, his eyes unable to open from swelling, and cheekbones were fractured. In addition, domestic violence was a recurring problem in this family, with the father also assaulting the baby’s mother on several occasions prior, including when she tried to defend their baby from his beating.
The father ended up with home detention for only nine months, and some community service. Many people are outraged about this, but it is par for the course in a society that is rife with attitudes of contempt regarding women and children.
Australia is no better. Neither are other countries for that matter. Let’s have a look at some of these prevalent societal attitudes.
What a man does in his home is his private business, nobody else’s.
“Stop sticking your nose in my private affairs.”
Relationship problems are between a man and woman, and nobody else’s business.
“That’s their private matter, don’t get involved.”
Violence against a woman is acceptable if she provoked the man.
“She had it coming. She asked for it.”
It can’t be that bad because she is still there.
“Why doesn’t she leave?”
“She’s just being a drama queen.”
“It ain’t that bad. She has no idea what real violence is!”
Australians have very ingrained beliefs that family life is private and to not be discussed about with others. This includes relationship difficulties, mental health issues, addiction, alcoholism, financial stress, parenting struggles and disagreements. All of this is not to be spoken about openly and should remain within the family only.
There is the very Aussie attitude of loyalty and not dobbing others in, which can be seen in primary school yards and many families where kids are told to not be tattletales. Despite there being very valid reasons for a child to tell someone else about a behaviour that they know is wrong, the attitude of not telling tales is still prevalent, even with adults.
These attitudes regarding the private sphere of family life and not dobbing others in are very damaging to families, and a downright dangerous socialised behaviour for children. It essentially grooms children to grow up into offenders who are secure in the culture of silence, or into victims who are seen as the problem should they dare break this culture of socially condoned violence.
Community attitudes are responsible for maintaining the status quo, despite campaigns to address domestic violence. In Australia, there is an increasingly visible presence of domestic violence in the public sphere now, posters in public places, campaigns run on TV and in public, sporting heros jumping on the No Violence campaign, the White Ribbon Campaign.
Men still say “… but not all men!”, or “Women do it too!” despite the statistics which show the majority of domestic violence incidents involve male perpetrators. When people are saying things like this, it is clearly evident they still hold these detrimental attitudes and beliefs.
After seeing the report about the New Zealand Judge, it seems he should be called to stand to account for his own accountability in perpetuating domestic violence against children and women. All it takes is for men like himself, to do nothing, and nothing is exactly what he did when he sentenced this father to 9 months home detention. If a full grown, adult male was bashed in the same way this nine-month old baby boy was, with the same kind of resulting injuries, this would be considered assault and there would be more severe consequences. Simply unacceptable Judge Clark!