The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Posts Tagged ‘domestic violence’

Charlie Sheen & Sections of the Australian Media

Posted by caitlinate on December 29, 2009

Yesterday I was unfortunate enough to view the Channel Nine news. I had been watching the cricket (disappointed at Pakistan’s somewhat woeful performance) and when they cut from the transmission to the news I left the television on. I think I was talking to someone on facebook chat (shhh, don’t tell anyone) but keeping a somewhat distracted ear open to what they were, uh, ‘reporting’ from around the country. About half way through the announcer/newsreader said something along the lines of: “After the break, Charlie Sheen arrested.” This cued me and my fellow facebook chatter to riff on what he possibly could have been arrested for and if, in fact, there were any crimes we wouldn’t believe Charlie Sheen had been arrested for.

Then we came back from the break and the reporting went something like this:

It is being alleged that Brook Mueller was under the influence of alcohol or other substances when she made the call to police on Christmas to claim that her husband, Charlie Sheen, had assaulted her. Others now also claim that she may have completely fabricated the allegations that left Sheen – star of Two and a Half Men – spending part of his Christmas in jail.

I admit completely that the above is very much a snarky memory based quote but were I able to find the transcripts I don’t believe it would be much different (if anyone could help me out with a link that would be great).

What is important to Channel Nine isn’t to report that Charlie Sheen had assaulted his wife (though why they’re “reporting” on it anyway is a mystery) but that Brook Mueller is probably a drunk and was probably lying when she got her Grinch on and caused poor old, fun loving, friendly, nice guy Charlie to spend his Christmas in jail. Has she no heart? No Christmas spirit? Oh and p.s. that show we happened to mention before, it’s on right after this and we really want you to watch it. For Channel Nine, making sure that you aren’t dissuaded from watching their show is more important than accurately reporting celebrity occasions of domestic violence. Hell, to me it isn’t even about accurate reporting. It’s about not leading with statements that are intended to cast aspersions on the female partner in this situation. It’s about not making the decision to completely assassinate her character from the get go. It’s about reporting the facts that are available to you rather than prioritising protecting your brand, particularly when it’s to the detriment of yet another victim of domestic violence.

Reporting from The Herald Sun also pushes the drunken thing, bemoans Sheen “languishing in the Pitkin County Jail”, and commits a bizarre amount of space to celebrating Two and a Half Men, referring to it as a “sitcom sensation” and lauding its ratings status:

Sheen is the highest paid actor in US television and takes home $825,000 per episode on Two and a Half Men, which is also a ratings juggeraut [sic] for Channel 9.

It averages 1.2 million Australian viewers and is consistently in the top 10 most watched shows.

And, despite many episodes being repeated, it still trounces its competition, including The 7PM Project.

Seriously, weird.

For those interested here’s what actually happened (via E! Online, who have actually, you know, read the police report [pdf link] filed by responding officer Rick Magnuson of the Aspen Police Department). I think it quite definitively speaks for itself about what probably happened and what kind of loveable, friendly, aw-shucks, Two and a Half Men kind of guy Charlie Sheen really is. (Edit – Carlos Estevez is Sheen’s real name and the name he is referred to as here.) Please note, it’s possibly triggering.


Posted in Celebrity, domestic violence, Media Watch, violence against women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

McClelland Talks, Says Mostly Good Things

Posted by caitlinate on July 24, 2009

Attorney-General Robert McClelland today announced a series of (potential) changes to the family law system in Australia. These changes are aimed at tackling domestic violence and child abuse in Australia and altering the way the courts operate in terms of these issues. In the introduction to his speech he stated:

“I believe that at the moment there are still too many families that slip through the safety net. Complex problems rarely have simple solutions and they can’t be overcome by taking action in isolation. To address violence we need to identify holes in the system, and collaborate to tighten the safety net. It’s not enough to look for holes in the law, or in court processes or in the delivery of services, or any of these things on their own. Our safety net must provide the tightest protection possible for families negotiating the family law system.”

This is obviously in large part politician speak (he says ‘safety net’ three different times, somewhat unnecessarily) but I feel that his heart is in the right place and that revamping or strengthening the way the system works is a good thing. I do, however, have some reservations, in particular that the focus of this speech and these changes seems to be to the system after the fact – so after when the abuse occus rather than working on prevention in the first place.

The four main announcements he made are outlined in bold.

• A training package for family law system professionals and the development of minimum screening guidelines;

Training and information for ‘professionals’ within the system is a really amazing thing and I’m glad they are prioritising this. A lot of the problems that victims and survivors of violence have with legal system professionals (including the police) is that they are untrained and unaware of the impacts and complications involved in violence and abuse. This often results in behaviour/advice that can be further traumatising or unhelpful.

I am a little concerned that these training packages will be of a bureaucratic nature. The best way to inform people about the requirements and experiences of abuse survivors is to have survivors communicate about what they need or needed and the best ways to proceed. Nonetheless, it does seem that they are taking cues from the National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children’s April report ‘Time for Action’ which came from a lot of community and survivor consultation.

The ‘minimum screening guidelines’ mentioned aren’t really elaborated on but I think McClelland’s talking about mandatory reporting levels and altering what he terms ‘inefficient jurisdictional boundaries’

• A pilot of legally assisted mediation for families experiencing violence;

I think this is an interesting one. The Howard government pretty much banished lawyers from some aspects of family law disputes, preferring separating couples to use counselors for mediation. McClelland has commissioned this pilot project to instead fund lawyers for mediation in cases where violence is alleged. He states:

“In assisting families to exercise choice in resolving their separation disputes, I am funding a pilot program to provide legal representation in mediation sessions to families who have experienced violence or are at risk of it.”

This could be positive. I don’t think that someone should have no legal support or recourse when the partner they are separating from has been violent towards them or their children. However allowing lawyers to the table could bring about two negative possibilities. One that bullying abusive lawyers will be in the room and it will be about forcing one party into submission. Secondly that if one partner is in a more stable financial position they will be able to hire a more experienced lawyer who can work for more favourable outcomes for their client – regardless of if they’ve been violent.

• A review of the family court practice and procedure, lead by Professor Richard Chisholm, a former Family Court judge;

This review seems to be about expanding the current model for dealing with children who have been abused or in abusive situations. Currently in use is the Magellan case management model – introduced in 1998. It brings together the family courts, police and child protection agencies to ensure the Court has all the information it needs to make decisions “in the best interest of the child” but is incredibly flawed. The current laws require the Family Court to presume the “best interests of a child” are served by a meaningful relationship with both parents after divorce, regardless of if one parent has been abusive. It forces parents into ongoing relationships with violent ex-partners and requires them to regularly hand over their children to the care of said ex-partner.

Chisholm is going to be consulting experts and examining whether the practices and procedures in the family courts encourage appropriate disclosures of family violence, and whether appropriate support is provided within the family court system for families who have experienced or are at risk of violence.

• An enquiry by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to identify gaps in the law and reinforce the previously mentioned ‘safety net’.

This inquiry will look at two important issues raised in the National Council’s report:

1. It will examine the interaction of State and Territory laws relating to family violence and child protection with Commonwealth family laws and criminal laws to determine whether changes are required to better protect women and children; and

2. It will examine the impact of the inconsistent interpretation or application of laws in cases of sexual assault occurring in the context of family violence, on the victims of violence.

I can do nothing but applaud the fact that this enquiry is happening and cross my fingers that the outcomes will be positive for victims and survivors of violence, abuse and assault.

Overall I find the announcements to be on the positive side, even if only because action is being taken and family violence is being taken seriously. Some of the measures that will be introduced do raise questions but I don’t feel that any are to be damned but rather watched closely to see what the results are. I do wish that this was all less about enquiries and reviews and about real and substantial action being taken. However if the ‘reviews’ and ‘enquiries’ involve talking to communities, affected groups and survivors then I think extended evaluation is probably a better thing that rushed but ineffective action.

Finally, one other thing of interest McClelland mentioned is the following:

“Measures to address family violence will assist the Government’s effort to halve homelessness by 2020, as we now know that family violence is the principle cause of homelessness among young women with children.”

This statement displays, to me, an understanding of the wide and varied effect that domestic violence has on families, individuals, women and children, something of a relief after the draconian attitude of the previous government.

Posted in law, Parenting & Family, Politics, violence against women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Damir Dokic: Hitting Jelena Was “For Her Sake”

Posted by Clem Bastow on May 7, 2009

I’m sure I’m not the only person who was pleased to see Jelena Dokic’s comeback (and to have her come back to Australia) at this year’s Australian Open, particularly in light of her treatment at the hands of her father and “coach”, Damir; to see her remove herself from that situation and go on to professional and personal triumph was inspiring.

Well, now that Jelena has recently told of the physical abuse she suffered at the hands of her father in addition to the bellowing and belittling that came to be known as Damir’s horrible trademark, naturally Damir has had to have his two cents, since he evidently lives in a magical world where violent men actually have a right of reply when their abuse is revealed:

“If I was ever a little bit more aggressive towards Jelena, it was for her sake,” Mr Dokic told the Serbian newspaper Vecernje Novosti.

In the latest Sport & Style magazine, published in The Age this week, the tennis star spoke in detail about the trauma her father caused and how she fled her family home in October 2002.

“When I was young, I was beaten by my parents,” Mr Dokic said, “and I am now thankful to them for that, because that helped me to become the right person. Anyway, is there any parent who didn’t do that at least once or twice — of course, for the sake of their children?”

That’s right, Damir – what frightened young girl hasn’t been beaten by and bellowed at by her father in order to keep her hitting those aces? Obviously Damir’s rantings are the sort of quote-fests the tabloids live for, but sometimes I question the value of allowing known abusers to speak freely about their crimes in this manner. I’m inclined to think that stories like these send an unfortunate message to women (or indeed, anyone) who’ve been abused, in essence that what they’ve suffered is terrible… but you know, we ought to let their abuser share their side of the story, too. What are your thoughts?

Posted in Celebrity, Family, Media Watch, Sport, violence against women | Tagged: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Women’s Aid/Keira Knightley Anti-D.V. Commercial to be Censored

Posted by Sara Lewis on April 28, 2009

Though not yet officially released in cinemas, some of you may have already seen the anti-domestic violence commercial featuring Keira Knightley floating around the internet. The Telegraph (UK) reported yesterday that Clearcast – the organisation that is responsible for pre-approving British broadcasting based on Ofcom standards – is to remove the scenes depicting violence before allowing the commercial to be released to the public in the United Kingdom.

The commercial, created by UK anti-D.V. charity organisation Women’s Aid, sees Keira Knightley returning home to be confronted by her on-screen partner, who accuses her of having an affair. The ensuing scenes see Knightley getting violently attacked by the man and being repeatedly kicked while lying on the floor. The Telegraph reported that

“…it is this last sequence that has been deemed too shocking for a television audience.”

If you haven’t seen the commercial already (N.B. If I haven’t made it obvious already… insert trigger warning here):

The commercial is by no means a flawless or all-encompassing portrayal of domestic violence. After all, domestic violence is often a long-term problem that doesn’t simply pertain to physical violence; it also refers to the psychological domination and potential control of one person in a relationship/intimate partnership over the other. It is the lack of media attention to this kind of violence and abuse that, in my opinion, is partially responsible for the women who refuse to admit that they are in an abusive relationship.

That said – it seems downright ridiculous for Clearcast to consider cutting the explicit scenes in the Women’s Aid commercial. While the scenes are extremely uncomfortable to watch, I believe that there is something to be said for not sugar-coating the events of the commercial. It only takes a quick YouTube search to see that, more often than not, domestic violence is unrealistically portrayed – even ‘spoofed’ – in the media. It might even be said that before the media’s insensitive treatment of, for example, the Rihanna/Chris Brown case (which saw Rihanna’s bruised and swollen face on the covers of tabloids everywhere), some people may not yet have even been exposed to ‘real’ domestic violence. [This is not at all to say that it was ethical, in any way, that the photos of Rihanna were leaked to the tabloids – every victim of violence has a right to protection.]

The Women’s Aid commercial is an extremely confronting portrayal of one form of domestic violence, but at the end of the day it is a fictional (hell, they got Keira Knightley didn’t they?) representation of what is, of course, a very real problem. Shouldn’t this be enough for Clearcast? They definitely need to add a trigger warning of sorts to the start of the commercial, but considering the amount of graphic depictions of – for example – drug addiction and binge drinking so prevalent in media campaigns today (the latter perhaps more rampant in Australia than in the UK), why is domestic violence the issue that needs to be palliated here?

Posted in Celebrity, Film & Television, Politics, Relationships, violence against women | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Excuses, excuses, excuses

Posted by caitlinate on March 12, 2009

I wish I could say I was surprised. From an opinion poll commissioned by the British Home Office:

How acceptable or not do you think it is for a man to hit or slap his wife or girlfriend in response to … ?

Would you say that a woman SHOULD BE held responsible, should be PARTLY held responsible or should NEVER be held responsible if she is sexually assaulted or raped in the following circumstances?

Full Poll Results.

Thanks to Claire for the link.

Posted in violence against women | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Quotation Marks, Saving The World From Pesky “Assault” Victims, One At A Time

Posted by Clem Bastow on February 28, 2009

We have discusssed newspapers’ use of rogue inverted commas in reportage and headlines before, and fellow feminist blogger Audrey has just provided a fine reminder of why such a seemingly simple editorial tool can be so punitive over at her Audrey & The Bad Apples. As she puts it:

‘I’ ‘do’ ‘not’ ‘understand’ ‘why’ ‘it’ ‘is’ ‘that’ ‘so’ ‘many’ ‘news’ ‘reports’ ‘about’ ‘rape’ ‘include’ ‘quotation’ ‘marks’ ‘as’ ‘if’ ‘somehow’ ‘already’ ‘preparing’ ‘for’ ‘the’ ‘moment’ ‘when’ ‘they’ ‘can’ ‘gleefully’ ‘reveal’ ‘the’ ‘female’ ‘bitch’ ‘boner’ ‘killer’ ‘was’ ‘lying’ ‘as’ ‘chicks’ ‘do’ ‘because’ ‘they’ ‘want’ ‘to’ ‘see’ ‘men’ ‘suffer’.

Well, it’s good to see that such pointless “reportage” continues across the pond (and then some). Witness The Daily Mail‘s follow-up piece on Rihanna today:

picture-51Okay, as I discussed in my last piece on the spurious use of quotation marks in headlines, it’s true that right now, Chris Brown is “only” (see? I can use them, too!) accused of assault; he hasn’t been found guilty. Thus, I can only assume the Mail‘s use of inverted commas has something vague to do with Brown’s being considered innocent until proven guilty.

But you would think, based on the leaked police photos – which, in true classy style, The Daily Mail has helpfully re-printed (Feministing’s Jessica Valenti efficiently sums up why Feministing, The Dawn Chorus, and many others have not shown said photos) – of Rihanna taken immediately following the assault that led to Brown’s arrest, they could leave out the quotation marks, just this once. Whether or not it is found that Brown was the one who “assaulted” Rihanna that night, there’s no questioning the fact that the woman was viciously beaten.

(All of this is to say nothing of “…but she can’t raise a smile”; hmm, you think? A young woman is – “allegedly” – assaulted by the man she thought was her whole world, who then goes on to issue piddling excuses for an “apology”, and she doesn’t look very happy? Stop the presses!)

Wake up, sub-editors of the world: stories like this (and so many others) aren’t Kevin Smith movies, so put away your air quotes.

Posted in Blog Watch, Celebrity, Media Watch, Relationships, violence against women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Surpise, Surprise, Violence Begets Violence

Posted by Cate on November 17, 2008

The White Ribbon Foundation has released some of the initial findings of their  latest research report,  An Assault On Our Future: The Impact Of Violence On Young People And Their Relationships.

The report, which reviewed data from the past seven years, including a survey of 5000 12 to 20-year-olds, linked an exposure to domestic violence to attitudes about violence. Some of the surveys results include:

One third of boys surveyed believe “it’s not a big deal to hit a girl”.

One in seven thought “it’s OK to make a girl have sex with you if she was flirting”.

Up to 350,000 girls aged between 12 and 20 – one in seven – had experienced sexual assault or rape.

Almost one third of girls in Year 10 had experienced unwanted sex.

The survey also shows one in four teenagers lives with violence at home, prompting calls for domestic violence education programs in schools.  None of this is particularly new in my personal opinion, educators and welfare pundits have long correlated domestic violence/parental attitudes with interpersonal behaviour.

Will this be another research report that sits on a well meaning person’s desk gathering dust? Will there be timelines for concrete action? And how can the impact of familial violence as a precursor to violence, be isolated from the impact of peer and larger societal perceptions of violence towards women?

Further, does family or childhood violence not only predict but excuse future behaviour? Seems to be trotted out in court sentencing at an alarming rate. At a very basic level, many victims of family violence do not hold misogynist attitudes, (though of course they may possess more interpersonal and social resources). Let’s hope this research leads to structural and interpersonal efforts at change.

November 25th is the United Nations Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. For more information on the White Ribbon Campaign including events in each state and how to buy ribbons and wristbands go to

Posted in Politics, Sex Crimes, sexual assault, violence against women | Tagged: , | 20 Comments »

Violence Against Women Caused By…Booze Alone, Apparently

Posted by Leah on November 4, 2008

This piece in The Age caught my eye this fine Melbourne Cup Day morning. It’s good that violence against women is at least being discussed in the press, but I take issue with the writer’s assertion that ‘The combination of a public holiday, too much to drink, gambling and warm weather is a volatile cocktail that inevitably leads to an increase in domestic violence’.

Summer heat, booze, arguments and gambling losses are presented as the only causes of domestic violence – at no point is sexism or disrespect (and hatred) for women mentioned as a cause.

When a man hits his partner, at some level he thinks it is acceptable. Most men who hit their partners do not regularly hit other people – their boss or friends for example (obviously some do – I’m talking about ‘most’). They CAN control their anger when they choose to. Hitting their partner is a clear indication that, on some level, they think it’s an acceptable action. This incredible disrespect for the rights of their partners is completely ignored in the article.

I absolutely agree that booze, heat and gambling are contributing factors – BUT, disrespect for the rights of one’s partner is THE central cause which is sadly ignored by much mainstream media. This thinking is based on the misguided notion that men cannot control themselves – the same argument used to defend rape. And it’s bullshit – not to mention also insulting to men. Men control their negative desires all the time – like everyone else – and when they hit or rape someone, they choose to do it and should be held responsible for their actions, not have it excused because of the weather, gambling or alchohol.

Posted in Media Watch, violence against women | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Don’t Want Domestic Assault Charges To Hinder Your Career And Travel Prospects? How About Not Assaulting Your Partner In The First Place!

Posted by Clem Bastow on October 31, 2008

Fashion designer and sometime reality TV personality Wayne Cooper was charged with common assault, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and stalking and intimidating his partner Sarah Marsh in June, and has today been found guilty of common assault (he had earlier pleaded not guilty, but changed his plea to guilty when the other charges were dropped).

It’s always shocking and disappointing when someone who is so frequently in the public eye acts in this way, but what struck me was this kicker at the end of the article:

“We accept … that there was a hostile intent in the end and there was an assault,” [Cooper’s barrister, Ian] McClintock said.

He asked the court not to record a conviction against his client as it may hinder his travel to the United States as required by his fashion business.

That reminded me acutely of the similar denouement to the Brooke Satchwell/Matthew Newton domestic assault case, in which Newton’s assault conviction was overturned and not recorded, ostensibly because he and the defense counsel argued it was a one off, but also because it would be injurious to his career. As Acting Judge Joseph Moore said, when clearing Newton:

“If a conviction is recorded, it will continue to have a lifelong effect not only for his reputation in Australia, but also his chances overseas.

“He has suffered severe shame personally, and he feels remorse for the attention he has brought on his family and friends.”

How about the “lifelong effect” having been assaulted by the man she loved will have on his former partner?

What on earth do these decisions say to the woman involved? “Oh, yeah, we see your husband/boyfriend/partner beat you, but he’s got a career to look after, you know? Chin up”. There are enough shamefully short sentences, pointless good-behaviour bonds and, in many cases, no convictions at all when it comes to domestic violence and partner assault and rape, adding this pathetic celebrity escape clause is an insult to survivors and victims of domestic violence.

If these notable men don’t want assault convictions hampering their career travel options, why don’t they consider, you know, not assaulting their partners? I know it’s a pretty revolutionary idea, but maybe, just maybe, it’ll catch on.

Posted in Media Watch, violence against women | Tagged: , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Domestic Violence: Would You Leave After The First Strike?

Posted by Cate on September 1, 2008

Are you in a relationship? Maybe you’ve been going out with your partner for some time. The sex is great and you love spending time together. He’s really attentive and likes to SMS and call you at work to see what you’re up to. He’s been a bit moody lately and tends to snap at you for no reason. But that’s ok, you’ve had bouts of depression in the past and sometimes feel really down. One time he shouted at you. It’s ok though, he has been working split shifts in IT and is preparing for a performance review. He starts worrying about money and checking the bills when they come in, including the ones of your personal credit card. He threatens to cut it up. You get in an argument and he hits you. Would you end the relationship?

I read in the news today that Katie Milligan has vowed to stand by her man Greg Bird, despite the Cronulla Sharks star being charged with glassing her in the face.

Katie states,

“I want people to know that Greg and I are still very much together,” she said.

“Yes, I still love him.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Media Watch, Relationships, Sex And Love | Tagged: , , , | 8 Comments »