Australia’s domestic violence funding needs to be better directed to women genuinely at risk, write Bettina Arndt.
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Vimala, a retired Indian university lecturer, looked forward to spending time with her son, a Sydney-based doctor, his wife and newborn grandchild.
But it quickly became apparent that things weren’t going well between her son and his wife.
Twice during her brief visit, her daughter-in-law called the police alleging domestic violence over trivial arguments with her husband.
On one occasion she decided she wanted beef for dinner and demanded her husband provide it.
Vimala explains: “Her fridge was stacked with chicken, fish, lamb but she decided she needed the beef straight away and threatened to call the police if my son didn’t give in.”
The young woman had a standard response when her husband asked her to do something which displeased her: “I know all the services and who to call if you tell me to do something I don’t like.”
She was receiving advice from a friend who worked for a domestic violence support service and, when the marriage broke up, this affluent woman lived for six months in a women’s shelter, while their support team orchestrated the family law battle over custody, fuelled by her manufactured allegations of domestic violence.
The government spent $3 billion on safety plans for women and children over the last decade.
Vimala wrote saying that from an outsider’s perspective, the services available to women in this country claiming to be domestic violence victims are just extraordinary.
No one would quarrel with providing proper support for a frightened woman escaping a dangerous man.
Our federal government spent $3 billion over the past decade on the safety plan to protect “women and their children,” with untold billions added from all the fundraising by state governments, community groups and businesses across the country.
People rightly dig deep for this important cause.
But the fortunate truth is only tiny numbers of women in this country are actually in peril. Official statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Personal Safety Survey show that just over one per cent of women have been physically assaulted by their partners in the past year.
Yet this critical fact is inevitably swamped by statistics which include emotional, psychological, financial abuse and threats of violence for women over their lifetimes, to give a truly frightening impression of widespread risk for women.
The vast majority of these women are not in a dangerous situation. The public doesn’t realise they are paying out mainly to help women who are not under threat.
They may have unpleasant partners who are reluctant to pay their credit card bills… but there’s just no logic for the billions being spent to “keep them safe”.
Yet we have created this moral hazard, inviting all these women to think of themselves as victims and hence eligible for the services now on offer.
We see this in the inflated figures shown in police reports, blown out by domestic violence allegations which give women strategic advantage in family law battles.
Bettina Arndt says there’s not a single government-funded centre offering refuge to men.
No evidence of violence is required to make such an allegation.
A woman’s report that she fears violence could occur is enough to set the ball rolling, with the “victim” eligible for financial payouts, cheap services and support.
I’ve made YouTube videos with two NSW police officers speaking out about what they see as rorting of the system.
The long list of domestic violence payouts is usually only available to female victims and simply requires someone to support the victim’s story, like a local DV centre or doctor or police report.
It is a system set up to automatically believe the woman and treat men as potential perpetrators.
State and federal governments compete to display their generosity towards victims: the $5000 federal government Escaping Violence Payment; victims’ compensation payments; a Commonwealth four week Crisis Payment; crisis accommodation which even puts victims into motels; help with rent and priority for social housing; Staying Home Leaving Violence programs which remove hubby so women can stay in the marital home.
Meanwhile, male victims have nowhere to go – there’s not a single government-funded centre offering refuge to men.
Boys 14 and older are not welcome in women’s refuges which take in their mums and siblings. Yet, while vulnerable males are ignored, women can have their pets cared for by the RSPCA in a government-backed program.
An unproven allegation of domestic violence sets women up for smooth sailing throughout family law proceedings, writes Bettina Arndt.
Naturally the big end of town happily doles out investors’ dollars to this worthy cause: banks like NAB give grants to any customer leaving violent relationships; utility companies offer discounted fees, debt waivers, all manner of special deals; and there are special arrangements for tenants in rental agreements.
Then there’s domestic violence leave, giving victims time off to attend legal proceedings or organise their affairs. The push is on for 10 days paid leave, a major impost on business which the Australian Chamber of Commerce estimates could cost a cool $2 billion annually.
The only proof required is the usual tick-a-box system dependent on victim’s stories which employers don’t dare challenge.
For newcomers seeking to arrange permanent residency, the fast and sure route is a domestic violence claim. Law firms everywhere are touting for business in this lucrative field.
Yet this whole list of benefits palls into insignificance compared to the advantages of domestic violence victim status in family law battles.
An unproven allegation of domestic violence sets women up for smooth sailing throughout family law proceedings, creating enormous, costly obstacles for their partners which can destroy the father’s relationships with his children and rob him of much of his life’s earnings.
Often men discover a divorce is on the cards only when police arrive at their door with an apprehended violence order – denying them access to their homes and often contact with their children until matters are resolved in the courts, when mums are firmly established as the primary parent with dad on the outer.
That’s just the beginning.
The family law system favours women alleging domestic violence, says Bettina Arndt.
The family law system favours women alleging domestic violence in any number of ways —seizing of the marital home; free legal aid and court advocacy services; denying perpetrators cross examination of victims; and setting aside the rebuttable resumption of shared parental responsibility creating major impediments to a father’s ongoing relationships with children. The couple is excluded from attending what is normally compulsory mediation and other alternate non-adversarial pathways; victims usually retain a larger slice of the assets in financial settlements plus the man labelled a perpetrator encounters profound prejudice through the family law process.
This inflated domestic violence campaign does our society a huge disservice by grossly distorting the numbers of women living with dangerous men – an insult to the normal, caring men of Australia.
It is also shameful how little of this massive effort and expenditure protects those genuinely in need.
Bettina Arndt blogs at bettinaarndt.substack.com.