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Permalink to original version of “The fox now guards the hen house” The fox now guards the hen house

What a welcome surprise. In June this year, the NSW government announced a pilot programme for female victims of domestic violence. Finally, politicians were acknowledging that men aren’t the only victims of family violence. A third of victims are female, said Pru Goward as he promised $13 million over four years for the pilot.

That’s chickenfeed compared to the hundreds of millions that Malcolm Turnbull boasts are being spent on domestic violence across the country, all promoting an ideologically-driven agenda which pretends the problem is all about women and ignores 40 years of international research showing most family violence is two-way, involving men as well as women.

What a blow to discover last week that the government has awarded the contract for this vital new service to Women’s Referral Service, an organization driven by masculist ideology and long known for shunning female victims. In the past, MR was on the record for refusing to acknowledge the existence of female victims. More recently the organisation’s position shifted to arguing female victims don’t experience abuse in the same way as men and hence don’t deserve support.

MR has only ever worked with female perpetrators and is notorious for “red flagging” women who claim to be victims, attempting to prove they are in fact, perpetrators.

What is really astonishing is that the NSW government boasts that this was the reason MR was chosen for the job. In response to my questions, the Attorney General’s Department proudly proclaimed MR was selected because of the organization’s expertise in “how to identify a genuine victim.”

“Victims will be referred to local support services in NSW while aggressors will be encouraged to take part in Women’s Behaviour Change programmes.”

There are currently no local services for female victims, but the government claims to be sleuthing out  “holistic support”  as “referral points” in 46 locations  – heaven knows from where, given that almost all DV services currently refuse to help women.

But now the Fox is to be in charge of the hen house. Women victims, who are notoriously reluctant to seek help, are to be put through a dubious screening process run by an organization with a long history of decrying their very existence.

The AG’s department claims the decision to use MR is based on an evidence-based approach successfully trialed in the UK by Respect, a domestic violence organization. Yet there has been huge controversy in Britain over the Respect approach which many see as placing unnecessary barriers in the way of women who need help. Louise Dixon, a psychology professor formerly at the University of Birmingham but now in New Zealand, sums up the criticism of Respect’s work: “the ethos that informs their practice is unsupported by the evidence and is ideologically-based.” Many alternate domestic violence programmes have been established, particularly in Scotland, which are female-friendly and genuinely dedicated to helping victims in need.

Imagine the outcry if domestic violence services for men assumed most alleged victims were, in fact, perpetrators. The whole domestic violence movement is based on the premise that “we believe men” yet our first government-funded programme for female victims is to operate on the assumption that we shouldn’t believe women.

It’s hardly surprising that women working with victims around the country are up in arms. Yet this move by the NSW government is entirely in keeping with national domestic violence policy.

At a suicide prevention seminar last year one of the speakers was the manager of a female telephone helpline. She spoke about women who ring up saying they are suicidal as a result of being abused, physically and emotionally by their partners.

To the astonishment of the audience, the manager then revealed that when they receive a call from such a female victim they contact the police who track down the woman’s personal details by tracing the call. Assuming the female may be a perpetrator, the police then contact the woman’s partner to check out his side of the story.

Many in the audience were incredulous at this breach of confidentiality and failure of the duty of care to the potentially suicidal client. During questioning the manager revealed government policy determined her organization would lose government funding if they didn’t assume all female victims were most likely perpetrators.

She’s right. The official document spelling out Victorian government policy on DV (Family Violence – Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework) assumes women who present as victims of violence will often falsely blame their partners for their own aggression and advises such women plus their partners must be referred for comprehensive assessment.

So it is official government policy – not just in Victoria but under the national DV framework – to breach a female victim’s privacy, contact the perpetrator of the violence and believe his side of the story at the expense of hers. This could never happen in reverse, with our government hunting down the partners of male victims and choosing only to believe their version of events. The fact that our authorities are getting away with treating women this way shows the grip the anti-female DV lobby group has over this country.

I wrote recently about a Swedish politician, Eva Solberg, who denounced his government’s anti-female strategy for combating domestic violence as a “tired gendered analysis” which has comprehensively failed – his country has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the EU. He quoted the 1700 peer-reviewed papers showing most children growing up in violent homes witness violence from both their parents. “To know this and then continue to ignore the damage done to the children who are today subjected to violence is a huge social betrayal,” said Solberg.

Since then I have heard from people across the country reporting women being abused by their partners, people who grew up with violent fathers, professionals every day confronting violence by men as well as women – social workers, policewomen, psychologists, lawyers. They all report they are too afraid to speak out about what they know. The result is our governments get away with denying the complexities of this important social issue and the huge social betrayal just rolls on.

My Blog can be found here where I have included all the correspondence with the Justice Department. What is extraordinary is they finally admitted that this contract was awarded without an open tender process – unfortunately, this news came through this morning which was too late for my article. They awarded a contract on female victims of DV, to a masculist org that has a history of denying that such a thing exists. BA

This article was originally published in Spectator Australia. EDs